Thursday, December 17, 2015

REVIEW: 'Transparent' - Josh Gets a Visit from Colton's Family and Learns a Big Secret in 'Mee-Maw'

Amazon's Transparent - Episode 2.05 "Mee-Maw"

Maura finds community with Davina and Shea, inspiring her to re-imagine her past. Cultures clash when Colton's adopted family visits, and Josh is confronted with a tough decision. Ali finds herself even more drawn to Leslie at a New Moon Ceremony. Sarah tries to get her life in order by seeing a life coach.

The stories of the second season so far have been rising and rising. And now, it's time for many of them to explode or force the characters to actually address the many things they've been doing as of late. "Mee-Maw" is an absolutely brutal episode of Transparent. The emotions are so raw from the pain of the experience of the Pfefferman family. Life is pulling the family in many different directions. And yet, the shared pain from their past is still widely informing the present in a devastating fashion. Just because these characters have matured doesn't make them ready and willing to embrace their lives for what they truly are. Some are more comfortable than others. But each and every one of them is heading towards devastation.

The big event of "Mee-Maw" is Colton's adoptive family coming for a visit to see why he has chosen to spend more time with Josh after he betrayed him for the first seventeen years of his life. They want answers. Colton hasn't talked about the family that raised him a whole lot. He has been so focused on being good and feeling wanted by Josh and Raquel. Josh's enthusiasm was a lot of fun but it largely ignored the underlying issues in this dynamic. Colton was a secret that was kept from Josh. It's something that Maura and Shelly knew about. They believed they were acting in the best interests of their own child. And yet, that simple action has caused so much heartbreak for Josh right now. In many ways, Josh is still stunted in his emotional growth. Yes, he is capable of sustaining a relationship and having a good career. But he's still holding onto the fantasy that the connection he had with Rita was real. It wasn't some sick and twisted act that Raquel and the other Pfeffermans want to call it. Colton's family has a good relationship with Rita. They don't see what she did as this horrific act. And yet, they've had years to know her. This is all so new to Josh and a lot of it is being thrown at him suddenly. He believes he has what it takes to be a father. But now, even that is being questioned.

Josh wants to put on a good front for Colton's visiting family. And yet, everything has the potential to be seen as this culture difference that alienates the two families. At first, it seems as if Colton's parent are Christian conservatives who will judge Josh and Raquel for not at least being engaged, will disapprove of their Jewishness, and be appalled by everything pertaining to Maura. However, none of that is really true. Instead, the details of the past are what destroys this relationship and pulls Colton away from Josh. Colton's parents learn that Raquel is pregnant and quickly comment on Josh hopefully being a better parent this time around. Josh isn't just betrayed because he didn't know any better. He was betrayed because he wasn't given the opportunity to fully understand the situation. Maura and Shelly dealt with this problem and then swept it under the rug for it to never be spoken of again until Colton appeared at the end of last season. It's a secret that Maura reveals to Josh in order for him to understand why Colton's father is so judgmental in that moment. But it's even more devastating once Josh shows such reluctance for seeing this situation for what it really is. That's dangerous - especially in the eyes of Raquel. She can't make this decision for Josh over whether or not Colton should stay with them. She says her piece about none of this being any good for the baby. But this situation also highlights just how much Josh still has yet to grow. And yet, he really doesn't have that time because he's once again going to become a father very soon.

This reveal forces Maura to be more truthful than she has been so far this season. She only went over to Josh's house to get photos from her old albums to have the pictures redone with how she now looks. It's an experience she was able to share beautifully with Davina and Shea. She wants to do it herself. Instead, she walks into a situation that quickly becomes disastrous. In that moment, she has the confidence to come clean with Josh. When Josh is shielding himself with the explanation he's always been given, Maura can't just stand by and continue doing it to her son. She opens up in a way that is incredibly hurtful. This secret could damage Josh's relationship with his parents. They believed they were doing the right thing but they then felt so comfortable keeping it from him that they couldn't do anything else once the truth came out. This reveal also gives Maura the confidence to return home to Shelly to tell her that things aren't working out between them. It's hard to know exactly what Shelly was thinking in that moment. But she had let herself become comfortable with this relationship again. She came to rely on Maura. She worried about her. But it was never something Maura was completely committed to. So once again, Shelly's life has been completely destroyed by Maura. All Maura can do is let that frustration out on the next person she comes into contact with - the security guard charged with opening the gate to this community. It's a highly emotional sequence. But it's one where Maura was honest. It's destructive but she was able to leave knowing that her true feelings were known to all. Now, it just becomes a question of where this family can go now that those truths are out there.

Elsewhere, Sarah and Ali are able to connect over their shared intrigue of embracing a sexual identity. It's so fascinating to see both of them go through this same experience but in completely different ways. Ali is having so much fun in her new relationship with Syd. It has given her something stable in her life as she goes about the rest of her world just trying to figure out what she should do next. This dynamic gives her purpose and a reason to feel confident going into Leslie's New Moon ceremony. That place is intense and could provide Ali a dangerous direction to go in this season. But it's a direction with passion that could excite Ali more so than anything else has previously. It's a strange environment but one that's captivating as well. Meanwhile, Sarah is just so curious about what her recent choices actually mean. She has no understanding at all what sexual identity is. She can't figure it out for herself. She doesn't know what she wants and no one is really capable of helping her. She is able to talk openly with Ali about her recent fantasies but that largely leads to judgment instead of assistance. The life coach sessions she won at the gala weren't all that helpful because the person really isn't that great of a listener. It's still a fantastic scene at the start of the episode. But by the end, Sarah is still alone enjoying a joint and eating a burger. It's isolation that isn't uncommon to her this season but it is becoming much more pronounced.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Mee-Maw" was written by Our Lady J and directed by Stacie Passon.
  • The ring really was the least of Josh's problems throughout this visit. He made such a big deal about Raquel putting this family heirloom on her finger to show off happiness and stability. In reality though, it just led to further frustration that then came out in an ugly way once Raquel was finally blunt with Josh about his past.
  • Leslie sure is a unique teacher. She just talks about what interests her to the people who are willing to listen. Ali is one of those people which suggests that things are only going to get more intense with this story this season.
  • So where is Maura going to go? She no longer has a home. Davina will put up with her for a little bit but where is she going to find permanent residence?
  • That opening scene sure was something. Sarah and Ali were much closer than they have ever been before. They are just completely fine seeing each other naked for a prolonged period of time.
  • It was so heartbreaking as Colton just wanted Josh to tell him to stay and Josh just didn't know what to do given all of his mishandled emotions. So he said nothing which probably destroyed his relationship with this son.

As noted in previous reviews from this series, every episodic review was written without having seen any succeeding episodes. Similarly, it would be much appreciated if in the comments section, the conversation would only revolve around the show up to this point in its run.