Thursday, November 28, 2019

REVIEW: 'Merry Happy Whatever' - Matt and Emmy Arrive in Philadelphia for Quinn Holiday Traditions in 'Welcome, Matt'

Netflix's Merry Happy Whatever - Episode 1.01 "Welcome, Matt"

On the first day of his visit, Matt gets a crash course in Quinn family dynamics when Don brushes him off and Kayla has a relationship crisis.

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 series premiere of Netflix's Merry Happy Whatever.

"Welcome, Matt" was written by Tucker Cawley and directed by Pamela Fryman

The holidays are a time when families come together. Every family is unique. They have their own set of traditions that are sacred. It can sometimes be an alienating experience to an outsider not accustomed to it all. This show highlights that to a certain extreme with the Quinn family. The people who have already married into the family, Joy and Todd, warn newcomer Matt that it's a lot. This family is incredibly dependent on one another. Their own identities are in danger of being lost because it's patriarch Don who decides every single thing that is going to happen. He has sat atop this family unit for a long time. His wife may be gone but the traditions that have long been established still reign. Of course, it's not long before dysfunction starts to appear during the latest Christmas celebration. Emmy and Matt are here for a 10-day visit. They live in Los Angeles. Don is trying to lure his daughter back to Philadelphia so that his entire family is close once more. He operates with the sense that they aren't complete if they aren't constantly in each other's lives. That's the way he has conditioned all of them to view the world. Matt may argue that Emmy isn't like that at all. She has her own independence and agency in Los Angeles. However, people can act a certain way when they are around their families during this time of the year. It highlights past behavior that is easy to fall back into. Emmy and Kayla shared a bedroom in their youth. And now, it's a comforting sight once more because Kayla's husband, Alan, has just asked for a divorce. Sure, it's this broad and extreme declaration in which Alan just says it in the spur of the moment in front of the entire family. He quickly receives Don's wrath. He is an intimidating presence. He is an old school man who lords over this town as its sheriff. He projects a sense of respect. Of course, he also appreciates it when Matt comes to him asking for permission to marry Emmy. It may not be the right time to ask that question. He hasn't made a good first impression on this family. Matt just wants to win them over during this trip. He is off to a slow start mostly because he isn't seen in the same masculine label that the men of this family view as being right. That is a fascinating concept that should be explored further in the series. There is also the risk of it just being a tease and nothing more. There is a moment in which Sean and Joy's eldest son seems to be coming out as gay only to eventually state that he is an atheist. That too needs to be a valuable point-of-view that is respected. Sure, it too runs the risk of tearing this family apart because Don is so religious and expects the same love of faith from his family. His opinion means so much. But that makes him a very controlling figure. It also makes the show somewhat familiar and deceptive. It's not all that original to see a father figure loom large in the lives of others thinking he always knows what's best. He's conspiring to get Emmy to move back home. He doesn't approve of Matt asking to marry her. In fact, he sees Matt as a major mistake not worthy of joining the family. He passes out at the sight of a nail being shot into Don's head. That pain is nothing to Don. He has endured worse. Of course, Don should be seen in a sympathetic light as well because he is still mourning the death of his wife while flirting with nurse Nancy. Matt can see that clearly because he has the outside perspective to be objective. That is valuable as well. Sure, all of this may ultimately amount to Matt and Don fighting it out to determine Emmy's future. She should be the one with a say over what will happen next and what she wants though. She needs to exist as a more fully dimensional character moving forward. A lot of this premiere is focusing on how each member of this family is dysfunctional. The love they extend towards each other can be unifying and comforting. It's not inherently bad. It can simply be a lot to handle from time to time. This is the start of Matt and Emmy's visit. It's bound to only further intensify before it's seemingly inevitable that these secrets will come out in major ways that may unravel the Quinn family forever if they aren't emotionally healthy enough to deal with them.