“Episode Three” S1 / E3
- A- Community Grade
In many ways this episode is about each character taking back the night from whatever personal demon is haunting them, and rather than making the story feel constrained or reductive, the theme helps anchor the show, providing some much needed levity after the increasingly hysteric hijinks of Episode 2. Mia, injured after a kill gone wrong and humiliated by being forced to use the male bathroom at the hospital afterwards, then finally explaining her situation to a horrified Ben, decides that she will not take no for an answer. Riley, after reluctantly allowing John to have dirty yet mediocre sex with her one last time, admits her pregnancy and finds the strength to cut him off after he reacts, unsurprisingly, like a totally abusive asshole. Levi comes to terms with the fact that his sole guardian is a transsexual. And Ryan, still disturbed by the specter of death hanging over their lives, frees the frogs to be dissected in his science class, an effective if stale (see: Good Morning Miss Bliss, The Secret Life of Alex Mack, Malcolm in the Middle, and countless others) symbol of ethical adolescent rebellion. His green face paint and slightly unhinged demeanor bring a certain flair to the proceedings at least. What of Leonie Lovegood, you ask? Well, she just chills at home, hallucinating conversations with her dead mother. They can’t all be winners.
Beginning the episode with Mia goofily dancing at a German beer hall is a nice extension of the last episode, which ended with her finally consenting to twirl around a bit with Leonie. Whereas then Mia was reluctant to boogie in her own living room, so profoundly uncomfortable in her own skin was she, here she bobs around doing some ritualistic pubby line dance, large crowd be damned. Mia is giddy with the rush of both date night with her dreamboat Ben (thank goodness he was able to take the time off from jogging shirtlessly around the neighborhood at all hours of day and night) and having forced John to accept her bid on the house (at gunpoint, naturally). The spell is broken when Ben tries to kiss her goodnight, suddenly throwing sex back into the equation. Not only does the physical contact painfully remind Mia of her remaining male appendage, it is a reminder to the viewers that this might very well be the first time she has had a potential makeout buddy in years; she is dealing with exactly the kind of situation she sought to avoid by cloistering herself away.
Sevigny is so consistently good that it actually warrants another mention. In the car with John, she has the tense feline confidence of Mia the assassin ensnaring her foolish prey. This makes the change in her demeanor when she is on her date with cheesy Ben at that cheesy bar even more pronounced. The sense of burden suddenly and completely leaves her face for practically the first time since the start of the series the more she gets to feel like just some girl out with some boy. She is relaxed yet coy, rather than tightly wound and anxious, and is able to convey all this in just a few minutes, with hardly any dialogue. Sevigny is a paragon of nuance in a show that frequently lacks it. And it is indeed true that the lack of subtlety on this show is occasionally grating; okay everyone, we get it, Mia uses lipstick to feel like a woman, you don’t have to prove that to us by including it in back-to-back scenes, first a militant application of war paint in the rearview mirror for John, then an excited seductive swipe just before seeing Ben.
On the other hand however, this episode boasts a slower pace as opposed to a confusing rush of symbol-laden plot, allowing for some poignantly accurate childhood moments to emerge. This is important not only to further develop the children’s characters but because it mirrors Mia’s awkward, unexpected adult adolescence. For example, after having taken his revenge on his former tormentor, Ryan is now friends with the spawn of the evil impregnating landlord without much ado. Which I’m legitimately grateful for not just because it is charmingly true of children that just a small tip in the balance of power rights things immediately sans psychological damage, but because it lead to the following hilarious exchange of ideas:
Ryan: “Do you know what a transsexual is?”
Spawn of the Evil Impregnating Landlord: “Is it someone who’s half man half robot?”
Kids say the darnedest things. There is also a great moment where Levi, brooding intently at a skate park, is approached by a girl with exactly the kind of stupid half-shaved half-blue hair to get a boy with a chip on his shoulder all worked up, who sits down beside him, then promptly pukes. Romeo responds with an anecdote about animals that eat their own sick, then, when he’s got her attention, confesses his “Stepmom is a tranny”, to which she responds with slightly envy tinged glee. Levi starts to see his unusual situation at home as something that makes him special to cool stupid-haired girls, and this nudges his hormonal teenage heart just a little further towards Mia.
After seeing Mia take a physical and emotional beating it was nice of Abbott to throw her a bone on this one, as all the kids gradually start moving from accepting Mia to appreciating her. Although she didn’t hear it, Levi referred to Mia as his Stepmother for the first time, and Ryan allowed her into his sacred tent to share his innermost thoughts. Most touching, however, is the conversation Mia has with Riley, in which she tells the hurting young girl that she spent her operation money on the house because Riley and the others are worth it. You can see, in that moment, that no one has ever suggested to Riley that she is worth anything, perhaps not even her seemingly flighty mother. And for the first time in three episodes her repulsive affair with John makes sense. Sad, shit-just-got-deep kind of sense. When Riley responds by asking Mia to brush her hair as her mother used to do, it is equally touching, the best and most direct acknowledgement of Mia’s parental authority and generally positive presence thus far.
To top off all the familial love Mia is receiving, and perhaps feeling buoyed up by it, she decides to handle the little hiccup in her young, tender fetus of a love life like the stone cold killer that she is. After all, if all this emotional growth and personal contact means she is losing control in her professional life anyway, then why should she continue to suffer romantic isolation as well? Rather than sit passively by while Ben runs screaming from her well-tucked penis, Mia womans up, marching into Ben’s bachelor pad in a truly breathtaking bustier-and-stockings ensemble, pushing him roughly into a chair, and delivering a beej so fantastic he receives it in stunned silence. Undoubtedly in order to contemplate where they will go from here.
- If Ryan grew up on a farm run by pseudo-bohemian children where chickens and pigs are inexpertly slaughtered on a regular basis, why does it freak his shit out so much to see a cow get shot in the face?
- The off kilter smile on her face when Mia she stumbles away wounded from her slightly botched kill is perfect, so much subtler than the bemused dumb animal look usually reserved for exactly this scenario by lesser men and women.