Friday, December 9, 2016

REVIEW: Amazon's 'Mozart in the Jungle' - Season 3

Amazon's Mozart in the Jungle - Season 3

All 10 episodes of the third season of Mozart in the Jungle were released on Amazon today. Below are thoughts on the season with brief episode-by-episode analysis.

301: "La Flamma"
Written by Paul Weitz and Directed by Paul Weitz

The best episodes the show has done so far were the trip to Mexico last season. So it's not surprising that the show travels abroad again this year. This premiere is largely just set up. Rodrigo and Hailey are both in Venice. Rodrigo is conducting the return of opera singer, Alessandra, who is severely plagued with self-doubt. That trait becomes annoying after awhile. But that partnership seems interesting and simple. Meanwhile, Hailey is traveling Europe as a part of the Andrew Walsh Experience. Her story is much more sitcom-y. If sitcoms have taught me anything, it's to never get cheap seafood. You will always get sick. It's all a way of saying Hailey didn't go to Europe to be with Rodrigo. But the two of them end back together nevertheless. But still, the premiere works because of the intimate focus on the new Venice locale. B

302: "The Modern Piece"
Written by Kate Gersten & Matt Shire and Directed by Will Graham

The eccentricities and oddities of Alessandra are really being pushed. It's clear she's important for the season. But Hailey also reminds Rodrigo that he can't run away from the situation in New York for very long. That's good because it's clear the Venice arc may not last that much longer. This episode largely explains why Hailey stays in Venice. Alessandra becomes obsessed with her and Hailey isn't strong enough with her convictions to know what else to do. The action also cuts back to New York to show the strike being basically the same as how last season ended it. The musicians aren't well organized while Gloria is finding creative solutions to her problem even though it may be ruining the symphony. Her relationship with Thomas seems to be a genuine thing too despite how tacked on that kiss was last season. The fusion of classical music and new technology could be a great subplot though. B-

303: "My Heart Opens to Your Voice"
Written by Will Graham and Directed by Patricia Rozema

Rodrigo has seemed a little irresponsible this season. He committed to the orchestra as his family at the end of last season. And now, he has just abandoned them when they and the management need him to end the lock out. Instead, he's been in Venice dealing with the silly exploits of Alessandra. This episode does a better job at exploring the roots of her insecurities. Plus, it's great for Rodrigo to be reminded of his passion for conducting at the New York Symphony. It's an odd moment that Hailey asks how to be a conductor. Is that going to be a new path for her that will lead to more confidence? She could use some more strength as the lead character. Of course, her moment with Rodrigo is interrupted by Erik. That relationship hasn't meant anything and ends here after she learns how he voted with the lockout. And Rodrigo sleeps with Alessandra which isn't surprising at all. Plus, this episode has Danny Glover playing a garden-obsessed mayor. That's pretty fun. B+

304: "Avventura Romantica"
Written by Susan Coyne and Directed by Patricia Rozema

This is probably a necessary episode for the season because it shows the struggles that come from Hailey and Thomas' new musical ventures. Plus, it continues to setup whatever is going on with Cynthia. And yet, the motivation behind these new pursuits is still too vague. They're funny because it's the characters out of their comfort zone. But the main story is just getting too erratic and broad. Alessandra is once again the over-the-top diva. She's become a caricature desperate for attention. It's difficult to understand how this arc will end without Rodrigo seeming like a bad guy to someone. Plus, too much of the action includes characters just running around and yelling at each other. It's good that Thomas and Gloria are in Venice now but it's also very chaotic. This is a really clunky episode. C+

305: "Now I Will Sing"
Written by Paul Weitz & Peter Morris and Directed by Paul Weitz

Rodrigo has always been a very impulsive and spontaneous man. This season seems to be calling him out on that. That's what ultimately defines his big performance with Alessandra. Sure, her catching him and Hailey kissing is a conventional way to force conflict. But that anger will fuel his return to New York where he is really needed. The stuff going on in New York needs some energy too. It's been very static so far. Hailey also gets a strong moment in calling Rodrigo out for his reckless decision-making. It all comes crushing down on him when he learns his beloved maestro has died. This is a grand performance for Rodrigo and Alessandra. But at the end of this arc, Rodrigo is all alone with nothing to show for his life. He has great performance accomplishments but very few goals with his personal life. That's an exciting place for the character but it's still deeply rooted around how Alessandra is just an over-the-top and one-note diva. B

