Saturday, March 5, 2022

REVIEW: 'Joe vs. Carole' - Travis Seeks Purpose But Remains Confined Due to Joe's Domineering Demands in 'A Fairy Tale'

Peacock's Joe vs. Carole - Episode 1.06 "A Fairy Tale"

Joe finds a new partner for the zoo and pursues his political aspirations. John learns some unexpected news. Travis seeks purpose. Carole prepares to testify before Congress.

"A Fairy Tale" was written by Donnetta Lavinia Grays and directed by Natalie Bailey

Curiously, this episode follows a slightly different structure. It doesn't dramatically change. The hour simply opens and closes with Travis' voiceover. It's him talking about fairy tales and the pursuit of a happy ending. It's dark in context with what's actually happening onscreen. However, the show rushes through so many of these developments. Numerous twists and turns are prominent in this story. The show has to detail the messy complications of the feud between Joe and Carole. Editing that down to a cohesive narrative is difficult. It almost feels as if consequential things need to happen in Carole's life at the same time as Joe's. The focus is split evenly between them. Meanwhile, Travis is a supporting character. That means even less time for him. And so, this episode is dependent on revealing his entire journey. It even repeats his first meeting with Joe. It plays into the fantasy of it all. That offers nothing new. It's an event already seen in an episode that is already scrambling for time. At its core, this episode centers on the dissolution of Joe's marriages. The show never has time to live in the fantasy. They got married only an episode ago. Time moves rapidly because of everything that must occur to fully report this saga. The show presented enough reasons to be skeptical about these dynamics. They were always about Joe exerting control. He can't tolerate anyone else having the same freedom as him. And so, he lashes out and demeans those who strive to have ownership over themselves. Joe believes he owns John and Travis. That's what marriage means to him now. He knows what a functional relationship should look like. He is no longer that person. Instead, he's a man who has forced this life onto others. It's a power move to showcase his charisma. He could take whatever he wanted. He preyed on these two young adults who needed direction. It's easy for John to see a better life. He takes ahold of it. He is off to start his own family after getting his girlfriend pregnant. Travis has no alternative. Joe locks him down to make it so. Instead, Travis has to be completely supportive of Joe's ambitions. Joe wants to be the next Governor of Oklahoma. He latches onto the prospect because he recognizes the pattern that previously helped him cope with heartbreak and trauma. He sees people prop him up when he talks about building a better country. He knows nothing about politics. He is fortunate to drag out Carole's lawsuit for years. He still believes in this insane pursuit. Everyone else must as well. If they are not working hard enough, he shames them despite no longer acknowledging how worthy and special they are.

It should come as no surprise that tragedy occurs at Joe's zoo. That's what Carole has been saying for a long time. This isn't a safe environment for the animals. She even uses Saff losing his arm as a reason for why this space should be more regulated. She loses that battle. She knows all the details. She can craft the perfect argument. People have no issue with the cause she supports. They don't like her as the spokeswoman. It's as simple as that. As such, she too has reached her peak. She can't aspire for any more. This is all she can amount to at the end of the day. She got pretty fair. She took things further than anyone ever expected. She is a champion for animals. She will continue to fight on their behalf. She saw the necessary solution needing to happen at the federal level. That's too much to ask for. She can't secure that victory. It's a personal defeat. It's somewhat icky to see that on the same level as Travis' death. Those events happen in close proximity to each other. A comparison is drawn simply because of how the story was structured. Everyone at the zoo wants to believe it was a tragic accident. Travis was playing around with his gun. He believed it couldn't hurt him. He was gambling with his life. He embraced that reckless behavior because he couldn't escape this place. He couldn't pursue anything beyond the cages of the zoo. Joe made sure of that. He couldn't let anyone leave him ever again. His own aspirations may lead him far away from the zoo. His new partner Jeff Lowe doesn't understand that. It may be nothing more than a publicity stunt. However, Joe weaponizes it in his personal relationship. It's a loyalty test. He demands everyone support him all the time. It's not about caring for the animals. It's about propping up his ego. That's a lot of pressure. He is more than willing to drug others to make them feel good. He makes that offer to Travis. The reluctance is palpable. It's also clear so much is left on the table to explain the depravity and loneliness of the situation. That makes it all play as a plot point that must be hit to showcase the new lows Joe will endure. It's all leading to that fateful confrontation with Carole. The action hasn't yet caught up to the tease that started the season. Everything gets much worse. All of these details are pivotal and consequential. The human element has gotten lost. That prevents the audience from feeling connected on a deeper level. That's enough to sink the ship no matter how the rest of the season is ultimately delivered.