Friday, September 8, 2017

REVIEW: 'One Mississippi' - Tig Shares a Story About a Clear Moment of Clarity for Her in 'Into the Light'

Amazon's One Mississippi - Episode 2.02 "Into the Light"

Tig goes on a complicated date. Bill makes a connection with a woman in his office building. Remy also meets someone, at church. A mysterious crystal brings the family together.

Tig Notaro is such a masterful storyteller. That has been apparent for a long time. Sometimes, all One Mississippi needs to do is sit the camera down in a stationary spot and just let Tig tell a story for a couple of minutes. That was a prominent feature of the first season. It's once again true of this season. It's the way this show most resembles her stand-up act. But it's different as well. It's not her telling stories in front of a crowd of people. Yes, she is sharing them with people for important and profound reasons. But it's in a much more intimate environment. It fosters closeness. It builds intimacy and understanding between Tig and the audience. But it does the same for Tig and Kate's relationship. They are in the same room. Kate is an audience surrogate of sorts because she is truly captivated by the story as well. Sometimes, Tig isn't even aware of how powerful or gripping she is as a storyteller. She's just sharing this detail about her past hoping that someone somewhere is entertained by it. That's Tig the character. She's wonderfully surprised to see people appreciate what she brings to this radio show. But Tig the writer is so much more aware and powerful. She understands the importance of that final scene. And yet, she also knows the buildup is also incredibly important. "Into the Light" is a stunning episode because of the episode that happens before that gripping story in the radio station. It's because of the audience's understanding of this world that makes that final moment so hopeful but also so emotionally devastating.

Tig has been comfortable with her sexuality for a long time. Her physical appearance has always identified her as gay to the rest of the world. It's the way she feels comfortable in her own skin. She doesn't like wearing dresses or having long hair. In the first season, her looks always caught people by surprise. It was more of a subtle condemnation back then. People would notice it and try to get her to act more like a traditional women. But it never really became an important story that made anyone feel uncomfortable in this world. And now, the world of One Mississippi is expanding. Tig is running into people who do have a problem with her sexuality and aren't afraid to let her know it. This season has already proven to be more political. It's really sliding into the realities of this world and the problems that Tig would face in this community. She's happy to be in Bay St. Lucille. This is her home now. But her sexuality is now this daunting thing that people have strong opinions about. Some people will judge her without even knowing her. Meanwhile, others will judge her because they know her. In the beginning, Kate is surprised that Tig and Phoebe are going out on a date. She didn't think that that was something that Tig wanted. It plays into the push-pull dynamic between the two of them where they are both afraid to make the first move. It's just incredibly awkward while setting up the big concerns of this episode.

And again, Tig is confident with her sexuality. She doesn't have time to be dating someone who isn't. That's what ultimately defines this date with Phoebe. Tig thinks she's a lovely woman. But there's a divide between them as well. Tig doesn't want to deal with the stress of trying to fool the world into believing she's something that she isn't. To Tig, she sees Phoebe as a split personality. When she's with Tig in private moments, she's gay and this is the start of a promising relationship. When the two are out in public, there is a fear to actually say that this is a date. It would be confirmation to the world that Phoebe is gay. Right now, she sees it as something only the people she loves most in the world knows. She's not hiding it from the people who matter. But she's uncomfortable being gay in public. That's an interesting take on the story that really isn't seen a whole lot. It's what ultimately derails this relationship. Phoebe doesn't want to be seen as gay. She wants to be seen as human. That's a worldview that should be respected as well. No one is entitled to know everyone else's sexual identity. Meanwhile, Tig is very open and loud about her sexuality. When she gets confronted, she's going to fight back with a sarcastic quip to highlight the hypocrisy of the situation. That's simply who she is. That's an opinion to be respected as well. It just means there really isn't a future to the two of them as a couple - at least for right now.

