Sunday, September 3, 2017

REVIEW: 'Survivor's Remorse' - Cam Reads His Father's Letters While Reggie Flies to Boston in 'Closure'

Starz's Survivor's Remorse - Episode 4.03 "Closure"

M-Chuck has unconventional ideas about closure. Cam sees his father in a new light. Reggie and Trent head north.

These opening three episodes of Survivor's Remorse have played as their own mini-arc. They've focused on the same three stories. Cam, Reggie and M-Chuck are all dealing with their respective fathers. They have all been on their separate paths. They've been completely unaware of what each other have been up to. Each episodes picks up immediately from the last. It's a significant change for the show. There have been plenty of serialized elements in the past. One of the best qualities of the show is that it allows everything to have meaning and an impact on the characters. It's not just episodic adventures for the sake of comedy. They have meaning to the overall narrative. But the show has always been a bit more episodic than it has been in this season so far. It's an experiment that could be an epic failure for the show. And yet, it's not because the show had already proven itself to be very dramatically satisfying when it wanted to be. These episodes largely only got their laughs from the adventures of Cassie and Chen in China. That story is completely absent from "Closure." This episode gets its laughs from the visual of M-Chuck peeing on three graves right next to each other. That's a humorous moment. But for the most part, this opening arc of the season has been a very reflective time for these three characters. They are confronting these issues and wondering what it will mean for the future. They are asking these big questions about their pasts and aren't always liking what they find. It's been a difficult time for all of them. And yet, they do all find closure by the end of this episode. That's the big theme here. Things aren't completely and neatly resolved. But they find enough closure that it's okay for all of them to reunite and talk about what they have all been up to lately.

"Closure" picks up moments after last week's episode ended. Reggie has brought Trent into his home to sleep for the night before getting his hand checked out in the morning. Cam is awake in Boston reading all of the newly discovered letters from his father. And M-Chuck is standing over the graves of the three men who raped Cassie which led to her conception. All of these specific actions mean something very significant and poignant to the characters. They are forced to reckon with what all of this means for them. Reggie wanted nothing to do with his father ever again. Now, the man is staying in the guest bedroom and Reggie isn't sure if he's prepared enough or unprepared for whatever might happen in the middle of the night. M-Chuck flew all the way to Boston for answers. And now, she has them. She was able to say what she wanted to say to the men who did this to her mother. But is expressing these feelings to graves instead of actual people enough for her to move on from this very traumatic story that began her life? Meanwhile, Cam is incredibly frustrated that he didn't have the opportunity to read these letters from Rodney sooner. He understands why Cassie kept them from him. But he's mad at the world for allowing them to be lost in the first place. It's miraculous they were discovered at all and that he's now reading them. But Cam is focusing on all the lost time that happened over the years.

Reggie and Missy are getting into a fight over their respective actions regarding Trent. It's such a fascinating fight because both are passionate about what they are saying. They are apologizing profusely while also wallowing in their own doubts about the future. Reggie wants to take all of the blame for what has happened lately. He doesn't want Missy to be torn up because she was pushing for him to sit down with Trent again. She knew the backstory and saw how it was tearing Reggie up but pushed for it nevertheless. Meanwhile, Reggie is sorry that he lied to her and got hurt as a result. He sees his own recklessness as the problem. It's a problem he sees extreme consequences for as well. He's a gracious host to his father. He brings him clothes and a toothbrush. But he also fears that the alcohol in the house isn't safe. He fears that he isn't safe either. He believes he needs to be better than the man he is. It's all of those emotions that are coming up because it's the middle of the night after a trip to the emergency room. Reggie doubts that he'll ever be able to provide the life that Missy deserves. It doesn't feel like the show throwing an obstacle into this marriage in order to create story either. It plays as a genuine conversation between two married people as they stumble over complex issues from the past. Reggie wants to be better. Missy is trying to tell him that he is the man she wants to have as her husband. But all of this still leaves a lot of uncertainty between the two of them. The next morning, things seem calmer because Trent has left with just a cryptic and simple note. But Reggie and Missy aren't able to continue talking because Reggie has to get to Boston to help Cam with his own father issues.

