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“The Leftovers” 2.09 or White Lines or Let The Mystery Be

Leftover 2x09 Meg

Sunday night’s episode of The Leftovers, “Ten Thirteen”, was brought to you by the letter M. M is for Matters. As in, does it?

Good God that finale. Good God, Meg! We will get to all that, but first I must point out how exceptionally telling the music was in this episode. The soundtrack was so deliberate it seemed to be guiding us somewhere. As Olivia Newton-John sang towards the end of the episode “Come take my hand / You should know me / I’ve always been in your mind / You know that I’ll be kind / I’ll be guiding you.” Really though, that was a reference to Meg’s leadership throughout the episode. Revealing (reminding) what was always on your (Evie/Jarden’s) mind, but far from kind.

Last week’s idea of an evil in the water (rather than the supposedly blessed Jarden water) is echoed early on, as well, when a bus full of tourists sing the Negro spiritual warning: “Wade in the water / God’s going to trouble the water.”

Then we have Grandmaster Flash’s 80’s classic “White Lines” played at the opening, middle, and closing of the episode. This song is also a warning, this time against the destructive consequences of cocaine (“Vision dreams of passion blowin’ through my mind / And all the while I think of you / (High price) A very strange reaction / (For us to unwind) The more I see, the more I do of.”) but the meaning goes beyond Meg’s addiction. One cannot ignore the militant white lines of white-robed Remnant followers forming behind Meg towards a literally destructive and violent resolution.

Finally, there is a country cover of When in Rome’s “The Promise” as Meg and Tommy dance at the Honky Tonk (“But if you wait around a while I’ll make you fall for me / I promise, I promise you, I will / When your day is through / And so is your temper / You know what to do / I’m gonna always be there”). Poor, poor, Tommy.

Just a little something to think about in this episode as well as past/future episodes of “The Leftovers” where music has frequently served as a foreshadowing if not a warning.

And now for the good stuff.

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‘The Americans’ 3.02 or Lady Spies in Cramped Spaces and the Men Who Love Them

The Americans 3.02Last night’s episode of The Americans was brought to you by the letter C. C stands for Claustrophobia. You know, ladies, that feeling you get when you’re:

  • Peeing in a pot in your 12×12 Soviet prison cell and your roommate won’t shut up
  • Getting your limbs cracked into origami and stuffed into a suitcase
  • Listening to the same Walkman cassette recording of your dying mother in your basement again
  • Breathing out of an oxygen tank because you’re being smuggled out of Russia in a tiny wooden crate

Bummer. Now can someone get me a Babe Ruth? “Soooo good!

Was this one of the most thrilling episodes of The Americans ever? No, but it was still pretty exciting. I mean, Oleg almost lost his shit and killed Stan for simply claiming to love Nina, and Anneliese became a posthumous member of Cirque de Soleil in what was one of the most gruesome television moments I’ve seen outside of Hannibal or American Horror Story. Never underestimate the power of crunchy bodily sound effects in upping the ick factor on film.

This week I’d like to focus on these physically suffocated yet stable women, in comparison to the free-roaming yet anxious men and what that seems to be saying about the times.

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‘The Americans’ 3.01 or Mama Don’t Preach or Where Is Nina?

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Last night’s episode of The Americans was brought to you by the letter D. D stands for daughter. Because any woman who has a daughter has been in her shoes. Or has she? For Elizabeth — she of the harsh but proud Soviet childhood — its not easy to relate to what she considers Paige’s privileged American childhood. Although this wasn’t a mother-daughter bonding kind of episode, it was a interesting analogy on privilege today where the generational gaps grow wider and wider between ourselves and our parents; worse ourselves and our children.

But before we get into the meatier stuff, let’s take a moment to revel in the joy it was to get back into the groove of things with our favorite KGB couple! Those first ten minutes, particularly the fight sequence between Elizabeth and the two FBI agents, were fantastically choreographed. I did wonder why Elizabeth didn’t take off her blonde wig or hide out on that long walk but I suppose it’s usually a better idea to stick to your cover if you can, right? Nice move on turning the coat inside out, although having to do so is what made Elizabeth lose the list of names she was there to get in the first place. It’s great when something small like that ends up complicating the plot..

Another shocker was Anneliese’s death. Sure, she was a minor character but I think we can all agree that she grew on us, and likely because she grew as a character as well. She was lied to all along, and it was sad to see her go out the way she did: in the dark about who she really worked for and at the hands of the man she “loved”. She will be missed, as will Gillian Alexy’s performance (I have a feeling we will be seeing this fine actress around).

I leave the rest for discussion below the jump.

