Category Archives: The Binge Sessions

The Binge Sessions – Transparent, Season 1

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This Saturday, January 25th, Amazon will stream the first season of it’s award winning ‘Transparent’ FOR FREE. I can’t implore you enough to watch this show. Aside from being so fully fleshed out, well acted, and beautifully written, ‘Transparent’ is so important to have in your TV and social lexicon. While its focus is on a transgendered character and her steps of self-discovery, this Amazon show is about all types of acceptance, transitions, and understanding. It’s about family. It’s so important. ‘Transparent’ is a brave piece of art that fires on all cylinders. Do yourself a favor and watch it–nay, marathon it this Saturday!

For those of you who don’t know, created by Jill Soloway (‘Six Feet Under’), ‘Transparent’ is the story of the Pfefferman family and the state of their lives when their patriarch, Mort (Jeffrey Tambor), comes out as transgender. But SURPRISE! The following are a few of my stream of consciousness thoughts on every episode. I know your not going to want to read full reviews as you power through this show, so it’s short! This way we can marathon them together! Yay! It’s like I’m right there with you. SPOILERS BELOW.

Episode 1: Pilot

This show is so full of grace–maybe due to Tambor, but still, everything graceful. The sibling relationships are so organic (Amy Landecker as Sarah, Jay Duplass as Josh, and Gaby Hoffman as Ali) with sense of real family history without laying on the thick exposition. I understand how Shelley (Judith Light) could marry Mort who could, in turn, cdn.indiewireraise three selfish and sexually oppressed children. The show creates a beautifully balanced overt and underlying sense of sexuality aided by the motif of taking off and putting on pants. The dirty messy chinese dinner wonderfully foreshadows the messiness of what will come for the family. All of the family members are exploring what makes them happy–hiding their innermost desires underneath a facade of cheer. Everybody is ready for some sort of transformation. (Also, Amy Landecker might as well be Amy Brenneman) Killer ending that nails it and feels like it sets up everything so perfectly.

Episode 2: The Letting Go

What a beautiful opening scene. So much love, joy, fear, acceptance, humor (added by Melora Hardin). Notice how they didn’t discuss what Sarah is going through? I think I’m in love with the opening credits. The home videos appear to be happily nostalgic, but they come with a lifetime of misunderstanding and hiding. Like his father before him, Josh is just picking the girl closest to him. Maybe a child will bring him meaning? The other 501B6133.CR2children are falling back into their lies. Sarah, after a stolen moment of being true to herself, she is thrust back into her false life. Ali finds herself lost again, comfortable with not knowing what is next. The flashback bookends of the episode highlights how the choices we make and the truths we hide affect everything and will usually haunt us until we come to terms with them. Maura wants to share with her kids, but as her new drinking buddy says, you may look up and your family isn’t there. It’s a huge fear.

Episode 3: The Rollin

It’s beautiful to see Sarah learning to accept herself through her father’s courage. Love is a relative term that is wonderfully explored within the show. Sarah struggling to tell Len her secrets and truths was so real, raw, believable, and painful to watch. “I don’t know how not be840042-ec74-476f-9e46-61828d0ce996-620x372to” – chilling and powerful after a lifetime and really not knowing how to accept who she is. Bradley Whitford cameo will hopefully turn into something more. Are Ali’s drugs driving her further away or closer to who she really is? How lost is she? “Being alive is being sad,” said the Uber driver. I believe that this show is trying to disprove that statement. Let’s see what a happens next because drugs and coming out don’t seem to mix well.

Episode 4: Moppa

I don’t know if I believe that Maura didn’t realize that Ali was high. It may have been that she was high on her daughter’s acceptance. The secrets of the Pfefferman family go way deeper than Sid even knows. How are these two not together? The creation of “Maura” was beautiful moment in the hotel room. Sarah’s courage is unmatched by Tammy, but she is fooling herself if she think she won’t get burned. Girl time in the mall was a new transitional element from Ali hungover and embarrassed to the heartbreaking bathroom sequence. Maura, while still not done coming out to her kids, must adapt (and be accepted) in the real world–a cruel and unforgiving place sometimes. “It smells like the Pirates of the Caribbean ride.” OH, that was Rita in episode one. Josh now has three mother figures–interesting.  All kids looking for an identity change–Ali cuts her hair. No storyline feels forced or shoehorned into this world. Punk Rock Broccoli.

Episode 5: Wedge

Judith light feels a little put on as the older Jewish mother, no? I love the melancholy whimsey of the music. Symbolic search for their father by looking for their confused silent stepfather? Josh, Ali, and Sarah are a carousel of selfishness and selflessness. The house issues are obviously going to be huge. Is this another version of King Lear? Josh is trying to find something in nothing, both with house and realtor/women. Well, of course you knew they were going to tell him at some point, right!? Maura’s encounter with the his squashepisode5.0 partner was not what I expected. For some reason I didn’t expect the laughter, but that seems like the appropriate reaction for that type of character. Shelley having known a little bit about Mort is amazing, but not surprising. Spouses aren’t that blind to each other. Her Beverly Center joke was exactly what the scene needed to cut the tension. A scene that was so well staged without feeling slow, weird, or converted. And as Ed so beautifully reminded us, sometimes you need to get out and enjoy life.

