Sunday, May 10, 2020

REVIEW: 'I Know This Much Is True' - Dominick Does His Best to Care For His Mother and Brother in 'Episode 1'

HBO's I Know This Much Is True - Episode 1.01 "Episode 1"

After paranoid schizophrenic Thomas has a violent public breakdown, Dominick steps up to defend his identical twin brother in unexpected ways. As he navigates the fallout of Thomas' actions, Dominick reflects on their childhood growing up under the tyrannical rule of their volatile step-father and their persistent desire to know the identity of their biological father. Dominick crosses paths with Nedra as he attempts to have his grandfather's manuscript translated from Italian into English for his ailing mother.

In 2019, the television industry aired 532 scripted shows across numerous outlets. The way people consume content now is different than it used to be. It happens according to one's own schedule. As such, it's less necessary to provide ample coverage of each episode in any given season from a show. Moreover, it is simply impossible to watch everything. As such, this site provides 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 HBO's I Know This Much Is True.

"Episode 1" was written by Derek Cianfrance and directed by Derek Cianfrance

The narrative overwhelmingly wants the audience to have sympathy for Dominick Birdsey because he is the entry point into this world. He is the one always having to take care of others. His life is seemingly defined by tragedy. It happens consistently to him over and over again. It can be exhausting. And yet, that's the sheer existence he is accustomed to living. It was clear from a young age. He is unique and has a perspective on the world that inspires an inquisitive mind. However, he also projects a sense of codependency onto these relationships even though he wants to view caring for his mother and identical twin brother as a burden. He feels the weight of everything that has gone awry in their lives as well. He carries that on his shoulders. It's not just his individual life and suffering. It pains him that his mother is married to an abusive man, has a child with a mental disorder and eventually dies from cancer. He's upset that neither Thomas nor Ray are able to properly express their emotions when it comes to saying goodbye to the family matriarch. Dominick is the one by her side as she dies. He is the one who has to promise to care for the other members of this family. That can drag him down in life. But he is also prone to viewing life as an experience where big and tragic things happen to him and his family instead of him being responsible for some of the actions that have happened. And yes, the show does present the case that Dominick is just a bystander to these crazy and traumatic events. He had no choice in having Ray as a stepfather. He didn't encourage Nedra in a sexual way. But Ray remains a prominent part in his life while Nedra does present this dynamic as something arousing. It's very uncomfortable to watch as Nedra shows up at Dominick's house, gets drunk and tries to seduce him. The story is presenting her as a wild and free spirit. Someone who can't be depended on to do anything. Dominick went to her with a specific task. He wanted to have his grandfather's unpublished manuscript translated from Italian to English. That was a gift he thought would carry personal significance to his mother as she was dying. That's all that he viewed this relationship as being. He is furious when she accuses him of sexual harassment and disappears with the manuscript. Again, it presents the case that Dominick is the stable figure of this world. And yet, he loses his temper and makes bad decisions on a number of occasions in this premiere. He fights with Thomas. He kisses his ex-wife Dessa despite her being in a serious relationship with someone else. It's clear that he still needs her for emotional support as he grapples with all that his world encompasses. He needs someone to fulfill that role because he has to be sturdy for so many people in his own life. He feels the need to take that for himself as well no matter what might happen as a result. He pushes back against the system. He fights for his brother as well. It's horrifying and gruesome to watch Thomas cut his hand off. He does so believing it is a meaningful sacrifice to ensure the country doesn't go to war. It doesn't hold that kind of significance though. Dominick refuses to allow the doctors to attempt the surgery to reattach the limb. He does so because he believes it is what his brother wants. He views the world with an eagerness and desire to please the people he loves. He needs his mother to see that he offers her the biggest grand gesture following her terminal diagnosis. He needs his brother to know that he understands his decision and fights to preserve his independence no matter what. But it's also ugly to watch as the situation turns into chaos as Dominick fights with the mental ward staff as Thomas is being transferred. He believes he knows what's best for his brother. And yet, he is so eager to prove his generosity in an overwhelmingly dire world. He has to show off that resilience by making these grand displays of passion and anger. It's difficult to watch and enjoy frankly. The show easily wallows in the misery of the tragic situation. It beats the characters over and over again to get its point across. Things may not get any better. In order for that to happen, there has to be some personal accountability instead of just accepting that life is going to be an endless supply of misery and tragedy no matter what. Dominick is already an active participant in what happens. He views himself as passive and living a life of service to his loved ones. Those decisions just have consequences that ensure even more bleak times are ahead.