Sunday, September 25, 2016

REVIEW: 'Survivor's Remorse' - Reggie, Cam and M-Chuck Struggle with Father Issues in 'Father's Day'

Starz's Survivor's Remorse - Episode 3.10 "Father's Day"

Reggie copes with his father's sudden appearance in Atlanta. Cassie meets Chen's parents.

Season 3 of Survivor's Remorse has been its most dramatic one yet. It all started with the sudden and tragic death of Uncle Julius. That prompted a wild shift in storytelling this season. The show simply had to embrace these darker stories and emotions. That's the only way the weight of everything that happened could be realistically felt. The show prides itself on having insightful conversations about issues that people face in 2016. Death changed this show. It wasn't the same show afterwards. But this was its best season so far. The show handled dark and difficult emotions in its first two seasons. Things just became more complex this year. The show fully turned into that difficult direction. It understood that the mourning of Uncle Julius wasn't something that could be neatly resolved in just two episodes. Yes, his death and funeral opened the season in a strong two-part premiere. But the impact of his life is still affecting the rest of his family even now. It was just last week when Cam went to Julius' room seeking comfort but instead found a nasty drug trip. Julius' death is no longer the sole definer of story. But it has opened the show up to tell different stories about the sometimes uncomfortable past of this family.

The season opened with Uncle Julius' death and it ends with all of the characters struggling with father figures. That theme is most overt with Reggie and M-Chuck. Reggie's story features him actually dealing with his father while M-Chuck's features her spiraling after learning the truth about her conception. It shows that all of the main characters have some pretty difficult relationships with their parents. Not everyone has the same happy and healthy upbringing that Missy had. Reggie, M-Chuck and Cam are in Atlanta twisting themselves up over these unexpected things from their past becoming important all over again. Meanwhile, Cassie is off in China with Chen trying to make a good first impression on his parents. She finally shared the horrifying story of the gang rape that led to M-Chuck's conception last week. It was a brutal moment that makes everyone sympathize with her as soon as they hear it. That revelation is affecting her children in some pretty major ways. And yet, she has already found peace with it and is moving on like nothing has changed at all.

However, Cassie's revelation is such a big deal to M-Chuck and Cam. M-Chuck has made a lot of progress on herself this season thanks to therapy. Her court-mandated sessions are now officially over and her therapist believes she can stop now. All M-Chuck has to do is share the story of her conception for the therapist to immediately change her mind in that regard. Just because M-Chuck is no longer required to attend therapy doesn't mean she still doesn't need it. She's gotten the answers she's been searching for all season long. She wanted to know about her father and she got the truth. It just wasn't what she was expecting at all. She looks at her mother differently now. Of course, M-Chuck and Cassie haven't seen each other since the truth was revealed. Cam broke the news to M-Chuck while Cassie was in China last week. But now, things are different. Now, it's no longer a mystery that Cassie can answer for her. She has to do her own investigation. The need to punish these guys for what they did is fueling that endeavor. M-Chuck is in a dark place right now. It's up to Jimmy to pull her out of it. Those two really have become quite the friendship this season. He is given a depressing origin story as well. It's brutal listening to his tale of being abandoned at age 2 and his parents being too embarrassed to ask for help. He's made quite the life for himself. That has nothing to do with how his parents raised him. M-Chuck is a strong person no matter what her father did. Jimmy talks her down from killing the guys responsible for the gang rape. But she's still determined to return to Boston to learn more. It's a journey that lands her on Pookie's doorstep. That's an ominous tease for the future. One that perhaps leads to more clarity, acceptance and personal growth for M-Chuck.

