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, raise 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 children 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 to” – 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 squash 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 slates 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 brilliant. 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 incredibly 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 episode, 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.
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’!