Friday, April 15, 2022

REVIEW: 'Anatomy of a Scandal' - James Confesses His Betrayal to Sophie Only for the Scandal to Escalate Further in 'Episode 1'

Netflix's Anatomy of a Scandal - Episode 1.01 "Episode 1"

James scrambles to mitigate the scandal's impact, while a devastated but determined Sophie remembers happier moments and Kate debates her next move.

"Episode 1" was written by Melissa James Gibson & David E. Kelley and directed by S.J. Clarkson

An affair is different than rape. An affair can be explained away or even celebrated. It's mostly just a way for the same tired explanations to be trotted out. It didn't mean anything. It was just sex and nothing more. It was about me not you. It will never happen again. There are no reasonable assertions that James is going to lose his job in Parliament. It's simply expected of his wife Sophie to stand by him and forgive him for his actions. Nothing in this scandal is incredibly unique or special. James had an affair for five months with a younger aide. They believe they were careful. It was ultimately exposed. That's why James tells Sophie the truth. And then, she imagines what this entire affair was. She needs to know the details. She also pictures James and Olivia in those situations. It's awkward when she shows up at his workplace. She is expected to act as if nothing is out of the ordinary. She should simply be okay with this mistake. That's what it should be treated as. It's not enough to justify leaving him. Sophie has her own personal agency. She pledged not to be like her mother. She was determined not to be the long-suffering spouse. She could fill her life with just as much value as the person she married. James and Sophie continually state they are happy together. Sex has never been a problem for them. He still cheated. All of this will likely be amplified further after a rape allegation is lobbied against James. That completely knocks him back. He can survive the scandal if it's just a meaningless affair. With this escalation, his worth and place in society is targeted. Everyone believes he belongs in Parliament. He shouldn't have to suffer too many consequences. He can simply apologize to his constituents and work to earn back their trust. He can still stand on the floor making impassioned speeches about legislation he wants to pass. He is expected to continue with the job. He has allies who will continue to support him. And yet, the entire narrative is setting up for some inevitable twist. The audience is left waiting for the other shoe to drop. It doesn't come until the very end. And so, the viewer has no real understanding of how this scandal is going to impact the people involved. It stands firmly as one thing only to reveal something else entirely in the end. It's meant to play as a twist belonging in a soap opera. However, the subject matter is much too serious to be treated with such guilty pleasure whimsy.

The twist was inevitably foreshadowed because that was the only way Kate could become involved with the main plot. She is completely separate from James and Sophie. She is simply in the office not celebrating a major win because she is examining the details of a new case. She agonizes over whether she should take it. She is encouraged to do so. And yet, it's a case of the story talking around the subject instead of stating it plainly. Instead, it builds up the inherent twist in it all. It's meant to be surprising that a criminal case could be coming as a result of this affair. When it becomes a story of rape, that's what delivers the final blow. But again, that twist was inevitable because it was the only way the narrative would make sense. These characters had to be connected in some dramatic way. That prevents them from coming across as fully-realized individuals. Instead, they are mainly a collection of plot points meant to illustrate some larger idea. That remains elusive in this premiere. It will likely come into sharper focus as the season develops. However, there is so much tonal whiplash that it will likely be a struggle for any viewer to find much consistency and meaning in the project. The music choices especially give off the feeling of a light-hearted adventure where the audience is suppose to have fun watching talented actors play serious drama as heightened as they possible can. That simply clashes with the serious nature of rape and the destructive quality of gender roles in the world today. Again, thoughtful pieces are apparent in the narrative. Sophie is just suppose to sit back and take it. She isn't even meant to have a public profile in the wake of this scandal. James can handle it himself because he is the public figure in the family. That's all the media cares about. Those are the terms through which this is ultimately analyzed. That robs others of the story and their priority within it. It's the responsibility of those who shape the narrative to offer a complete worldview of all the players involved. Journalists ask Sophie for a comment. It's a spur of the moment action driven by her sudden presence in the government building. It's not something produced to contrast her public and personal lives. That dichotomy is nowhere to be found. Yes, it's more valuable for her to be at home reckoning with what her husband has done and how to read his actions moving forward. But it's also lame and condensed in imagination. That means the execution is really lacking without providing the inspiration to continue with the story as it develops.