Thursday, September 29, 2016

REVIEW: 'Pitch' - The Need to Be One of the Guys Contrasts with Ginny's Public Expectations in 'The Interim'

FOX's Pitch - Episode 1.02 "The Interim"

Ginny attempts to fit in with the team, in spite of a sexist comment Al made about her years ago resurfacing. Mike comes to terms with the mortality of his career and the end of his marriage.

Pitch had a solid premiere. It was entertaining and boasted a strong lead performance. And yet, there were still questions about what the show is as an ongoing series. The premiere worked because of its intense focus on Ginny's first game in the major leagues. It was a rousing moment that built and built until she could finally block all of the pressure out of her head and pitch a good game. The show is very realistic and practical about her skills as a pitcher. It doesn't try to say that she's the best thing the sport has ever seen. She's just getting so much attention because she's a woman. But "The Interim" doesn't focus too much on the actual sport. Yes, the San Diego Padres play a couple of games but it's never really the driver of the action or the story. Instead, the true plot comes from the changing dynamics behind-the-scenes of the team. Ginny's addition to the team is the catalyst for so much drama. The show is wandering into some big gender politics. Sometimes it pulls it off while at others it's a bit more muddled and less effective.

Ginny really does just want to be one of the guys. That's what she believes she needs to do in order to unify this team. She's aware that her presence is what's causing all of the chaos right now. Not everyone accepts her on the team while others don't believe she adds much to the overall roster. She's just doing her best to change their minds. She wants to be on a unified team because that will lead them to victory. She has her first victory in the major leagues. That landmark has already happened. But the team was more broken up than ever before after the game. The guys are struggling to accept her on the team. They know they need to do it but are reluctant to do so. Only a few of them go out to drinks to celebrate her win. She's dominating the news cycle and the conversation right now. The world is looking at her as the only thing that matters. That's a ton of pressure on this team. Pressure that hasn't really led to a lot of success. They've lost a lot of games so far. Ginny wants to focus on winning. She doesn't want to be anything more than a ball player.

Being a woman in the major leagues is the dream that Ginny's father had. It became her dream after his death. He still motivates her to do everything she does. She pushes herself because of the hard work effort he instilled in her. The team is a mess because of her. But the world around her wants her to go on Jimmy Kimmel, release statements about a sexist comment Al made years ago or offer an opinion on a rape case happening across the country. Ginny is in the spotlight right now. She wants to lay low and focus on the game. That's the attitude she accepted in order to finally pitch in the majors. The pressure was really messing with her. It still is. Everyone is expecting so much from her. The world wants her to be an inspiring voice. But how does she do that? It wasn't that long ago that she was virtually unknown. And now, she's under all of this pressure to be perfect. The world is looking at her to have an opinion. She finally delivers one that actually means something. However, it's unclear if that's an indication of further meaningful change moving forward.

So, Ginny does go on Jimmy Kimmel's show. It's a publicity move that only further alienates her teammates. They don't support it even though they would do the same thing if the situation were reversed. And yet, no one on the team actually watches her appearance. Of course, that makes sense given it's a pre-taped interview. It's not happening live so that they can view it while the team is falling apart in the locker room. But Ginny says some wonderful things doing the interview. It was clearly booked for her as a silly and funny appearance. A way for her to show the world that she can be fun and charming too. She doesn't want to talk about decorating tips though. Fortunately, Jimmy Kimmel is an interviewer who can handle serious conversations as well. It's not like she was doing Jimmy Fallon who would be flailing around not knowing how to talk about rape. Kimmel doesn't offer much of a reaction either. But it's still insightful when Ginny decides to speak out because she has a voice now. She didn't know if she could be a public figure whose opinion mattered. She didn't know if she wanted to be more than a baseball player. This was never a part of her dream. And now, she's adjusting. She's still getting used to it. However, this interview is a strong indication that she can handle this new pressure.