Episode 6: The Wilderness

Josh is creating his own explanation in his head to justify his father’s actions. Everybody is still hiding secrets: the selling of the house, Ali’s school, and staying in the house. Next is introducing this to the grandchildren. The struggle to explain it to even the most blank of transparent-lenslates is so difficult.  The joy in the Maura’s flashbacks is contagious. I just want everybody to be happy. Being born in the wilderness will set you free–we created the cages the keep us from happiness. What a great dinner sequence speech from Maura to Len. So many complicated issues handled with an amazing amount of grace. She knows it’s hard to comprehend.

Episode 7: Symbolic Exemplar

The Bat Mitzvah fight was amazing. Ali is potentially experimenting and trying to understand her father in her own way. Everything in and around the talent show was transparent-maura7brilliant. A unnerving undercurrent of acceptance and nervousness for Maura. I mean, it was funny, but very symbolic and serious. It would have been better for the kids to stay and laugh then leave. I didn’t understand Ali’s shock at the house, but Maura going to Shelley’s was beautiful. There’s an acceptance there that I hope is explained.

Episode 8: Best New Girl

YAY! Flashbacks! I think my mom had that wireless landline! Woah, young Sarah looks just like old Sarah. As I’ve stated before, Marcy and Maura’s flashback excitement is so refreshing. The first sense of acceptance is palpable. The children’s flashbacks are imagesincredibly informative. Watching Maura and Marcy’s double lives unfold over the phone is a sadness that this show has earned. Even at cross-dressing camp, Maura doesn’t feel comfortable. Transgender is very different than cross dressing and prejudice still lives with in seemingly acceptance based community. Fear that you are more than you realize is a powerful agent. It was a past weekend that defined a generation moving on. Ali, Josh, Sarah, Shelley, and Maura all shifted into a type of adulthood. It was still a Bat Mitzvah weekend in a sense. The Pfefferman family got a taste of what life, adulthood, and happiness could be.

Episode 9: Looking Up

Older Jews always come off as so accepting. Life is life. Be happy. As everybody moves into another phase of their lives, instead of dealing with their own problems, they either try to include others in their uncertainty or get nosy into other’s business. Wonderful to see the family semi-working as a team, even if it’s to discuss Ed’s demise. Ed knows that his state is not keeping her happy and he loves her. He can hear them and decides to take the burden himself. This is a show about transitions and not just for Maura. Can we all agree that, “You’re fucking the Rabbi?” is the greatest moment ever? There is so much love coupled with confusion in this show and it never ceases to be affective. Sid’s “coming out” to Ali was expected, yet still didn’t feel forced. (Judith Light is excellent in the flashbacks)

Episode 10: Why Do We Cover the Mirrors?

Shiva is used as a symbol of reflection. Ali just has to ruin it for everybody, but she’s not wrong about his addiction to love. Sarah is confused–she runs from what’s not working.
Len is probably learning the most from all of these delicate situations. I know it’s the last xscene-from-transparent.png.pagespeed.ic.yA4g9Aj07bE6vyXgHNjkepisode, but the crumbling lives feel organic. WOAHHHH. That is the first out of left field, cliche moment of the show–Colton son of Josh. Did he already know about him? It seems as if he did. What a powerful scene between Ali and Maura. It’s almost a moot point as everybody is right and wrong. Shelley is a wonderful whirlwind of bitter, sad, understanding, and strength. I don’t think the ending could have been more perfect. Despite any troubles, family is family is family and that’s who you always come back to–eating out of the aluminum. Whatever is next, they will figure out, but this is a start.

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I hope you enjoyed all of the episodes. It’s such a treat. The interweaving of spirituality, sexuality, and secret keeping is tremendous and executed with such care. It’s like I’m reading an incredible thesis on life. It’s more than just a show about transgendered people and how families react and cope. It’s about attempting to transition into a healthy lifestyle of acceptance and happiness, regardless of the situation. I want more. Now.

Keep on Watchin’!

-Bryan

The Binge Sessions – Broadchurch, Series 1

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To alleviate your worry: My intention with this blog post is to encourage you to watch ‘Broadchurch,’ so I will avoid spoilers at all costs. THIS IS A SPOILER FREE ZONE. Have no fear. There’s nothing I hate more than a devastating spoiler when you’re not looking for it. Yeah, I’m talking to you Facebook Mini-Feed! So, moving on–

Monday night was the first time in a very long time in which I was more or less* caught up on all the TV I needed** to watch.***

KEY

*: More or Less means that I will truly never be caught up on everything I should be Broadchurchwatching

**: Needed should really be “wanted,” but it’s become a need to watch everything and I am both blessed and cursed by that desire.

