As much as you try, as much as you work at your life, your surroundings, or your sense of self, we eventually all just spin around to the exact same patterns time and time again. Mad Men has often been distracted by the impossibility of change, that trying to break a repetitive cycle is a futile activity, one that only ever leads to disappointment -- the crushing inevitability that life always seems to bring. Like so much of season five, The Doorway is heavily indebted to themes of death and futility, an array of characters working to break down a cycle, only for truth to ultimately smack them square in the chest.
Thursday, April 11, 2013
Felicity is probably the one series in the history of television more famous for its hair than anything else. For modern audiences going in blind, including myself, it's the one strange point of reference that has kept the show somewhat relevant to this day. That and the fact that it's regarded as "that old J.J. Abrams show", or the one that he got so bored of that he came up with the anti-Felicity in the form of the college-gal spy series Alias. But going into it with these scant preconceptions ("Hair? Seriously?") actually makes this pilot a genuine surprise -- a tender, small-scale drama about a girl going to the big city and growing up.
Girls is inherently kind of gross. Gross people, gross morals, gross everything. It's a show that expertly dissects themes of youthful entitlement and a very generational type of arrogance, made worse because we're collectively existing in a time of financial strain and little opportunity. It doesn't help that seemingly everyone working on this show is somehow descended from money and power, understandably leaving you with a bitter taste in your mouth at the very thought of this show existing in the first place.
As a writer, something I've always wondered is whether there's much of a gulf between somebody who sits at a desk and creates acts of horrifying murder on the page, and those who actually commit acts of violent atrocity in the real world. Obviously there's a huge jump there, but isn't the creative mindset pretty similar? That to fathom some heinous act of violence when throwing together a new script for, I don't know, Criminal Minds or whatever, is similar in thinking to an actual serial killer wanting to commit a truly horrible murder? There's definitely a psychological correlation there, a desire to push the boundaries of taste and decency, only one outlet for it being far less harmful (though, arguably, no less damaging to society) than the other.
In some ways, Alias' recent detour to standalone city has only made episodes like this one a lot punchier. With Nadia in particular, the last seven episodes have slowly formed the groundwork of her relationship with Sydney, both as agents as well as sisters. Through Weiss, too, Nadia has become a more integral member of the Alias cast, somebody important enough to have her own love interest, along with all the screwy familial intrigue that truly makes you a legit part of the ensemble. Echoes is a neat reminder of the Alias of yesteryear, not only because it marks the return of two major antagonists from seasons past, but also because it seems to grant validation to much of this season's storytelling, things finally coming to a head just when everybody seems sort of happy.
Something that Alias has always bounced back to is that feeling of wanting something in spite of the complications it could bring. Think back to Sydney in early season one, desperate to reconcile with her absent father despite being outwardly hostile towards him. Then there was her relationship with Irina in the second season, mending fences and forging a bond regardless of the fact that it could potentially destroy her long-term. Even Vaughn last year, in love with his wife and sure of her innocence despite the growing evidence mounting against her. In Detente, it is Nadia who similarly experiences that want, growing close with her dad even in the face of a sister who tells her what a monster he is.
Every episode this season has opened up with a small vignette about Paul's personal life, usually involving Parkinson's, but recently revolving around his interactions with son Max. What was made pretty clear this week is that Paul is trying to unravel the mystery behind being an absent parent, and whether you can ever leave your footprint on your child's maturation when they barely see you. It's already effective on its own, but it also ties Paul closer to Jesse, who was discussing similar problems in his session this week. Genetics always bleed through whether you like it or not, but little is greater than the family actively present in our lives.
They say first impressions matter the most, and that it takes a lot to have those perceptions change. It's probably different with television characters, since it's rare to have a ton of literal attachment to a bunch of people moving around on your TV set. But, three weeks in, those perceptions you have about Paul's patients are rapidly changed, characters that seemed troubled but generally pleasant suddenly ugly, all exhibiting nastier qualities. Even Sunil, arguably the nicest new character, received added depth this week that made you question what you thought you knew about him, his actions now creepy and less guided by his supposed naivety.