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‘The Affair’ Season 1 Finale or The First Wave Retreats or The Easy Things

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Last night’s season finale of The Affair was brought to you by the letter R. R stands for Retreat. Like a wave, sinking back into the ocean, as opposed to the alternative: staying on shore. As humans, when things get really, really hard, we tend to do what’s easy before we do what’s right, and then we wait and hope that they might be the same thing. The easy thing is not just easy to do, it’s easy to know, but the right thing… that’s not quite so clear. There’s only one thing to do and that’s… well, you get the picture.

On goes the tale, Alison and Noah retreat like the tide into their desires. Noah gets a bachelor pad and sticks his dick in whomever and wherever he wants because staying married with children was just too hard, and sleeping around without commitment was the opposite. Alison finds her own way to fill the void of her desire at a cabin by the lake, meditating, and and filling herself with “vegan surprise” and Athena, of all things. Her retreat is similar to Noah’s, but with a twist: staying married without children was just too hard. To each their own.

But what about The Affair? What kind of wave is it? If not a wave, what form does it take? What does it desire? Here is the first reason why I was slightly let down by it’s first season finale: the answer was unclear. Make no mistake, I am not referring to the “answers” of the narrative — I respect the process of allowing the details to reveal themselves in time — but like Noah and Alison, the “thing” of the show seemed to both hide itself and retreat, rather than move itself forward. And it left me wondering: What is its purpose? Why are their stories so different? We should at least know if they are memories or not, because honestly, the differences are radical, not subtle. What is the mechanism? I am left wondering but I’m not sure what I am wondering about: the characters intentions, or the writers? Am I over-thinking it and their memories are just that bad? One thing I can say for sure is that this is NOT a love story. It might be a story about love but, shippers, put your hearts in jars and keep them there.

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‘Homeland’ Season 4 Finale or Silence is the Battlefield of Self-Reflection or War Is Over (And That’s Okay!)

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Last night’s episode of Homeland was brought to you by the letter S. S stands for Silence. And silence needs no explanation.

Cards out on the table: YES, I APPEAR TO BE THE ONLY PERSON WHO ENJOYED LAST NIGHT’S HOMELAND. (1) I have no shame in admitting it. (2) I was well aware throughout the episode that this may very well be the case. Like you I was waiting around in the silences between the silences for the proverbial shoe to drop. I tweeted at the time that “Every time someone steps into a car and smiles, I swear it’s going to blow up“. But alas, no one blew up. Nor did the CIA operative asking Quinn to join him shoot him in the back and face down into the community pool, either. Nor was Saul not poisoned by Dar Adal over Chicken and Waffles… But see, here’s the thing: I feared it. I imagined it. I wallowed in the expectation of it. In anxiety. In paranoia. We (the audience, as much as the characters) have been in the thick of a personal and violent war in the Middle East for months and in a state of unrelenting and impending horror and mistrust. The season (not the episode) built those expectations into our psyches, and successfully so. And now, it’s just over? Yes. Take a deep breath, and accept it. Eventually war ends. (And that’s a good thing.)

“Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder” (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder that may develop after exposure to a terrifying event or ordeal in which severe physical harm occurred or was threatened.  (source)

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‘The Affair’ 1.09 or Narrative Structure as Misdirection or The Anna Karenina Factor

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Sunday night’s episode of The Affair was brought to you by the letter S. S stands for Stories.. and Suicides. Suicide has been a significantly recurring theme in this first season, and one that should not be overlooked in your weekly theorizing. Let’s go back — way, way back — to the very first dramatic beat of the series: Martin’s staged suicide. (Oh morbid Martin who learns how to fake a hanging on YouTube and frees horses in the middle of the night.) A tally of the suicides and attempted suicides on The Affair thus far comes in at a staggering FOUR: Martin, (Skank Ho) Jody Manko, Alison, and the Tribeca jumper. And what with the train imagery to boot, there’s an “Anna Karenina” thing going on, for sure. Noah as Vronsky; Alison as Anna; Brooklyn as St. Petersburg? In the pilot, Noah even guesses that it would be Alison’s favorite book.

So why? Could it be as simple as setting the tone for pain and despair, or something more sinister? Are the protagonists misdirecting someone? Are the writers? Well that’s where the “Stories” come in.

At the risk of sounding redundant, it’s been weeks since Noah and Alison’s stories stopped being police interrogations, and yet we’ve not uncovered what they now are. Honest memories? Intentional lies?Innocent tales? And to whom? And from whom? Yes, from Noah and Alison but… who else? “Story” is a theme of its own on The Affair, and it is no coincidence that Noah is a writer: the writers on The Affair are represented here, as is the power of storytelling and narrative misdirection. Viewers have theorized that Alison and Noah are purposely misrepresenting themselves through false narration as part of a cover-up in the Scotty Lockhart investigation, but it seems to me that the writers of this fine series are playing the same trick on us, the audience.

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