***: Sort of a lie, as I decided to skip ‘Castle’ for the night. I’ll eventually get to it.

‘Broadchurch’ has been on my must watch radar even before it received more traction in the US, due to its poorly made remake ‘Gracepoint’ on FOX. Laundry and room cleaning seemed like the perfect set of activities to complement popping on this BBC series, currently streaming on Netflix. Yeah, so much for laundry and cleaning. I barely got up from my bed from start to finish. Eight, 45 minute, episodes later, I was done with one of the more complete, engaging, exciting, and thought provoking small town murder investigation pieces I’ve seen in an extremely long time.

Created and written by Chris Chiball, best known for ‘Dr. Who’ and its spin-off ‘Torchwood’, ‘Broadchurch’ focuses on the murder investigation of 11-year old Danny Latimer (Oskar article-2290816-181F43F8000005DC-289_634x427McNamara), discovered face down on the beach in the small hamlet of Broadchurch. It chronicles Detective Sergeant Ellie Miller (Olivia Colman) return to work after some time off and subsequent discovery that the Detective Inspector promotion she was promised is no longer vacant. The job has been filled by Alec Hardy (David Tennant), a disheveled, no nonsense, semi-introvert and the two must learn to work together in order to solve the most important case they’ve ever handled.

Tennant and Coleman are excellent. While Tennant seems to oversell Hardy’s quirks early on in the series, he falls into the part nicely as the show carries on. Coleman is pitch perfect as a detective trying to find the balance between the ability to step outside of her village mindset, protect her family, and fully invest in the case. While Hardy and Miller are the driving force of the show, other standouts include the series’ heart and soul–Danny’s parents Beth (Jodie Whittaker) and Mark (Andrew Buchan). The two capture the anger, turmoil, teamwork, hatred, apathy, and sympathy of two people under the most terrible of circumstances. David Bradley, as Jack Marshall, is also excellent.

Each major character gets his or her due as pure citizen, shady suspect, or sounding board for others. Unlike a majority of genre shows that deal with the of subject of small town broadchurch_s1_ep02_029murder solving, ‘Broadchurch’, never abandons a character just because their alibi checks out. Being crossed off of Hardy and Miller’s suspect list doesn’t mean you’re written out in this world. Each person is a part of this town and the circumstances affect everybody, regardless if they’re being hounded by the detectives. These Broadchurchians breathe life into this town, bringing an empathy and judgement that  is both featured and stealthily hidden in the fibers of every scene.

The music and cinematography creates desolate, hopeless, and a tense atmosphere. Striking images repeatedly fill the screen as motifs: waves crashing into the shore as the world keeps turning, overshadowed by the cliffs, a viewpoint for the end of the world. We are fed quick shots of Danny’s memorial to remind us that everything is about Danny. The show never loses sight of that, even  in the face of so much fall out drama. It’s about a life being cut short and how this throws an entire town into tumult. Families crack, people fall apart, and others find the inner ability to unite. Broadchurch is a place where people with secrets come to start over. All of these story themes and images are interwoven before you even realize they all perfectly overlap.

The show spreads its exploration of the media’s place in an investigation and the power of broadchurchcliffs1religion, faith, and otherworldly epiphanies very thin, but they incorporated into the fabric of ‘Broadchurch’ nonetheless, deepening the layers of characters, plot, and theme. It’s not perfect, but gets its point across. Some details of the murder plot are still fuzzy to me, and a handful “red herrings” were a little bit over the top when everything else seemed so organic. Additionally, some of the characters started to abruptly play “potentially evil” after being introduced as normal, instead of relying on the perception of the audience based on the changed circumstances.

I’m sorry to have gotten on the ‘Broadchurch’ train so late because I enjoyed it so much. It’s pace and slow burn of character reveals kept what could have been an over the top, ungrounded thriller of a TV series, based in the themes and straightforward drama it promised and presented. The mystery and intrigue is well balanced with backstory and fully fledged, deeply flawed, human characters.

I understand that I am an anomaly and can sit in one spot, for hours on end,  absorbing content like a sponge in a pool. That being said, this is still an extremely binge-able show. broadchurch-09The flow, pace, investment in the characters, addiction to the mystery, and automatic episode queue all create a seamless marathon. (PS: The ending totally works and adds a entire new level of thought to all of the previous seven episodes .)

A second series, focusing on the aftermath of Danny’s murder, is currently airing on the BBC and will premiere on BBC America on March 4th. I would highly suggest a series one Netflix marathon, though I wouldn’t necessarily advocate for a single night viewing. The last thing I want you worrying about is the health of your eyes and soon to be fried brain–like me.

Keep on Watchin’!

-Bryan