306: "Symphony of Red Tape"
Written by Hannah Bos & Paul Thureen and Directed by Azazel Jacobs

The contract negotiations between the orchestra and management has been an ongoing story for a season and a half now. It's about time it has wrapped up. And yet, it's odd that Betty is the one who ultimately represents the musicians. Cynthia has been at the center of this story all of this time. This is the first major episode for Betty this season. She only previously had a cameo in one other. Plus, she's leaving the orchestra as a part of this new deal. That creates a couple of interesting story possibilities. Will Hailey step up as first chair oboe or will she pursue this new conducting fascination? The two sides being locked in to hammer out this deal is a traditional sitcom story. There isn't enough interactions between the orchestra and management though. Still this episode signals a pivot to whatever comes next. B+

307: "Not Yet Titled"
Written by Roman Coppola and Directed by Roman Coppola 

If the purpose of this episode is to be a satire and parody of documentary filmmaking, then I believe it was a success because it is absolutely ridiculous. There are so many directing ticks here that play for laughs. And yet, I'm not sure that was the intention. Bradford Sharpe has always been a puzzling character. It's never clear if he is good at his job or not. He's successful but that doesn't mean he's good. He's a character the show is amused by because he's played by series co-creator Jason Schwartzman. But he's just too puzzling to be all that entertaining. This is his first episode of the season and it's a documentary he's filming of the orchestra playing together again. That's a huge emotional moment. However, this episode is all about its experimental nature. This is unlike any previous episode the show has ever done. But it's never really consistent with what it's trying to do. Parts of it play as a finished documentary about the New York Symphony. Other times, it plays as the raw footage that Bradford is putting together to make the film. That disjointed nature really makes it a mess overall. C+

308: "Circles Within Circles"
Written by Noelle Valdivia and Directed by Tricia Brock

Rodrigo's impulsive decisions are only continuing to grow. He's being tormented almost by how much others have in their lives. It's keeping him up at night. The orchestra is finally back in the symphony hall. And yet, Rodrigo isn't able to conduct them. Instead, his mind is distracted by kids. He now believes he needs them in his life to feel fulfilled. First, he asks Hailey to have a baby with him. And now, he just declares that the symphony will have a new youth program during the major donor fundraiser. Gloria has the appropriate reaction to all of that. She is angry and has every right to be. Rodrigo is getting out of control a little bit. Elsewhere, the working relationship between Hailey and Thomas is really starting to be an amusing thing while Cynthia may need surgery soon. Even though the orchestra is back together, there are many things still conspiring to tear them apart. B

309: "Creative Solutions for Creative Lies"
Written by Susan Coyne & Will Graham and Directed by Gael Garcia Bernal

Hailey found herself aspiring to conduct this season. It was a massive change from her musical ambitions of the past. And yet, she was inspired to do this first by Rodrigo and then by Thomas. Her first performance is absolute chaos behind-the-scenes. But this episode does a strong job in showing how far she has grown. Yes, she is still super apologetic and wants to be liked by everyone. And yet, she already has a reputation in this world. She just needs to stand by the idea that not everyone will like her. Once she lets go, she delivers a wonderful performance. It really is such a rousing moment to end the episode on. It's entrancing. But more importantly, it's so easy to see just how life-changing this moment is going to be for Hailey. This is her at her happiest and proudest. B+

310: "You're the Best or Your F'ing Suck"
Written by Paul Weitz and Directed by Paul Weitz

The show has been building towards a Hailey-Rodrigo romantic coupling for a long time. It has been predestined to happen. Their love always complicates whatever relationship they have with almost every other person. This finale sees them come together and actually enjoy it. It's absolutely devastating when Hailey isn't selected to replace Betty as first oboe in the orchestra. And yet, it's not surprising considering that hasn't been where her passion was this season. Instead, she wanted to conduct. It was something she did largely away from Rodrigo. She succeeded without him. She recognizes that she needs the space away from him to find herself. But she also wants to give this romance a chance. He wants to rely on her in so many ways. He wants her to run the youth orchestra for him. She turns it down. And yet, they both spend the next day after their hookup thinking about it with hopeful looks in their eyes. Sure, it's scary and uncertain. But both of them seem ready to head into the unknown. That's thrilling and sets up an intriguing fourth season (should there be one). B+