Tuesday, January 5, 2016

REVIEW: 'Mozart in the Jungle' - The Orchestra Union and the Symphony Board Sit Down in 'Can You Marry a Moon?'

Amazon's Mozart in the Jungle - Episode 2.07 "Can You Marry a Moon?"

The gang celebrates Betty's 35 years in the orchestra with some tequila and a special guest. Hailey breaks the cardinal rule of touring: what happens on the road, stays on the road. Negotiations hit a wall and the idea of a work stoppage begins to sink in. Rodrigo develops a mysterious ailment, and must adjust his senses while filming for a new Virtual Reality video game.

Mozart in the Jungle returns from its excellent two-episode trip to Mexico with a very lackluster episode. "Can You Marry a Moon?" is just so disjointed. It doesn't build off of the conclusion of the Mexican arc in a meaningful or genuine way. Instead, it just opts for moments in order to hint at consequences and complications in the future while showing no urgency in getting there. That's especially apparent because this episode features long scenes with Lizzie and Bradford fighting and Alex returning to complain about the reality show he left. Those are unnecessary arcs for the show that just don't fit in naturally with everything that is going on. But even the more prominent and important stories don't feel like things are running smoothly in this episode either. The Symphony board and the orchestra union finally sit down to talk terms and it's a moment that doesn't have any of the necessary weight it needs in order to be captivating. Plus, the show follows up the previous episode's big Rodrigo-Hailey moment by putting them in stories that are absolutely trivial.

The only story beat that really works in this episode comes early on. The orchestra returns just in time to celebrate Betty's 35th anniversary with the Symphony. That's a huge accomplishment and one that the fellow musicians want to celebrate - especially since she missed out on this tour. It's an infectious party filled with alcohol and crazy stories. And then, a stripper shows up. It's a fun time for all involved. It's also meaningful because Betty is starting to come around on Hailey. She no longer sees a girl who slept her way into this job. However, Hailey completely ruins that moment simply because she's too drunk to know better. She's just so willing to share with Betty and Hailey that she and Rodrigo almost had a night of passion in Mexico. It's something new that Betty can judge Hailey for. So this dynamic will once again be filled with animosity and judgment.

Of course, that's really the only thing that Hailey does in this episode. The rest of the time she is simply reacting to the various crises of the people in her life who aren't in the orchestra. Lizzie and Bradford really aren't important characters on the show. They pop up in order to add a dynamic to Hailey's life. That dynamic really isn't well defined at all. So, it's frustrating to think why the show thinks these two characters are important. Bradford is able to interact with other characters on the show as well. He helps Thomas realize that he is actually done with his musical composition. That was a pretty horrible scene that dragged out for far too long. But Lizzie can't do something like that. She doesn't have a purpose. So, the show only gives her a story in add to fill out an episode with material. It's just so frustrating because it undercuts all of the momentum the show had coming out of the Mexico arc.

Rodrigo and Hailey were closer than ever before when he took her to his grandmother's house. She was there for him in his time of need when Maestro Rivera turned his back on him. And then, they return home only for two of her former love interests to pop back up again. Alex's return really isn't all that special. He comes to vent about the manipulative nature of reality television and how that isn't going to help him in this business. It's another story that simply pads time. Not even the Hailey-Alex scene has much of a dynamic or interest to it. It's more meaningful when Andrew Walsh pops up on the motion capture set of a video game with Rodrigo and Thomas. This episode is all about Rodrigo being uncomfortable upon his return to New York City. And yet, that materializes in a very awful and generic way with some weird illness. It's a big deal that he gets into a fight with Andrew simply because he notices that Hailey has slept with him. But it also showcases just how childish he is and how lost he is without direction and Hailey in his life. The show is just really blunt and forced about it.

And lastly, the union tension with the board is a story that's primarily been filled with rising action. The two sides finally sit down in this episode. But it's still treated with very low stakes. The only people who want to take it seriously are Warren and Edward. Warren seems to be the only person on the union side who is outraged over the fact that Nina really isn't doing anything. She has been distracted due to her relationship with Cynthia. That needs to take its toil on more than just Warren though for it to have any kind of significance to the narrative. At least that's interesting to watch because the musicians are so entertaining as characters. Edward is just a cartoonish oppositional figure to stand in their way. He's the person who gets saddled with telling Gloria she's not an artist just because she's around them all the time. And then, he schemes on how to destroy the union's credibility and the public's perception of them. It's just a very troubled plot dynamic because Edward has never really been a likable or important character. He's just someone constantly in the background complaining about things. And that does not create interesting or meaningful story.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Can You Marry a Moon?" was written by David Iserson and directed by Tricia Brook.
  • The show really just sidelines what the rest of the musicians think happened when Warren's violin went missing. Hailey wanted him to tell Becky the story and it was just really awkward.
  • As if Rodrigo wasn't stressed enough over Rivera's feelings towards him, his relationship with Hailey and the threat of a potential strike, Ana Maria has also returned in the form of divorce papers. She wasn't that great of a character last season and really shouldn't be informing story now either.
  • The Symphony board has become really alienating to Gloria. She's the only person on that side of the table who doesn't know what the terms of the agreement are. That shows just how much influence Edward really has.
  • Is Bradford a purposefully bad director? It sure seems like it when he's trying to document Thomas as he finishes his symphony. Now that it's done perhaps this story can finally be going somewhere.
  • The fight on the motion capture set is really only amusing because of the outfits the guys are in and to see the fight rendered on the computer screen.

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.