Of course, Ginny's story is only one part of this episode. "The Interim" tries to better define the ensemble around her as well. It has some mixed results though. It's not surprising at all that Al made a sexist comment about Ginny's appearance in the past. But it's a wonderful and nuanced scene when he actually apologizes to Ginny. He hasn't been the best or most welcoming manager to her. But he's not a mean-spirited bigot either. He notices Ginny's pretty looks but he appreciates more about her as well. He just doesn't always know the best way to express it all the time. That was wonderful character development. Meanwhile, Blip and Evelyn are stuck in a weird subplot about Blip needing his lucky shirt in order to play well again. Superstitions are a part of sports. So, it doesn't feel out of place. It's just a little too silly without informing who these characters are outside of Ginny a whole lot. Elsewhere, Mike is once again forced to make a rousing and motivational speech to pull the team together and win a game. It's the same thing that happened in the premiere. And now, it comes with the added context that his knees are starting to fall apart and his ex-wife is getting remarried. His career may be coming to an end and he has nothing to show for it. That creates a powerful character arc for the future. It's just a little too awkward in the execution here.

Moreover, it's clear that the show wants to implement a flashback structure in every episode. Those sequences were important in the premiere to help showcase Ginny's backstory and how she got to the majors. The twist at the end that killed her father was completely unnecessary. It didn't add a whole lot of value to the overall episode. In fact, it opened up some concerns about Pitch becoming a show with a twist ending in every episode. Fortunately, that's not the case. However, the flashbacks do continue. This week they highlight how Amelia became Ginny's manager. Her brother, Will, has handling her career in the minors. And then, Amelia showed up one day in Texas inspired to take Ginny on as a client. The audience doesn't know why she did that until the very end when it's revealed her husband left her after they couldn't get pregnant. She was in a funk and seeing a story about Ginny pulled her out of it. It inspired her to quit her job and put it all towards representing Ginny. It was a risk that paid off. And yet, these flashbacks were less important than the ones in the premiere. It does provide some useful context to the character relationships. But is there really enough story to keep using this device for every episode this season?

Some more thoughts:
  • "The Interim" was written by Dan Fogelman and directed by Paris Barclay.
  • Some of the disunity on the team is Ginny's fault. She still doesn't have a good relationship with Mike that is filled with trust. She doesn't trust her fastball which is proving to be the core source of tension between them. But it's nice that she has room for improvement. It keeps her from becoming too much of a saint as a character.
  • Al gave Oscar his start and is the godfather to Oscar's child. They have a very close friendship. And yet, Frank wants Al fired as soon as possible. He's simply causing too many problems for the team right now. That's going to be very difficult for Oscar to do though.
  • It seems like Buck will have to step up as manager. He's close with Al as well. He's the first person Oscar turns to when he needs to do something. But Buck also tells Al everything that is about to happen regarding his job.
  • That workout montage with Ginny and Mike is pretty amazing. It's great because it's clear Mike is just trying to keep up with Ginny. This is her regular routine but he's being pushed to his limits. That may not be so good for his knees though.
  • Mike does deliver a rousing speech in the hopes of bringing the team together again. The team is able to finally win after he does so as well. And yet, most of the guys still don't like Ginny. Until they come around on her, there will still be tension.
  • Eliot is still such an odd character. He speaks up at weird moments and offers nothing meaningful to the conversation. He quit with Amelia. That shows how loyal he is to her. But why he does that isn't immediately clear.
  • Ginny doesn't immediately want Amelia. It takes Will pushing for her to do so. He knows that he's in over his head. Amelia knows how to do things he doesn't. He'll always support his sister. He'll just do so as a fan and brother. Not as her manager.
  • So, where exactly are things going to go between Mike and Amelia? He's heartbroken by his ex-wife getting remarried. He has no one in his life to come home to. But he barely knows Amelia beyond her being Ginny's manager who doesn't always listen to her.