Thursday, December 8, 2016

REVIEW: 'Pitch' - Ginny Finds Her Strength During Her Final Game of the Season in 'Don't Say It'

FOX's Pitch - Episode 1.10 "Don't Say It"

Ross warns the Padres that Ginny is dangerously close to her pitching limit, but management is reluctant to end her season. Amelia confronts Will about money that has gone missing from the restaurant fund.

Heading into this fall season, Pitch was one of the most highly anticipated new shows on the broadcast networks. It represented a risk for FOX. It was something completely different from the norm. It wasn't a procedural or a remake of an existing property. It stood as its own thing. There was a lot of press about the partnership with major league baseball. Plus, early buzz was great - especially for the lead performances from Kylie Bunbury and Mark-Paul Gosselaar. And then, the show got off to a very soft debut in the ratings. It's simply something that happens. The episodes since have been good creatively. Of course, there have been a number of problems along the way but for the most part they've been solid. The ratings have dipped as they tend to do. They were stable but very low. That means "Don't Say It" serves as the first season finale for the show. FOX is capping its run at 10 episodes. The executives say there is hope for a second season renewal. But that just seems slim based on the actual numbers. So, this may very well be the final episode of Pitch. If it is, the creative team sure heads into the unknown with a ton of confidence. This hour doesn't try to wrap everything up neatly. It instead goes for an ending that is dramatically satisfying based on the arc that has occurred throughout this 10-episode run.

In the beginning, Ginny was a tremendous lead character for a show because she was groundbreaking. The show enjoyed commenting on that. She was the first female pitcher to play in the major leagues. That was a huge accomplishment. Over the course of the run though, Ginny has become a much more reactionary character. She has served as an audience surrogate a lot of time. So things had to be explained to her so the audience knew what was going on. It didn't always make sense because Ginny isn't new to the game of baseball. She would know about these behind-the-scenes antics and superstitions. But that was still the position she was put in a number of times. In fact, this entire season is largely about her becoming confident with her new stardom. She is an outlier. Yes, she's breaking history and that's momentous. But she's also just a 23-year-old girl trying to find her place in the world. This season is basically about her finding her voice and speaking up for herself. Other characters have tried to fit her into a mold. She has had to find her own path. She does that phenomenally well at the end of this finale. But it's also clear that comes with so many personal consequences that will change her life moving forward.

Ginny has been pulled in so many different directions this season. She has just wanted to focus on the game. That's all she ever cared about. She was just focused on getting to the majors. That was the dream she and her dad shared. She achieved that in the series premiere. So instead, this main story has been about how she's not really ready for all of this newfound fame and attention. She's gone on talk shows and had to have opinions about the world around her. She has to figure out how much influence she really has in the clubhouse. She's had to navigate sponsorship deals. Billionaires have asked her out on dates. She has needed to figure her life out quickly. Up until this point, it was just all about the sport. The actual baseball games have created a number of really dramatic moments on the show this season. This finale shows yet another momentous game for Ginny. But the action primarily focused on the behind-the-scenes world of the sport. That's a world filled with uncertainty. It's been more difficult for the show to create drama this way. It's also shown just how scattered and chaotic professional sports can be. Ginny has had to juggle a lot. She hasn't always handled the pressure well. She has internalized a lot of things. But now, she needs to be the one to stand up and say what she wants to say. She needs to take charge of her own life.

This conflict is largely entangled with the aftermath of that almost kiss between Mike and Ginny. The show has played into the sexual chemistry between its two leads. The two of them have worked incredibly well as platonic friends. He has been a strong mentor and role model for her on this team. They've also been on their own separate paths. Ginny has needed to find her own voice while Mike has needed to figure out what comes next after a strong career. The two of them awkwardly avoid each other in the clubhouse. It's easy to do because Mike isn't the leader he once was following the trade deal. They both throw themselves into other relationships as well. Ginny commits to her new relationship with Noah while Mike makes one last move on his ex-wife, Rachel. They both seem happy in these moments. They've grown a lot this season. But that doesn't inherently mean that they are ready for serious relationships right now. Has Mike grown enough to accept love into his heart and not just the thrill of the chase? Based on the recent trade deal, that doesn't seem to be the case at all. Rachel recognizes that even though she sleeps with him again. Meanwhile, Noah can open Ginny up to a world of possibilities. She could explore whatever she wanted with him. But all of that seems overwhelming to a girl who doesn't know what she wants in life outside of baseball. Ginny and Mike are still learning and growing. So now really isn't a great time for them to be getting involved with anyone seriously.

