Wednesday, May 1, 2019

REVIEW: 'The Act' - Gypsy and Nick Face the Legal Ramifications for Their Actions Against Dee Dee in 'Free'

Hulu's The Act - Episode 1.08 "Free"

Gypsy fights for her life by defending her actions, while Mel and Lacey realize that behind closed doors things were not always as they seemed.

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 Hulu's The Act.

"Free" was written by Lisa Long, Nick Antosca & Michelle Dean and directed by Steven Piet

In any crime, there is never a perfect victim. There is rarely a perfect crime either. In this instance, Dee Dee was the victim of murder while Gypsy was the victim of years of emotional and physical abuse. As such, the world at large has to make a judgment over whether or not the right amount of justice was found in this specific case. At first, it appears as if this finale will be all about the trial for Gypsy and Nick. And yet, the reality of any prosecution is never as simple as it would normally be presented on television. Their public defenders have much more awareness of the system than they do. They appear as a united front even though Nick essentially confessed to all of the elements of this crime. He is devastated when he learns that the two will be tried separately. He has long seen his fate as connected to hers. He wants to be just like Bonnie and Clyde not knowing that their story ends in their tragic deaths at the hands of justice. She filled him with hope that they could have their happily ever afters with each other. That was never their reality in Wisconsin though. It didn't take long before law enforcement caught up to them. This was hardly the perfect crime on their part. And yet, it was still so devastating and difficult in many ways as well. Gypsy wants everyone to know that her mother was her best friend. She had so much love and compassion for her. She refutes any suggestion that she played a role in her violent death. But that's exactly what happened. When it came to justice, everyone was first talking about whether or not Gypsy and Nick deserved the death penalty. That was the conversation that erupted after the world knew that Gypsy and Dee Dee were committing massive levels of fraud. They didn't understand the underlying condition that led to Dee Dee's compulsion to constantly make her daughter sick so that she could care and comfort her. No one understood the anxiety that Gypsy constantly felt throughout her life regarding her inability to leave home. She felt trapped and abused. On some fundamental level though, she understood that everything she was doing was wrong and illegal. She still believed so much that her mother told her though. It's not until this moment that she realizes that her father loves her and has been caring for her throughout her life. Every month he sent a check. That's how Dee Dee saved so much money. Dee Dee was the true master manipulator who had everyone fooled. Even when people started to have suspicions about something more sinister going on, she could deflect the conversation to some other point to ensure that her daughter still needed her constant love and attention. The season has provided an in-depth look at the bond the two of them had as a family unit. And now, Mel and Lacey are trying to rationalize every interaction they had with the Blanchards. Mel actually carries Dee Dee's advice with her now. Meanwhile, Lacey chooses never to see Gypsy in jail to hear her side of this story. Gypsy believes that she can now be painted as the innocent victim in all of this because of her mother's abusive and manipulative behavior. And yet, that's only one portion of this finale.

It's so fascinating to see the clear divide in focus here. It's not just Gypsy and Nick in jail with their lawyers trying to negotiate the best deals for their clients. Gypsy is scared that she could actually be executed for this crime. That's absolutely horrifying to her. She believes she crafts this perfect victim narrative for herself in order to build up sympathy once more. But it's much more complicated. It's not as easy as it was when Dee Dee was in charge and manipulating the world to her benefit. Instead, Gypsy doesn't have a fundamental understanding of how immoral all of her actions have been. Sure, they are devastating to her in the moment but she doesn't completely comprehend the potential consequences. She has been in an insular world for so long. Her life has largely been contained to the pink house in Missouri. That's where this dynamic with her mother flourished. It's where she killed Dee Dee. It's agonizing to finally see that moment as well. When it first happened, the action never actually went inside the house to see what it was like for Gypsy and Nick That was carefully kept from the audience in order to get them on the run much sooner. But now, the show goes back to that moment. It's vital to see the act that led to this criminal arrest when it comes to her facing the justice she deserves. They both play different but distinct roles in this encounter. Gypsy was the one who suggested killing her mother and was directing Nick on what to do. She provided him with the weapon. She cared for him in the aftermath. She washed the blood off his face and bandaged up his minor wound. She chose never to see her mother's body laid out across the bed. Instead, she just wanted to move forward to her next life. Of course, that is a bleak portrait as well. Even in this moment, the show wants to highlight the complexities of Gypsy being seen as a victim. Nick sees all of this as a way to be with Gypsy sexually. It's not a sudden turn off for him after killing Dee Dee. Instead, that's mostly what he wants to do afterwards. He sees this as a freeing act that finally allows them to be together. That's despicable and Gypsy is incapable of giving that to him right now. Of course, the audience is aware that she quickly takes ahold of their lives together. But their sexual connection is never as special as they perceive it to be. They just don't have the necessary context to see how wrong and disturbing it has always been. They both clearly needed help. And now, they are both sentenced to prison. It's a harsh new environment for both of them. It's a world with strict rules and structure. They don't always know how to adjust to this new reality. But as the final credits reveal, Gypsy got a much lighter sentence than Nick did. She is allowed to have a life again after 10 years. She can imagine a future with a family. But the final image of the season is her being embraced by her mother. It's a pure fantasy. One that shows the power of this connection. But it's still inherently tragic because of everything that happened that built to this moment. The two failed and hurt each other in immense ways.