Sunday, March 11, 2018

REVIEW: 'The Arrangement' - Megan and Kyle Fight to Get Their Movie Made the Way They Want in 'The Long Game'

E!'s The Arrangement - Episode 2.01 "The Long Game"

In the aftermath of Megan's trip to the Facility, Megan and Kyle struggle to reconnect under the pressure of planning the most anticipated wedding in Hollywood and preparing for a movie project that could define both their careers. Both Terence and DeAnn find themselves at a crossroads in their relationship.

In the first season, Megan and Kyle were the grand romantic love story of The Arrangement. They met under magical circumstances. It was love at first sight. It became complicated because they quickly entered into an arrangement where they would get married for the good publicity and boosts to their respective careers in Hollywood. They didn't know each other at that point but they were willing to make that commitment because it had personal benefits. Megan was signing away her freedom for a life in which she no longer had completely control. It was still a whirlwind romance. The spark between Megan and Kyle was real and genuine. Feelings did develop. It became clear that they would be heading on this specific trajectory even without the contract. But there was always the undercurrent of trauma and dark secrets in their respective pasts. They both lied about who they were to each other. Plus, Megan had to put up with the intrusion of Kyle's rank in the Institute of the Higher Mind. At times, IHM was nothing more than a spiritual retreat aimed to help people who needed focus and direction in their lives. But it also proved to be a sinister institution that was obsessed with fame and popularity while burying secrets to ensure nothing jeopardized the goals of its leaders. All of this led to a finale where Megan was held against her will at a facility where she was to be brainwashed into the program. Kyle was completely complicit in that act because he felt it was the only way to mend his relationship with Terrence without destroying his bond with Megan. It was a crucial turning point for the series. It proved that this arrangement Megan entered into was not healthy. It was actually traumatic. As such, it was empowering when she closed the season declaring her intentions to burn the entire place to the ground.

And now, Megan is dealing with the realities of trying to put on a fake face to fool everyone around her into believing that her intentions are pure and genuine when she actually can't stand this environment. She still regards Kyle, Terrence and DeAnn for bringing a boost to her career. She is finally attached as the lead in a film that she is really proud of and eager to begin shooting. That project presents a path forward for Kyle and Megan to work on their relationship. His betrayal of her last season was the most personal. He knew completely what he was doing. He has always had the star treatment at IHM. He credits Terrence with saving his life. He is forever grateful. Whenever he starts having doubts, Terrence puts in just enough work to ensure that he doesn't lose his biggest star. It's a system of manipulation and control. It allows Kyle to idealize his relationships and believe they can only benefit from this program. He believes that Megan is a changed and better person because she went through this program. Over the course of this hour though, he sees that she has changed in ways that are quite destructive to their relationship. He can see through her fake smile and comments. He can sense that she is being cold and calculating. He understands what it is to be in a genuine and happy relationship with Megan. This isn't it. As such, he's trying to show just how much he still cares for her and will continue going to bat for her even in an industry that is ready to corrupt their ideal version of this film script.

This premiere essentially splits the main characters into two groups: those who are willing and able to play the long game to get what they want and those who can't. Megan understands that it will take time to collect information about the Institute in order to take it down. The only ally she has in this endeavor is Shaun. She found herself getting caught up in the program as well. She now works as legal counsel for the Institute. That's an important position that provides her with easy access to the various programs and Terrence. But it doesn't give her full access. She still doesn't know all of the secrets that could destroy this place. She is still firmly on Megan's side and will look out for her no matter what. But it's evident throughout this premiere that there are very few people whom Megan can trust right now. Shaun is her only genuine ally. Megan also loves working with her agent Leslie. She has always had her best interests at heart. She can play the game just as aggressively as Terrence and DeAnn. But here, her outspokenness creates tension that Megan can't deal with right now. As such, it's heartbreaking for her to have that initial conversation about Leslie working for Megan and needing to do whatever she asks. It puts Leslie in her place. It's enough for her to feel pressure to continue exerting her influence on Megan and attending every meeting that pertains to her client. She speaks up even when Megan sits in silence. It's a stupid pitch that Terrence gives to the film's investors in order to assuage their sexist views of what the film should actually be. Leslie is willing to fight back. And it's played as an action that has the severe consequence of Megan firing her. She doesn't do that out of malice. It's heartbreaking to Megan too. She does it to further embed herself in the Institute so that she can do the work and expose this place for what it is without having to worry about that distraction.

