Tuesday, May 7, 2019

REVIEW: 'Fosse/Verdon' - Bob and Gwen Take Stock on What Projects They Want to Do Next in 'Where Am I Going?'

FX's Fosse/Verdon - Episode 1.05 "Where Am I Going?"

As old friends reunite for a weekend at the beach, new tensions emerge between Bob and Gwen.

In 2018, there were 495 scripted shows airing amongst the linear channels and streaming services. The way people are consuming content now is so different than it used to be. It happens according to one's own schedule. As such, there is less necessity to provide ample coverage of each specific episode in any given season from a show. Moreover, it is simply impossible to watch everything. As such, this site is making the move to shorter episodic reviews in order to cover as many shows as possible. With all of that being said, here are my thoughts on the next episode of FX's Fosse/Verdon.

"Where Am I Going?" was written by Charlotte Stoudt and directed by Thomas Kail

The season has framed so much of the life Bob Fosse and Gwen Verdon had together through the various projects they worked on. And yes, it has been fun to watch the series trace their adventures and creative process through Sweet Charity, Cabaret and Pippin. However, the show has also had the responsibility to dig deep into who these people were. The show has to play to more than just the theater nerds who have such appreciation for the legacies the two performers have left behind. This episode isn't framed through a specific project that either Bob or Gwen are working on. Sure, there is a lot of talk about what's next for both of them. Bob is making plans to direct Lenny while Gwen wants to finally begin work on Chicago. They are both moving full steam ahead on these projects without really being on the same page. And yet, this episode is fundamentally about what the work actually means for these individuals. Bob Fosse won all of these awards and then checked himself into a psychiatric facility. He doesn't stay long. The doctors there can't give him the help that he needs. The science just isn't there yet to help him face his problems. So instead, he is quickly bouncing back to the routines he has always implemented in his life. The only thing that has changed is the inclusion of Ann Reinking. She presents as different from all the previous girlfriends Bob has had over the years. It's not because he keeps telling her that. Instead, it's from the details that Gwen can provide about the past and how things appear to be different now. Ann actually has a relationship with Nicole. That's different. Bob may not always be the best father but he has wanted to shield his daughter from some of the ugly realities of his life. He has kept the women at a distance from her. But now, both of Nicole's parents are open about seeing other people. Bob has Ann while Gwen has Ron. They are with younger partners now who invigorate them even though they are still a passionate couple. Bob and Gwen understand each other better than anyone else. That doesn't change throughout all of this. Gwen sees the patterns and knows how to react. She crafts the arguments for why Bob should do Chicago instead of Lenny. She has a vested personal interest because she really wants to be onstage performing as Roxie Hart. That's been her dream for so long and the stars finally seem to be aligning. Bob is the only issue. Meanwhile, Ann wants Bob to take a break because that's specifically what the doctors told him to do. They may not have been able to help him but they understand that if he keeps working as he has been he will be right back in the hospital. And yes, the show points out the doom hanging over the proceedings because Bob is destined to have a heart attack after deciding to work on both Lenny and Chicago at the same time. The concerns that everyone has about him are valid. And yet, they ultimately put up with everything that he says and does because he is the great Bob Fosse. Underneath that mask though is a very insecure child who was traumatized at a young age and who is desperate for approval but fearful that what he does will never be good enough.

Bob Fosse doesn't want to be known as the guy who delivers flashy musicals on Broadway and on film all the time. He wants to do something different. That's what attracted him to Lenny in the first place. He's already making it more complicated than it originally seemed. He sees the value in the project because Dustin Hoffman will be staring in it. That's the argument he makes for a long time. This was suppose to be a nice weekend getaway to help Neil Simon cope with the tragic death of his wife, Joan. It's a tremendous loss to Gwen as well. She was so close to her. Joan's last piece of advice was to hold Nicole close and watch over her. That's what makes it so unfortunate to watch as Nicole is isolated at this party where she doesn't belong. She is making drinks and smoking cigarettes. She gets sick and everyone just casually forgets about her. Gwen and Ann don't have that luxury because they care about what happens to Nicole. They are kindred spirits in that way. And yet, Gwen still insists that they have the responsibility to prop Bob up and keep him sane while being in a relationship with him. It's rewarding because he can deliver fantastic parts to them. That's the highlight of Gwen's life. She can fight and pick apart who Bob fundamentally is. She can apologize for her actions. She can form this new connection with Ann despite also sleeping with Bob during the night. But it's all in service to the idea that the art is more important than anything else. The rush that comes from being onstage is so thrilling to her. It's better than anything else. That's what fuels her passion for Chicago. She sees this as the project that can revitalize everything for her. She had a career long before Bob Fosse entered her life. But now, she feels connected to him in a way that could be profoundly limiting. She fears she may only get success if Bob is by her side directing her along the way. That's where she is comfortable. She is relaxed with her friends as they are trapped in this luxurious cottage. They ask her to perform and the camaraderie is infectious. But it's all still about getting that recognition that the work is all that ultimately matters. Bob can't take a year off because no one knows what he would do with all that free time. They just see him at his healthiest when he is working. That's what keeps him as a functional human being. He just has to be attached to the right projects. They are all concerned when he makes the big news about his future plans. But they are fully onboard as well because it creates new opportunities that can excite all of them. This is a pattern that has happened before and will happen again. It may lead to tragedy but it may also lead to greatness.