It's all so tragic and wrong that Tig has to deal with this kind of bigotry as well. Bill is in the emergency room. He is experiencing a severe and sudden case of vertigo. It has never happened before. He had to rely on a woman who works in the same building as him (though not for the same company) to drive him to the hospital. That's the start of a fun, flirtatious dynamic that is true to the character and how he experiences the world. He's grateful to have her there beside him while apologetic for the imposition. Tig and Remy are distracted at the moment and can't be there for him right away. Of course, they do come. But that only reveals this to be a Christian hospital which truly believes it can turn away people for their sexuality. That's absolutely horrifying. Tig just wants answers for what's going on with her stepfather. But the woman behind the desk makes a quick assumption of her and refuses to provide any service. Tig isn't asking for anything special. Her questions are within the demands of this person's job. But she's refusing service because she believes Tig to be unholy and a trickster. She wants to flaunt that she can't be tempted or tricked into opening her worldview. She wants to prove that she is better than Tig. Of course, Tig has fun with it. She makes a joke about being converted to heterosexuality just in order to get information about Bill. She demands it and celebrates when she is allowed to walk back to the room he is in. But even then, Remy has to show up in order for anything to happen. It's disorienting and traumatizing. It's all a part of Tig's fight to be seen as a human.

That's what her final story is ultimately about. She doesn't have a big speech on her show addressing this particular incident. Instead, it's all about the date she has just been on and talking about the moment she knew she was gay. It's a powerful story where she goes into detail about meeting a woman at a diner and quickly becoming friends with her. They both thought they were too cool to be hanging out with each other. And yet, their friendship persisted. There were nights where Tig thought about kissing her and what that actually meant. She wanted to do it and eventually did do it the night before this woman, Anne, graduated and moved away forever. Tig wanted to know if this made her gay or if she was just attracted to this one particular woman. It was an identity crisis she struggled with. She needed help from a therapist in order to know for sure. Even then, she only knew it for certain when faced with rejection. The therapist said Tig wasn't gay and it was in that moment that she knew the truth. It's very poetic. Kate is moved by the story. When she tries to explain why, she's not as eloquent either. She's frustrated in trying to put her emotions together in a way that adds to Tig's story and doesn't just repeat it. In that moment, Tig is hoping that it's an eye-opening experience for Kate that makes her realize that she is gay as well. She's hoping that that is what this is building towards. It's not though. Kate has no big realization about herself. That makes their dynamic destined to go the same way as Tig and Phoebe's. Tig wants this to be something more. But at every possible step, Kate is waiting for confirmation elsewhere to confirm that these feelings are even real and mean something to her. That's tragic and bittersweet in its own way.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Into the Light" was written by Stephanie Allynne & Tig Notaro and directed by Ken Kwapis.
  • Sheryl Lee Ralph is a fantastic addition to the season as Felicia Hollingsworth. She's essentially a female version of Bill. And yet, it's understandable why that appeals to him in a romantic sense instead of the women at the Senior Center. She's a kindred spirit who appreciates the same things. When he's struggling to see clearly, she's front there to come into focus for him.
  • Tig and Remy can see the romantic tension between Bill and Felicia as well. They encourage it. And yet, Bill and Felicia will go about romance in their own way. They'll continue to flirt and be nice to each other in the few minutes of each day where they share an elevator. That's all that they are currently planning for with this dynamic too.
  • In the season premiere, Remy was confronted by his own ignorance. He was right to be called out for doing nothing in the face of sexism and racism. He's not helpful to Tig at all here but she has no problem with that. It's more interesting to see him interact with people of the opposite mindset. He's now interacting with a different woman who takes it as a compliment when a guy bluntly says he'd have sex with her. She's conditioned to see that as normal and has a problem with people who say it isn't.
  • Bill and Tig are encouraging of Remy pursuing church as well. They aren't willing to attend services with him or be a part of the various events it sponsors. Bill only went because that's what Caroline wanted while Tig ruined things early on by refusing to wear dresses to the services. So right now, Remy is the only one with possible spiritual awakening.
  • Remy is on a diet now too. That's a sudden development that doesn't really have much purpose here. He's intruding on the space in the refrigerator. Plus, his stomach is growling all through the family potluck. It's mostly just building up to him flirting with this new woman who sees big and tough as what masculinity really is.

As noted in previous reviews from this show, every episodic review was written without having seen any succeeding episodes. Similarly, it would be much appreciated if in the comments, the conversation would only revolve around the show up to this point in its run.