No one seems to have much faith in Cam either to handle seeing his father again and not letting it stir up into something potentially problematic. Of course, they are right to be worried because Cam's actions have caused lots of controversies publicly and privately for the family in the past. And yet, he has been more than capable of handling himself in this venture back home. It's something he felt compelled to do because of the anguish he saw with M-Chuck regarding her own father. Now, he's read the letters and doesn't know what to feel. He has a supportive girlfriend in Allison who is able to give him the advice he needs right now. She's also right to be concerned about him. She's right to call Reggie just to let him know what's going on. She does it out of love not because Cam is becoming self-destructive. Reggie goes to Boston to prevent something bad from happening. But Cam seems to be handling things perfectly fine. He sees Rodney in prison again. They are able to talk things out regarding the past in a genuine way. Cam is able to hear what Rodney's life in prison has been like. These feelings are resolved. Now, they just need to figure out the best way forward and if they are going to continue having a relationship.

And finally, M-Chuck's story feels like it has this massive release to it. It happens when she and Pookie are once again jamming out in the car on their drive back to the city. It's just this joyous moment that breaks up all of the emotional angst and uncertainty of the season so far. When it happened last week, it felt like a break from the dread that was about to happen with the confrontation. But now, it feels like an emotional release. M-Chuck has said everything she has needed to say. She's done everything she needed to do. That now includes defecating on all three graves. That's an amusing sight. But now, it's great that she is able to reflect on how much she has grown as a character as of late. She didn't take therapy seriously in the beginning. She only had to go for some silly reason. But she learned to listen to the advice she got there. It allowed her to grow and become aware of her own self-destructive tendencies. She's not afraid of the uncertainty in her life. She doesn't feel the need to cover up those feelings with sex. That's remarkable growth. She is able to be in this moment experiencing all of these difficult emotions with Pookie and it's completely genuine and helpful for her. And now, she can find a way forward that is also good for her. This season has spent a lot of time focusing on the past and the decisions that were made. But now, it's time to think about what these relationships could be in the future. That means bringing the family back together in Boston and sharing the long stories they've just experienced. And that feels like absolutely the right moment to end this story on right now. 

Some more thoughts:
  • "Closure" was directed by Salli Richardson-Whitfield with story by Paul Oakley Stovall & Luther M. Mace and teleplay by Mike O'Malley.
  • Dirty Paul seems to be convincing Cam into going into the house flipping business with him. Again, this feels like it's going to be an important story throughout the season - especially with Cam not wanting to talk about it with Reggie quite yet. However, it also feels very tangential to the actually story of these first three episodes.
  • Cassie calls M-Chuck and is somewhat willing to have a nice conversation about the traumatic incident from her past. She doesn't want to talk about it directly. She just wants to know if M-Chuck found the closure she was looking for and to remind her that she is loved and a miracle. That's a very sweet moment that shows Cassie still is a good mother despite keeping this from her daughter.
  • Pookie doesn't want to reenforce the stereotype of African Americans who can't swim. But he can't swim because he sees it as a death wish. People only drown when they go into the water. And drowning is a horrible way to die. This then stems into a conversation about global warming and needing to know how to tread water which is pretty amusing.
  • It seems highly unlikely that Trent is going to get his hand looked at by a doctor, right? He didn't want to stay any longer than he should because he knows how Reggie feels about him. He doesn't want to do any more damage. But that hand is bound to cause issues down the line which could become quite serious and destructive.
  • Cam tells Rodney that he'll visit again the following day. Then, he walks out of the prison and meets up with Reggie who then gets a call from M-Chuck. They are all going to have breakfast together in Boston and talk about what's been going on. They each have long stories to share. And yet, Cam's is still ongoing because he wants to see Rodney again and has already made the promise.