Monday, September 25, 2017

REVIEW: 'Transparent' - Maura and Ali Arrive in Israel and Find a New Family Connection in 'Pinkwashing Machine'

Amazon's Transparent - Episode 4.03 "Pinkwashing Machine"

Sarah tests a new parenting style and is shocked to discover that it works. Josh reconnects with Dr. Steve as tensions rise at home with Shelly. Drawn in by an intriguing new friend, Ali travels to Palestine. Maura makes a life-changing discovery about her family history.

The Pfeffermans have finally landed in Israel. It's only the third episode of the season but this trip for Maura's speech at a conference has been a huge focus of this season so far. And yet, it's also abundantly clear that that speech won't be the reason why the family stays in Israel for longer than they planned. In fact, the speech is already over with in the span of this episode. Maura spends the day getting ready for her big presentation about gender and judaism in the communist era. And then, it's just a lowkey moment intercut with everything going on with Ali on her new adventure with her new friends in Palestine. It's such a minor part of this actual story. It's an important accomplishment for Maura. It proves that she is respected in the academic industry throughout the world. This is a huge deal for her on a professional level. But this show has always thrived when things get personal for the characters and the deep, dark secrets they unravel about one another. It's a family that is incredibly too close while also very selfish and self-destructive. They are close but worlds apart as well. They don't always know how to be with and understand one another. It's nice that Ali has traveled to Israel with Maura. But the story separates the two of them quickly. That divide turns out to be a huge deal in the big personal secret that Maura soon discovers.

All day long people are asking Maura if she happens to be related to a Moshe Pfefferman who has a memorable jingle on air conditioning. Well, it's only two people who ask about the relation. But it's also significant enough for Maura to investigate to see if there truly is something there. It seems apparent early on that this is going to be a huge reveal somehow. It's played as this casual thing. People have similar last names all the time. It doesn't mean that they are related - at least not in an immediate way. Plus, Maura is a world away from the life she has always known. She has never traveled to Israel before. This trip is significant to her because it's her stepping on the holy ground of her people for the first time in her life. She and Ali step out of the airport and need to kiss the ground because of the significance it holds in their faith. They are surrounded by Jewish people now. They have a sense of belonging here more than anywhere else in the world. Plus, they comment on how Israel really isn't all that different from the life they've known in America. They were expecting something different but the architecture and society is pretty similar to Los Angeles. It's this connection to their faith. That's all it needed to be in order for the two of them to have personal resonance with this place. But now, a new familial connection has been discovered that is bound to rock this family to its core once more.

Everything is going according to plan for Maura as well. Her big speech goes off without a hitch. She is lighted in a way that is actually flattering to her. That's her only concern beforehand. She's not actively searching out this familial connection. But it's something that forms very quickly. People keep bringing up this commercial to her. Because of the internet, she is able to find it in an instant. But that forces her to reckon with her own past. This commercial contradicts everything she has been led to belief. She has no one to share it with either. Ali has essentially abandoned her in this city. She was perfectly fine with that. Ali didn't need to listen to her speech one more time. She should have the opportunity to explore the city with this new connection she has made during the journey over here. But in this moment, Maura needs a family member to help her deal with this new discovery. Ali isn't a comforting presence right now because she's not responding. She's too distracted to be all that helpful. So instead, Maura has to reach out to Bryna. That's someone who can offer her immediate help. At first, it's a conversation of fear that something has happened. Bryna is still in the American bubble of viewing the Middle East as this dangerous place where bombings are constantly happening. That's broken once she sees the commercial as well. It's confirmation that their father didn't die in the 1980s like their mother told them. Instead, he's been here all of this time. That's a bombshell that should be very fascinating to see this season as it could reshape Maura's own understanding of her family heritage.

