Way back in episode three, an innocent time before any teenagers were knocked up and the only one waving guns around and killing people was Mia, she mentioned on a date with Ben that she grew up on a fairground. I am now forced to admit that I had assumed this was some sort of joke along the lines of “my home is a zoo!”, or just a silly coquettish lie to get Ben to cease his line of questioning. But this is Hit & Miss we’re talking about, in which the ridiculous often dovetails nicely—sometimes even convincingly!—with the sincerely literal (except of course for Leonie seeing her dead mother, which still appears to be psychological rather than supernatural, despite my most fervent hopes). Now that I understand that mama assassin was actually, totally, for real raised on a freaking fairground, as over the top as that “twist” is, things fall together a little more neatly in the Mia-verse. The nightmare sequence in last week’s episode, for example, in which she handed out cupcakes to past victims and current children to the ambient sound of deranged carnival music, was not simply about leaning on a cliché to create discomfort, but referencing a real and vividly unhappy place for Mia, representing the past infringing on the present as she becomes more in touch with the feelings she’s shut off for so long. So take that, detractors of the dream sequence! It not only deserves a cautious comparison to the infamous check-tiled room in David Lynch’s Twin Peaks; it actually makes a modicum of sense!
In the outset of this episode, Mia fears getting out of the car and actually stepping foot on the despised fairground. A scene full of excitement and wonder for the children—Ferris wheel rides, twinkly colored lights, general chaos and commotion—takes on the terrifying acid-trip-gone-wrong quality of the tunnel scene from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. Her smile is forced and, seen through her eyes, the lights overwhelming and the music ghoulish. The only one who seems to share her discomfort is Riley, who for some strange reason still seems a little bummed about the fact that she shot a dude in the face. When Levi and Ryan play with toy guns at a carnival game, Riley flinches because it reminds her of her recent brush with gruesome violence, but Mia seems in the opening throes of full-on panic, because the mulletted douche manning the booth is her estranged brother.
The resulting confrontation with her viciously unkind bro, who calls Mia a freak, gives her a near-concussion and roughly chops off the hair she clings to as a hallmark of her femininity, while her mother, who does nothing to stop this and hurtfully calls her by her pre-trans male name, Ryan, throws Mia into a tailspin. In a scene that tests the viewer’s patience for symbolism and melodrama, not entirely unheard of for Hit & Miss, Mia rushes back to her city apartment, dances around in a wig to awful techno while guzzling alcohol like some maladjusted teenager, then falls down in a heap of teary despair. She also gathers all the mirrors in the house into a circle around her, the apex of the show’s frequent use of mirrors to explore Mia’s issues of image and identity, as she creates an infinite, self-contained loop in which to contemplate her self hatred at that moment. Although Ryan is able to bring Mia back to the world of the slightly less unhinged, the subsequent work error (and when you’re a contract killer, ‘work error’ don’t mean typo) caused by her continued tenderness forces her into a situation where she must gather the kids and flee, despite Ben’s awfully sudden proclamation of love, or risk Eddie’s retribution.
In the whole first season, Mia has kept her upbringing and background very private, so the reveal here, as conveniently coincidental as it is that she just happens to run into her family lo these many years later, is as satisfying for the viewer as it is for the characters on the show. Perhaps more so, because Ryan and the rest of them get only the barest sliver of information, as in: “I have a mother, she lives with us now, and I have a butchered haircut I cover with scarves just like your mom did when she was dying of cancer so let's hope that doesn't freak you out.” It really feels as though the writers have thrown us a bone, unlocking some of Mia’s character in a way that makes her deeper as well as more accessible. We now know that taunts of ‘freak’ cut Mia far beyond her current physical situation, because they remind her of feelings of isolation and otherness she has had throughout her childhood, as both a circus person and a transsexual fish-out-of-water without the support of her family. Meeting her mother and brother even makes that ridiculous “I’m a real boy” fixation make sense—it is something Mia’s brother used to say to her, and now it is a phrase she can’t escape because it crawls out of her own wounded psyche when she is feeling at her lowest, as she did in episode two when she stood in front of the mirror with the Pinocchio nose on.
The scene where Mia returns to her newly rediscovered family’s home is one of the best of the season, satisfying and raw. She storms in ready to turn the tables on her abusive brother rather than slip into an abyss of depression, daring even to attempt to get her mother out of what is obviously a very volatile situation, and a tense, loaded exchange ensues. It is perfectly balanced in terms of what it reveals—just enough to glean that something prolonged and terrible did happen to make Mia the complex, damaged, mistrusting, and even violent person that she is—and what it conceals, again just enough to leave us with questions about who her father was, why Mia’s mother would say she is just like him, and what exactly happened in this carny trailer park nightmare.
There was also intriguing growth in terms of Liam’s role, leading to some of the most successfully poignant moments of the episode. It is surprising and lovely how he takes up the slack at home during Mia’s absence, the only one to notice Riley’s rather tiresome move toward self-injury and the only one to help lead her away from it. When Liam offers to take the fall for Riley in John’s murder case, the scene is touching and played with surprising subtlety. If there are moments when I start to get turned off by the silly bits of random the writers allow to build up around the of the main storyline on Hit & Miss—the complete unbelievability of the supposed emotional connection, teen clichés like self-mutilation in response to trauma or a free-the-frogs rebellion, sometimes even actions that seem to lack motive or reasonable logic—the moments that really matter are suddenly so well done that they leap up and grab me with their emotional resonance and cinematic creativity.
As of right now, unfortunately, Hit & Miss has not received any guarantee of a second season, and the situation looks grim. Who knows what restraint or maturity might have developed to iron out the show’s few inconsistencies with time and the broadcast of more than a measly six episodes? Someone please come along and bring this show back from the brink of likely extinction, if for no other reason than to rescue Eddie, Ryan, and Mia from being trapped in the season finale’s three-man standoff (man, woman, and child if you want to get technical) somewhere in television purgatory for all of eternity.
- Whoever chose the music for this episode appears to be taking crazy pills followed by steroid shots, or has morphed into a 13-year-old girl, because this shit was wack: hard metal for the attack on Mia by her brother, techno for a meltdown via dance, and the sludgy rock when Riley discovers Leonie has left hundreds of tiny muddy handprints all over her bedroom were at once obvious and distracting.
- I’m surprised that Eddie knows Mia’s home address (wouldn’t it violate some anonymity rules of protection employed by criminals?), and even more surprised he was willing to give it to Ryan. If he was so pissed Ry-Ry infiltrated his seedy bar, why would he help the kid burrow deeper into Mia’s professional life?
- It also seemed unrealistic that Ryan remembered how to get to a bar in a city he rarely frequents after Mia brought him there all of one time. What, does the kid have a photographic memory or something?
- I laughed out loud when we see the boys sitting at the kitchen table, fresh from searching Mia’s room for clues as to her whereabouts, and Ryan is casually wearing the fake pregnancy belly.
- Ryan has another great moment when he manages to close the seemingly endless gap between his little fist and Ben’s big dumb face.
- In conclusion: photographic memory, hilarious use of props, punching a guy nearly three times his age in the face. Ryan is the winner of this episode.