Sunday, March 12, 2017

REVIEW: 'The Arrangement' - Kyle and Megan Head to Venice for the Debut of His Film in 'The Ex'

E!'s The Arrangement - Episode 1.02 "The Ex"

Kyle and Megan's relationship starts with a whirlwind trip to Venice where they both have very different reactions to Lisbeth. Megan experiences some of the best and worst her new life has to offer. Megan is surprised when Kyle pulls back the curtain on some of his true colors for the first time.

The Arrangement seems a little hesitant to get to what it actually wants to be about. Right now, it's a lot of whirlwind romance, hints at bigger mysteries and dark details of the characters. But there is just so much teasing of something more sketchy or sinister going on. That's abundantly clear. There is more happening with these characters than the simple faces they put on around other people. And yes, it is necessary to show the simplicity of the romance at first. But it's also a formula that is already starting to get tired. It's just cryptic teases without a lot of substance. The characters in the know could tell people like Megan the truth. But they don't largely out of plot necessity. The narrative demands that she stay in the dark about the truth for as long as possible. It's a familiar way to tell this type of story. But without a ton of excitement in the episodes, then this mystery can only sustain itself for so long before it gets frustrating and annoying. Plus, the show will actually be better when the audience is in on the secret and knows exactly how to view these characters.

Perception is very important on this show. It's important to the characters as they want to control the stories that get out to the press and the public. Everything is seemingly a staged event to get the best story. Everyone is trying to control the images that will make the headlines the next day. Of course, it's the headlines of the tabloids. This is a scandalous soap opera type of show after all. And yet, it also wants the perception of prestige by saying that Kyle is in a movie that debuts at a famous film festival. It wants to have that elegance as well. It's just a little too calculated to actually work. The show is working very hard to make these characters seem good and important to one another. The perception is only starting to crack a little bit. Little details that show the darkness within. The characters rarely see it in one another. They trust and love each other despite this crazy journey they are on. But the audience is able to see the whole thing and recognize that no one is exactly what they appear to be.

Take for instance Deann, who is Kyle's producing partner and Terrence's wife. On the surface, she doesn't seem like the one who is trying to control everything. She's just the producer who has to do all of the press work for Kyle when he decides he doesn't want to. But actually, there is so much more going on with her. Namely, she made a deal with Annika, the pregnant woman who broke up Megan's relationship so she could be romanced by Kyle. That is an extremely absurd reveal that really plays into the soap conventions. It was a twist at the end of the premiere that didn't land that well because Annika was such an afterthought as a character before then. Now, it's clear she has importance because Deann wanted Kyle and Megan together for some reason. And yet, how in the world could she have predicted that all of this would happen? Megan was a struggling actress/waitress. How did Deann even know her? How did she know that Kyle would be so charmed by her acting talents? How could any of this have been predicted? It largely just showcases that she can be powerful and manipulative as well. She's supportive of Megan much more than Terrance is. He is skeptical of her and wants to know all of her secrets. Deann seemingly knows them and is fine with any minor slip ups Megan might have because none of them will have that big of an impact on the overall story of Megan and Kyle's love.

And then, there is Lisbeth, Kyle's ex-fiancé who also has a movie debuting at the festival. She has been talked up so much. Expectations were high for when she actually appeared on the screen. And yet, her debut is pretty tame and uneventful. Everyone was making such a big deal about how Kyle would react to seeing her again after being left at the altar. Everyone thought he would make a scene. So everyone was doing their best to control the situation before it even happened. Plus, Lisbeth is in the know to the true darkness of Kyle's world. She could provide answers to Megan if she wanted. But instead, the show goes the typical soap route with two females being catty towards each other over a man. Megan wants to be friendly but she also doesn't know the whole story. Lisbeth knows the truth but refuses to help Megan in any way. She doesn't offer her any warning. She doesn't try to help a fellow woman from making the same mistakes she did. There is none of that. Instead, she's mean in the bathroom. Instead of searching out answers from Kyle, Megan largely slinks back into this overwhelming and glamorous world. She's thankful to be a part of this experience while doing nothing to address many troubling warning signs.

Of course, this hour also gets into some pretty interesting ideas about what the cost of fame actually is. Megan's life has changed so quickly after she signed the marriage contract. She is the fish-out-of-water in this story. And yet, people are criticizing and demeaning her for being the fish-out-of-water. That contract was intense. It basically gave control of her entire career and public identity to Kyle and his team. Now, Kyle could care less about the images she posts on social media. He makes no efforts to control her in that way. He's too busy dealing with his own anxieties and insecurities. Terrence was the man behind the contract. He's the one who lashes out whenever Megan does something remotely bad. However, everything she does in this hour is perfectly responsible for her to do. She's not used to having her life be controlled for her. She doesn't know how to act now that she is famous. She simply wants to be romanced by Kyle, see some old friends and hang out with some new ones. She thinks she can continue to do all of that. Instead, she is seemingly being punished for going out for drinks without telling anyone. A man trying to silence a woman is a very powerful image. The show would be very wise to know what to do with that. Megan shouldn't be silenced because Terrence has a perfect plan for Kyle's life. She should stand up for herself. She does that in the end. But this seems to be only the beginning of the clashes between the two of them.

Some more thoughts:
  • "The Ex" was written by Jonathan Abrahams and directed by Jonas Pate.
  • Are the inconsistent details of Kyle's film career suppose to be the point? Because right now, they are just confusing. In one scene, it's joked that joining a Kyle West film is selling out - and not even the good kind. And yet, he also has a film at a major festival that makes people cry and give standing ovations when it's over.
  • Also, Kyle's film at the festival doesn't even look that good. First of all, AWOL is a pretty generic and bland title. And second, it seems like pure prestige bait and nothing more. He seems to be playing a priest in a war. And third, Kyle doesn't even seem to like talking about the film at all. Does that mean he doesn't think it's that good? Or the show just doesn't want to explain its plot?
  • Both Kyle and Megan have former relationships where the people they dated seemingly know the dark truths about them. Lisbeth is keeping quiet about Kyle's for some reason. Meanwhile, Megan's ex-boyfriend is upset with her for leaving him for Kyle West like it was no big deal. He could be a problem for her in the future as she gets more famous.
  • Of course, it's still nice that Megan keeps some connections to her pre-fame life. She still wants to hang out with her two girl friends. They are at her fittings with the stylist. Plus, she's texting with them while in Venice as well.
  • Annika is hoping to become an overnight success as an actress just like Megan. She saw it work for Megan and knows Deann could do it for her. Once that doesn't pan out, she meets with Terrence. That could also fuel his decision to show up in Venice eventually.
  • If all of this wasn't enough, Megan is also almost raped while she's walking back to the hotel from getting drinks with her new friends. That's a horrifying detail. And yet, she's saved by Kyle, who then takes his frustrations out on the nearby paparazzi. And that of course, needs to get covered up by the team. That reaction just proves that there is a darker side to him that can come out impulsively.