All of that is very enticing. And so is Ali's introduction into the reality of life in Israel and Palestine. Everything she knows about this region has been told to her through the American media which can offer a very slanted perspective on these issues. Now, she's actually experiencing things firsthand. She's seeing how things are different. It's not at all what she was expecting. Of course, she wanted to go on this trip in order to escape her life for something new. Yes, it's a little weird and lame that she escapes from one love interest only to immediately connect with a new one in Israel. It's all connected to the video she took of Maura being stopped at the airport. That caught the attention of the world at large. They saw the injustice that was happening to her and wanted to do something about it. Of course, Maura wasn't all that upset about it. But it's fundamental in forming this new connection between Ali and Lyfe. The rest of her story is largely just an explanation for the reality of life in this part of the world. They are human beings too. They have loves and desires. They have dreams they wish to explore. But everything is still ultimately defined by this war between Palestine and Israel regarding the one or two state solution. Ali isn't the brightest on the subject. She needs to be told that there is no literal, internationally recognized border separating the two countries. But she never comes across as insensitive either. She's able to sit back and listen to the experiences of these people. She does engage with them and is surprised to see what their daily lives are like. It's very helpful information to have. It's bound to get complicated somehow. But for now, it's effective because it's an eye-opening experience for both Ali and the audience.

"Pinkwashing Machine" is at its best when it's focusing on the stories happening in Israel. Maura and Ali have become the chief focuses of the season so far. But there's still an equal divide between them and the rest of the Pfefferman clan. It's still important to see Josh, Sarah and Shelly in their lives in Los Angeles. Josh and Shelly's story resonates in a genuine way because it's the two of them having their confrontation about living together. This is a fresh development for the season but it has already created so much tension. Shelly has no boundaries which can make her an awkward roommate. She always insists on doing things her way and doesn't listen to any contradictory information. That makes it amusing that she is taking improv classes because the whole purpose of that kind of comedy is being able to adapt to changing situations and suggestions. Of course, things still end peacefully between Josh and Shelly. It's wrapped up in the suggestion that Shelly has possibly died in her car because she didn't want to spend a night in a hotel. Josh gets very worried about her. But this wasn't a suicide attempt. She was just a little too careless about how things could be perceived. She loves Josh and doesn't want to worry him like that. Maybe this will change things and maybe it won't. It's too early to say. Meanwhile, the story with Sarah and Len about changing their parenting styles really just seems like what's necessary in order to form that connection with Lila. They've listened to her suggestion and are doing better with the kids as a result. That could have no significance in the family at large. But right now, it feels like it just affects their little corner of this world.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Pinkwashing Machine" was written by Our Lady J and directed by Allison Liddi-Brown.
  • It's very sweet to see how caring and nurturing Ali is to Maura on the plane. It's such a simple start to this episode. She just makes sure that her mother is covered up and comfortable while she sleeps. But it shows how much she cares as well. She went on this trip for selfish reasons and explores the country for selfish reasons. But she still does care about Maura and doesn't want to actively hurt her.
  • Maura also tells Ali that she is dating a man now. That's a significant change to her dating life. It takes Ali by surprise but she's really encouraging and proud of it as well. She just wants to learn more. Maura likes how she gets to be treated as a lady. It's so simple. But she also has a problem with where he lives and how he doesn't like to read.
  • Sarah and Len are really getting ahead of themselves in this revolutionary new method of parenting. They allow their kids to believe that they are in charge. It's what Lila suggested to them. It works here when they first try it. They get very excited and want to write a book about it. But it also feels like they are moving too fast. Will they even be able to keep things up for a long time without reverting to their previous ways?
  • Dr. Steve is no longer selling drugs. In fact, he is now clean and sober. That's surprising. He's actually figured his life out. He's on a new path that is healthier for him. He is able to see that Josh needs something besides drugs to deal with his pain. But their jam session is soon interrupted by Shelly who isn't really accommodating to him.
  • Jerry Adler seems like very appropriate casting for Maura and Bryna's father. Here, he is only seen briefly in that commercial which isn't a great first impression. It just introduces this new story. And yet, his casting ensures that he will be found alive by Maura at some point. He's too recognizable a face to just appear in this bit part. Reconnecting with him will open up those family issues from the past once more as well.

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.