Friday, March 4, 2022

REVIEW: 'Joe vs. Carole' - A Murder Accusation Quickly Escalates the Feud Despite Howard Trying to Make a Deal in 'Don'

Peacock's Joe vs. Carole - Episode 1.03 "Don"

Carole sues Joe for copyright infringement. Joe retaliates by reading Carole's diary on the Internet and claiming she killed her ex-husband. Howard recommends they enter mediation and tries to broke a deal. Joe offers Travis a job at the zoo.

"Don" was written by Alex Katsnelson and directed by Justin Tipping

In the escalating war between Joe Exotic and Carole Baskin, it quickly pivots to murder. That's the declaration Joe makes in his first video lambasting her. He ignites speculation that she killed her former husband, Don Lewis. It's all built around the extravagant idea of her having access to so many outlandish options to make that happen. She could have fed him to the tigers. She could have ground him down with the meat grinder. She could have buried him somewhere. These accusations aren't new to Carole. They are simply on display on a much larger scale. Joe isn't the first man to abuse her either. Her life has been tough. She hopes that it has made her strong. She needs to believe the same with her daughter. Jamie was there during the trauma of Don's disappearance and Carole's uncertainty of how to provide for the family and the cats. She clearly got her life together somehow. However, it's a big mystery as to what happened to Don. This episode teases that relationship slightly. It mostly asserts how both Don and Carole's first husband are classic abusers. As such, she needed something completely different in her third marriage. Howard provides that. He is supportive of her no matter what. She makes the decisions even when she is being irrational. She has the freedom to do that. She is the one with the pain that needs to be rectified. Howard can't quantify that himself. He doesn't know all that Carole has experienced. It's so personal and grueling for her. That makes her absence clear. The show struggles in depicting this trauma. It requires more specificity. And yet, it may only have one episode to delve into all this drama. It can't do so sufficiently while also catering to Joe's storytelling needs. He too needs to escalate this tension in a way that rewards his ambition. His new pursuit of creating a place for people to visit instead of taking his show on the road should be all he cares about. Instead, he is distracted by the lawsuit and new addition to the zoo Travis Maldonado. That too showcases how flagrant he is with his pursuits. He needs to put on a show. He can never be on his best behavior. Even in mediation, he has to be the character he has built himself as. Outside of the room, he can have a civil conversation with Howard about how neither of them want this. But again, Carole is making the decision. She declines the offer that would have created a reasonable compromise.

It all extends from the suspicion that Carole killed her husband. She details the ways in which that would have been foolish. She has been locked out of her financial accounts. In this marriage, she had the opportunity to prove herself as a businesswoman. Don had money. He used it to help Carole get what she wants. However, she too found inspiration in taking an opportunity from a bank that didn't want to deal with the regulatory pressure. She saw an opportunity and she took it. And yet, her household is exactly how Don wants it. Jamie can't even move in after her father leaves the picture for awhile. She has to make do with a trailer in the backyard. That too can be seen as evidence contributing to Carole wanting Don out of the picture. The action calls out Jamie getting to move into the actual house after he's gone. That's a personal victory. It's an improvement. It's still suspicious that Carole is lurking around her business trying to access the files Don had. She needs them to continue providing for her family. Nothing seemingly comes of all of this. It's nothing but speculation. However, Carole's name is dragged through the mud with renewed vigor. That's the result of this being an unsolved mystery. No one truly knows what happened. And so, the story has to live with these events as they've happened and required the characters to grow from. it But anything has to theoretically be possible. That suggests a show that isn't quite sure what to do. It wants to have empathy for Carole. But it also has to pay attention to these accusations. They are serious. It's important for them to be included because it's central to Joe's attacks. It showcases the limitations of a series depicting real events without the perspectives of people involved. That's difficult because of how the subjects have been treated in prior projects. And so, this show sets out to depict what they offer as the truth. The creative team notes at the beginning that some events are dramatized for effect. In this particular case, the end result feels so empty without providing any insight of value. Part of that may be Kate McKinnon being miscast. Her presence makes the audience yearn for the punchline even in the situations that should be incredibly dramatic. McKinnon can handle that material too. The dichotomy creates too much friction. That, in turn, prevents the audience from getting too invested in events we probably already have opinions on.