And yet, it's also a little problematic to see how Kyle is championed when he stands up to the film's financiers in a similar way. He has the same exact concern as Leslie did. She has the experience in this business to know how a creative decision like that could ruin a film and its message. Kyle and Megan get into a huge fight after that initial meeting. They both smiled their ways through it not knowing how to react. Leslie is the one who is called hysterical because she's apparently the only one who sees the downside of this creative decision. Meanwhile, Kyle and Megan are maintained as the artists at the helm of this project. He is desperate for a partner on this project. He always saw this film as theirs. He doesn't feel connected to Megan anymore. He wants her to be angry with him because of what he did. She counters by being upset with him for the many previous times he has been distant from her and refusing to open himself up to her. She has had to go elsewhere in order to feel fulfilled creatively. But now, she is forced to stay in this world. She is the star of this film and feels the pressure to still be respected throughout the entire process. She doesn't feel like she has the power to stand up and voice her concerns. And then, Kyle has the courage to stand up and say that he won't be starring in the film after all. He still sees it as a passion project for the couple. He still sees it as his baby that will forever change the perception of him in this industry. But it mostly highlights the small-mindedness of the financiers. They no longer see this as a Kyle West film if he doesn't have an onscreen role. His name will still be all over the credits. It will still be his directorial debut. But that is no longer good enough for them.

As such, it creates tension for Kyle and the world he has always known as a creative individual. He believes he has the money to finance this project himself. That's a little reckless. He believes he has the capacity to create a fantastic film. He has a great script that he believes in with a wonderful actress signed on for the lead role. He believes in his abilities as a director. And yet, the world around him is very skeptical of his skills. Terrence operates hesitantly on all of it. He's the one who comes up with the creative solution to the end of the film by giving Kyle's character a heroic moment saving the Megan character from killing herself. He's the one who appeases the financiers. But Terrence has much more pressing concerns that he is invested in. He's no longer trying to be Kyle. He wants to expand the influence of the Institute throughout the country and invest in changing the educational system. Those are his goals. He just attends this meeting to continue to offer the illusion of supporting Kyle. Kyle still needs that relationship. But he's also perfectly fine just burning all of this down because it jeopardizes his artistic vision. That's something that Terrence is completely fine with as well because it still ultimately serves his agenda of allowing the Institute to be more greatly seen. The passion of that moment for Kyle fuels him as he gives his speech at a service for the Institute. Terrence just wishes to orchestra an A-list actor thriving on this program to better spread the message. That's the reward of this final act. As such, it's a personal achievement for everyone involved because it shows Terrence and Kyle getting what they want while ensuring that Megan stays entangled in the very middle of it.

Some more thoughts:
  • "The Long Game" was written by Jonathan Abrahams and directed by Robert Duncan McNeill.
  • The show is also heavily teasing that something may be medically wrong with Megan. It would be too easy to suggest that she's pregnant. She keeps complaining of cramps. They almost cripple her in the bathroom - with only Shaun noticing. And yet, it could also be the stress of maintaining this lie that is having severe consequences on her body.
  • Of course, Megan being pregnant could still be a distinct possibility. When Megan and Kyle have children was also laid out in the contract. And right now, IHM is making all of the arrangements for the wedding. The only details of which that the audience listens in on are the fertility expert who may be rushing things a little bit because she's eager to work with the happy couple. Though it's also a big deal that Megan tries on her wedding dress and absolutely loves it.
  • Shaun is committed to helping Megan figure out where the Facility is locating. She never knew where she was taken. She could never escape from the place. And now, Shaun potentially has a way in. It just means reuniting with the boyfriend who first introduced her to the Institute. That connection burned out quickly. But he can also provide her with the direct access and knowledge that she needs right now.
  • Terrence and DeAnn's marriage is still largely defined by the various affairs that they are having. He keeps going after younger woman while she is forging personal connections with people she has worked with in the past. Here, that presents itself through DeAnn meeting up with a woman named Mason who is eager to get all of her clothes off with DeAnn.
  • It's notable that the scene in which Megan fires Leslie is seen from afar with no actual audio of what was discussed in that meeting. It's easy to infer what is happening based on Leslie's reaction in the moment and Megan's in the aftermath. And yet, it also creates a reality in which the show could eventually pull back on the ruse to show that Leslie is completely aware of what Megan is doing and is putting on a show so that Megan can connect better with Terrence.