Wednesday, December 18, 2019

REVIEW: 'Soundtrack' - Nellie and Sam Struggle to Find Creative Inspiration Together in 'Track 3: Sam and Dante'

Netflix's Soundtrack - Episode 1.03 "Track 3: Sam and Dante"

Sam and Nellie hit the road for a special retreat. Elsewhere, Dante attempts to forge a road to forgiveness after making a crucial mistake. 

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 Netflix's Soundtrack.

"Track 3: Sam and Dante" was written by Khiyon Hursey & Harrison Richlin and directed by Ti West

There is a certain performative aspect to this series. The musical numbers aspire to showcase how the characters are feeling in an expressive way using songs that the audience may be familiar with. It makes it all feel universal and cathartic. However, it seems rather redundant as well. There is only so many times Sam can sing along to a number that portrays just how badly he wants to be with Nellie and no one else. That is certainly difficult for him to do in 2020 because she has been dead for a year. It also runs into the perception that he hasn't actually changed a whole lot in the eight year time span apparent in the narrative. In 2012 when he goes to a cabin with Nellie, he is working on his music and struggling. In 2020, he is focusing on basically everything else besides trying to write new music. His career hasn't taken off. It doesn't even seem like writing is more than an idea of something he could do. He is passionate about it. But it's something forever elusive because the conditions have to be just right in order for him to be creative. He may eventually get to that place. But again, it's repetitive when he finds that same conclusion in both the 2012 and 2020 stories. It makes the argument that this is a pattern for him. One that he has struggled to break free from. Some people may condemn Nellie in the process by saying she was the reason he was holding himself back from pursuing his own creative dreams. However, the show also wants the audience to buy into the genuine love developing between the two. There is the reassurance of knowing that they have a happy and sustainable life for a little while. It's pleasant to see them go through the ups and downs of the early days of their relationship. They do have different perspectives on the world. She hasn't had to overcome the same adversities as he has. Of course, he is the one who eventually ends up apologizing simply because he struggles to communicate exactly why this getaway retreat isn't working for his creative energy. But again, it's a circular argument. It's something that can come up again and again. That shouldn't be boring after only three episodes though. It strangely has become exactly that. It feels as if the show is already struggling with how to evolve this character moving forward. It's also unclear if he is actually any good as a songwriter. He can string a few phrases and notes together. He can play the guitar and the piano. That's about it when it comes to the show being able to prove its claims of creative genius. It hopes to take all of these creative minds seriously. That isn't the only focus either. Dante doesn't know how to move forward with his life. He faces pressure to find a job after being released from prison. He has to meet the requirements of his parole. But he too is hopelessly in love with the woman he believes waited for him to return. De'Andra didn't do that though. Instead, she moved on and married someone else. She struggles telling him that for awhile. She eventually does. He does lash out at the world afterwards. All of this does showcase the difficulties of returning to society following prison. The burden may be too much for some. It certainly feels as if Dante will fall down that path and once again end up behind bars. However, the show also wants the reassuring note in the end to guarantee that things will largely work out for him. That doesn't quite feel earned. It's especially strange to note that he can't be around Barry but he'll work for the youth soccer team that Joanna suggests Barry join in order to provide more structure to this family unit. This episode starts to really highlight the potential limitations of this specific format. It's also slow to really expand the world these characters live in. That too can confine the proceedings to storytelling concerns that simply don't remain engaging after three hours of hitting the same beats continually.