Learning the truth about M-Chuck's conception is a much more important story for M-Chuck than it is for Cam. It has to be. This is the start of her story. It's not the start of his. And yet, it does have lingering consequences on him as well. Last week was a much more important and busy episode for Cam. Here, his story is relegated to just a few, very brief scenes. But his reaction is just as important. He knew that he had to tell M-Chuck the truth. He couldn't keep this secret from her like Cassie has all of these years. He had to be honest with his sister. But that doesn't mean he's back to being fine just because he no longer has the burden of the truth by himself. He still knows what happened and is wrapped with guilt and horror about the failings of the world. It's a dark headspace for him too. It's enough to cripple him during the playoffs. The team loses to Boston. Cam is now officially done for the season. His first year in Atlanta has officially come to a close. It's not an end anyone was expecting. In fact, everyone is upset that they lost this particular game. Cam's not thinking about the game though. His mind is on family. He has a loving family that he cherishes so much. But there is so much darkness still under the surface that's keeping him from fully maturing. Instead of lingering in that feeling, Cam decides to do something about it. That's very mature of him. He decides to visit his own father who he hasn't spoken to in years. That leads to the revelation that his father is actually in prison. That's just the introduction of another dark aspect of this family's past. One that will need to be further explored next season.

Meanwhile, Reggie's father issues are happening right now. There is no waiting around to see the troubled history he has with his father. The audience doesn't have to wait for this story like we have to for Cam and M-Chuck. Reggie is able to confront his father about the crappy job he did raising him. That family connection has been shrouded in mystery for the entire series so far. And now, it's crashing to the surface in a way that is really affecting Reggie. He was flying high after winning in Cam's contract negotiations. Life couldn't be any better for him. Then his father, Trent, shows up out of the blue hoping to make amends. Just knowing he's in town is enough to make Reggie twisted up inside. He fantasizes about punching his father in his face. It's all that he cares about. He's a man now with a great life of his own. He survived his horrible upbringing just like Jimmy did. He's a success because of his own actions. Not because of anything his parents gave him. It turns out Trent was abusive and an addict while Reggie's mom died a few years ago. Reggie knew enough to care for his mom in her dying days. But Trent was completely absent. Reggie doesn't want to hear anything he has to stay. He doesn't care that Trent is sober now and giving back to the program. He doesn't see that kindness as a substitution for every horrible thing he did in the past. Reggie still has so much anger and resentment towards this man. Missy doesn't understand that. She loves her parents and wants Reggie to have the same thing. She expects that when they finally have a child together. Reggie can't deliver that though. He doesn't actually punch Trent in the face when he finally sits down with him. All he does is describe it in wonderful detail that highlights the brutality and the passion behind the action. It's a really tremendous scene that highlights just how broken Reggie still is despite all of his success. Nothing really changes after this sit down. Reggie says what he wants to say and is hoping never to see Trent again. Only time will tell if Trent obeys or if Reggie is any better because of this meeting.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Father's Day" was written by Victor Levin and directed by Victor Levin.
  • Cassie meeting Chen's parents for the first time is obviously the story that brings levity to a very serious and dramatic finale. She doesn't understand a word they are saying while they can't believe that their successful son is in love with a black woman, which is such a rarity in China.
  • Chen's parents ultimately bond with Cassie largely because his father takes note of how Chen is in love with a woman who is similar to his mother. It's acceptance as seen through the family all taking a picture together.
  • Talking with M-Chuck gets Jimmy to take a chance on love once again. He decides to ask Isa out. It's something he does because he's attracted to her energy. He doesn't care that he has failed so many times. He just hope she feels the same way.
  • Isa offers up some fantastic insight into what it means to be a woman sports reporter in 2016. It's still a male dominated profession and she doesn't want anything to get in the way of her career. She doesn't want it to appear like she's sleeping her way to power. Or have her career ruined if it doesn't work out. If Jimmy can promise that, then she'll date him.
  • After the big loss, a reporter thinks Cam is immature for not talking to the press to explain what happened. And yet, the audience can clearly see how much Cam has matured throughout the series. He knows he has issues and is doing something to address them.
  • That's it for Survivor's Remorse this season. Again, the show has been renewed for a fourth season already. So, it should be exciting to see where this story goes next and how the family dynamics get only more complicated. Should be a hilarious and emotional ride for all involved.