Sunday, March 6, 2022

REVIEW: 'Joe vs. Carole' - A Trial and Documentary Forever Shape Joe and Carole's Public Identities in 'Survival of the Fittest'

Peacock's Joe vs. Carole - Episode 1.08 "Survival of the Fittest"

Joe and Dillon go on the run as they hide from law enforcement. A discovery is made at the zoo. Carole prepares to testify.

"Survival of the Fittest" was written by Etan Frankel and directed by Justin Tipping

No tension comes from Joe's trial. This entire season has detailed the events that led to him hiring a hitman to kill Carole. As such, nothing new can come within the courtroom. It's simply meant to be an extension of the series' overall themes about these characters. Carole is continually discounted and abused. The system doesn't protect her even while facing these outlandish and serious threats from Joe. No one allows her to have a voice. That means she has to fight even more fiercely to accomplish anything. It's all about fighting back. She takes that power. She wields it now. She is afraid of ever revealing the extent of her anger. Misogyny is rampant. It's within every man she has dealt with besides Howard. That's what makes their relationship so special. And yet, she still fears any wrong move could turn him against her as well. That's never going to happen. Their union remains strong. He doesn't run away upon seeing how broken she is over all of this. He is there for her no matter what. Meanwhile, Joe's allies abandon him. His paranoia is proven correct. He feared no one would love him. No one would show up to support him. And yet, he can still sway the jury because he's an entertainer. He knows how to charm people. And so, his testimony is an elaborate production. It's unlike any other sequence. That's striking. It stands out. It mostly proves how delusional he is. He believes he can come up with any rationalization for his behavior. The law can't be applied like that. The system shouldn't be trusted. It's still fundamentally broken. However, the punishment is correctly decided. It's odd how the show builds up the expectation Joe has done what's necessary to prevail. It's meant to make the guilty verdict even more shocking. But again, the sequence has no power. How severely Joe is punished isn't the end of this story. It's one component of it. The story itself touches on much broader themes. The only moment of true uncertainty in Joe's trial is John talking about their relationship. Joe was obviously a predator. He coerced John into marriage and bought his love. Even after leaving that environment, John still sees love within it. He sees that complexity. He can't offer an easy answer. He has moved on with his life. He has new opportunities. He can't shake the gratitude he has for Joe. That can't excuse all the other heinous things he did. It simply makes for a more complicated relationship. That is absolutely informed and warranted given everything that occurred.

The show feels compelled to make Joe a hero while Carole is the villain. That's how it projects the reception to the Netflix documentary. Carole is willing to do anything if it can bring exposure to protecting big cats. She is incredibly foolish and trusting. She believes the documentarians are operating in good faith. In reality, they are only shining more of a spotlight on this entire feud. The end result is Joe being championed and Carole once again being suspected of murder. The tables are turned. Joe can survive prison because he has this love out there. He isn't getting out anytime soon. He's famous. He was always chasing that high. He has secured it. Meanwhile, Carole takes a vacation. She will never stop fighting. She may not even find peace if she accomplishes all of her goals. She may fight so fiercely because the rest of the world has let her down so much. If she doesn't have this fight, then she has no idea who she is. She has to talk about its importance even during her testimony. She is there to testify about the harm Joe has personally done to her. It's a coping mechanism to always switch the conversation back to the animals. She never truly escapes that nervous tick. She has personal satisfaction though. She knows Congress is working on this issue. Plus, she now owns Joe's zoo. She stopped one abuser. She can count that victory. The world may not see it as such. She can. She is grateful to have Howard. She's willing to dance with him. That means something incredibly personal. That relationship did have some strong consistency over the course of the season. However, so much of this project ultimately failed because it was a simple retelling of events. It has more awareness of the themes that dictated the lives and reactions of these people. It's not done with greater understanding or compassion. It's putting in the least amount of work possible to suggest the need to see all of this play out again. It's a meta concept. One that even plays into the reaction people already have with the material. Some viewers may take away some new appreciation for an element or two. And yet, that never quite justifies the time spent with the story and the way in which it was told. It simply tripped up too many times in the execution to offer connections that made the viewer examine life and the true costs of all of these many heinous actions towards both the humans and the animals.