All of that is solid work that leads to a rousing baseball game at the end of the finale. But Ginny's arc is further enhanced by a falling out she has with both Will and Amelia. Those two have both tried to exploit Ginny's fame for their own personal gain. Amelia was stuck in a job and life she wasn't happy about. Ginny inspired her to quit and find a new passion as her agent. But Amelia's agenda has shined more brightly than Ginny's. She's come in handy a lot of times this season. However, she's also been very aggressive. That's a quality Ginny has appreciated at times but she doesn't know if she believes the things Amelia is pushing her to do. That fight between them means something in the end. Their relationship has a season worth of buildup. That contrasts with Ginny forcing Will to leave and figure out his life. Will's whole presence and the restaurant idea has felt very rushed over the last few episodes. It was clear he couldn't be trusted as a businessman. He's even more of a mess than Ginny. He's just like her but without baseball to give him focus. His life has been defined by Ginny. She will still support him. But he needs to go discover his own passions and figure his life out first before asking anything more from her. That's a fight that's personal to Ginny but really isn't that personal or emotional for the audience.

All of this is building to the exciting game that Ginny is pitching. It's going to be her last game for the season. That's fitting considering this is the finale. The story builds up the thought that the audience should be worried for Ginny's ligaments. It's once again evidence that Ross is right no matter what despite his social awkwardness. All of this adds to the tension of the game. Sure, the finale probably didn't need to open on it. It shows that Ginny is about to pitch a no-hitter and no one on the team wants to jinx it. But that's a structure the show has done previously this season. It's already an annoying plot device. But it gets worse the more and more times it is used on a show. And yet, the game itself is very exciting. It's thrilling to watch Ginny just completely block out the entire world and just pitch. That's what she came to this team to do. Her life has been so chaotic as of late. Right now, she hasn't talked to Mike about their moment, Will and Amelia have just left out of anger and management wants to pull her off the roster. It's a lot of pressure. But in this moment, she rises above it all. It's because of everything she's been through this season that she knows how to block that out and play a game of baseball. Her determination and stubbornness is still apparent though. And that may cost her so much in the end. She stands on her own two feet. She's the one who gives herself the rousing speech. She no longer needs Mike to pull her out of a funk. She's the one telling the rest of the world what to do. She's in charge of her own story. It's an empowering place to find the character at the end of the season. But it all comes crushing down with an injury that could ruin her career in this game. This season has seen the audience worry about Mike's health. There's been no reason to suspect Ginny could get injured. And yet, that's what happens here. It's a cliffhanger for the show. It doesn't play as a cheap trick to get the network or studio to order more episodes either. Instead, it feels like a satisfying way to close the season. It showed that Ginny was willing to take control of her own life but she still has a lot to learn about herself and her limits in this game.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Don't Say It" was written by Dan Fogelman & Rick Singer and directed by Paris Barclay.
  • Ginny wasn't sure what to make of that moment with Mike. Evelyn wanted to know all of the details. But Ginny didn't know what to say or how to feel. And then, she decides that as long as they are teammates nothing is going to happen between them. It's been her stance all along but she needed to be reminded of it now.
  • These last two episodes have really been forcing Ginny's connection with Noah too. It's a relationship that is only a couple of dates in. They make a cute couple. But Noah wanted to move too quickly and Ginny isn't ready for that kind of adventure just yet.
  • Mike and Rachel's hookup isn't a scandalous twist either because Rachel has called off her engagement. Plus, she seems wise to want to get back to her life in Los Angeles and not immediately rekindle the full relationship. And yet, there is still that glimmer of hope through those looks they give each other during the big game.
  • Mike didn't handle the trade rumors well at all nor is he handling his return to the team well either. Management said Mike called the trade off. But Mike isn't the hero in this story. He just wants to be left alone which causes friction in his bond with Blip. Tension that plays out in the dugout which again amps up the drama of the game.
  • Evelyn's life has been defined by her family and baseball. She supports Blip, her kids and Ginny. But she wants something that is completely her own. She had that with the restaurant. And now, she still wants to do that. Blip being bummed about Evelyn not wanting another kid though is a weird story development that doesn't fully land.
  • Again, the odds of Pitch returning for a second season seem slim. I wouldn't say they are impossible though. It would be great if the show could do more episodes. It learned a lot this season and really hit its stride during the second half. It would be fun to see that momentum continue to grow.