“Episode Two” S1 / E2
- B+ Community Grade
After handling a rather complicated setup—a male-to female transsexual assassin suddenly receiving custody of the child she fathered, plus his three step-siblings for good measure—with aplomb, the second episode of Hit & Miss tries to delve deeper into the ramifications of the premise as Mia’s work life, family responsibilities, and personal demons all get together and have a really awkward party.
When the episode opens, the incongruous double life actually seems to be suiting Mia just fine. Like a typical commuting single mom, she goes to work in the city (shooting a nice-looking South Asian gentleman in the head, leaving a perversely beautiful scarlet splatter on the cold floor-to-ceiling windows). Then, after a little washing up and license-plate-switcheroo, she drives home to the lush green expanse of her new country house, where she casually tosses a bloody T-shirt into the pigpen. As the episode goes on, of course, it is discomfortingly easy to see the dangers that might arise both for the kids, who are now in proximity to people with short tempers and big guns, and for Mia, who is now vulnerable to the kind of hurt from which years of guarded isolation protected her.
First of all, some of the children struggle with how to relate to Mia’s trans identity, with teenager Levi, frustrated by his inability to look after the crumbling farm, cruelly lashing out at Mia because he feels he has been displaced as the man of the house by someone who doesn’t want to be a man at all. Meanwhile, poor little Ryan wonders if he might himself want to be a woman, though it is clear he is just driven by a desire to be closer to the new parental figure in his life. Riley’s tough veneer finally starts to crack under the tell-tale signs of morning sickness, and elementary schooler Leonie disturbingly (and of course inaccurately) cites breast cancer as the reason she won’t participate in her ballet class. On top of that, the landlord, John, Riley’s baby-daddy-to-be, is threatening to evict Mia and the kids to put the house on the market, but refuses to sell it to Mia, and all of these quotidian worries are, if not affecting her work quite yet, just becoming visible to her boss, Eddie.
Given the show’s premise, the bucolic atmosphere and languid pacing of this episode—with its tight focus on fragile teenage psyches and domestic concerns like arguing over who will drive Leonie to class or how to keep a fox away from the chickens at night—is intriguingly unexpected. It’s like how one in five episodes of Jersey Shore—a show that also has a gimmicky premise and emotionally unstable characters—revolves around who is going to do the dishes or clean the bathroom, and those are the best episodes. Other than a few anxiety-filled incidents back in the city, Mia can take things slowly with the kids. Except, of course, when the city comes to her in the form of Eddie, there with an offer to buy the house in his name to get around that particular obstacle. On one hand Mia is grateful for a solution to her seemingly impossible problem, but on the other, the resulting debt to Eddie and the collision of her personal and professional lives set off faintly ominous warning signals.
Eddie also makes reference to Mia’s hopes for gender reassignment surgery for the very first time this season—as in, hey Mia, why are you spending the money you were saving up for your operation on a bunch of sneering adolescent dicks who keep mentioning yours, regardless of how painfully unwanted it is? This is significant not just in terms of the plot, but because it is the first time that any reference has been made to this character’s idea of the future before the kiddie bomb got dropped in her lap. Mia’s bleak, minimal present was easily conveyed in about 15 minutes of the first episode, and she is forced to revisit her past after finding out she fathered a child, but the future was previously left off limits, as if she was just some desperate feral creature trying to survive and little else. The reluctant admission of her hopes and dreams makes Mia’s sacrifices more meaningful. Also deepening Mia’s character is the new exploration of her sexuality as opposed to her sexual identity. She has a growing attraction to local beefcake Ben but it appears to be the first time she is navigating this situation in quite a while. Although it is never openly discussed, one gets the sense that part of the reason for Mia’s chosen profession was that she preferred locking herself up in a profound solitude until she could have this operation, feel more completely herself, and avoid having to explain to a most-likely straight dude that she is packing heat (and not just on the job).
Outside of the superbly written and acted protagonist, however, the show continues to have the same problems with underdeveloped supporting characters glimpsed in the première. For example, why is the otherwise intrepid (not to mention gorgeous) Riley bonking her almost cartoonishly assholic landlord John, a man who aggressively intimidates her family and threatens to take their home away? If it’s some kind of self-destructive streak, daddy issues, or even simply an attempt to escape the pressures of adult responsibilities with the nearest non-relative penis possible, those cues are basically nonexistent or too subtle to register. It is impossible to believe she is in it for the sex alone, considering her expression during their bumpy-looking parked-car tryst—it might best be described as “grim,” not unlike Mia’s during an easy kill—and that John’s saucy talk consists of such gems as “touch them big titties for me.” Charming. Even more inexplicable, however, is Levi’s see-sawing between adolescent apathy and therefore de-facto acceptance of Mia’s situation, and truly awful comments about her being a freak. Although the writers half-heartedly have Levi come back to Mia to, if not apologize exactly then break down in tears and confess how he misses his Mum, this is enough to explain away explain away his bigot-like tantrums when just one episode ago he was completely okay with Mia being trans.
But perhaps these odd, illogical bits of plotting are just sacrifices to the god of melodrama, writing that focuses on the emotional impact of each scene rather than the structure of the whole. The show’s climax definitely does not shy away from the action, with Mia, wearing a very phallic rubber Pinocchio nose, standing naked in front of the mirror and punching herself in the penis while chanting “I’m a real boy.” I was fairly dumbfounded by this. To borrow the tagline for a pretty effective Degrassi ad campaign, “It goes there.” It was one of those scenes where I laughed for a second at the anvil-heavy symbolism, then immediately felt sad and uncomfortable. Leave it to the Brits to constantly tread that line between poignancy and parody with their impeccably made, high-end soap operas.
- When it came to finding a way for Mia to cross paths with her love interest, the writers were trying none too hard to come up with something plausible. She runs into him jogging, three times, at all different parts of the day, in three different places. Seriously? Is it like this wanker’s actual job to just jog around town from 9 to 5, getting the ladies all worked up and (undoubtedly) chafing up a storm?
- It’s strange that among the half a dozen or so possessions Mia actually bothers to hold onto in her concrete shitbox apartment is a Pinocchio nose and other costume paraphernalia. I have to say, Mia doesn’t really strike me as a costume party kind of a girl.