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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Ali grapples with Israel and identity in a snoozy Transparent

Illustration for article titled Ali grapples with Israel and identity in a snoozy Transparent
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There’s usually one—at least one—mid-season episode, in even the prestige-iest of prestige dramas, that’s more about establishing what’s to come rather than making a ton of emotional strides. Apparently we’re in the mid-season doldrums with Transparent, as “Babar The Borrible” actually makes its direct antecedent, “I Never Promised You A Promised Land,” look sort of action-packed.

We’re still on the Pfefferman road trip, with Moshe trying to make up for lost time—or not—by taking the family around the country to see the sites. Apparently it wasn’t yet time for any sort of meaningful Moshe/Maura conversation, so their interactions are still either just in passing (“Remember you have to dip the bread all the way into the spice or there’s no point!”) or nonexistent. Maura is, again, relegated to a spot in the background for the most part, where she’s clearly spending a lot of time considering just what the fuck is going on here. Quietly.


The only reasonably impactful scene featuring Maura comes via a conversation with Ali, who’s grappling both with her gender identity and the politics of being in Israel. It can be hard to tell with Ali what’s fleeting and what she actually cares about, so it’ll be interesting to see whether her confusion is a product of these intense circumstances or something deeper. But the exchange between those two was great: “I don’t feel in my body.” “Do you think you’re trans?” Ali’s chuckle in response was pretty perfect.

The rest of her journey—not that exciting to the story. Transparent doesn’t really need to spend time on the politics of Palestine, and Ali’s time with Lyfe didn’t necessarily reveal anything more about Ali’s sexuality (or personality) than we already knew. Their whole meeting felt a little fortuitous and forced to me—a way to sort of wedge in a history lesson in a show that doesn’t really need them.

Same goes for the Sarah/Len/Lila storyline, though that one has at least offered some comic relief. It doesn’t seem too believable to me that the Pfeffer-tour would make a special trip to drop off a sweater to Lila’s mom, but as a device to reveal the threesome to Josh, it worked fine. That Josh freaks out as much as he does points to a potentially more interesting plotline to be resolved—his own confrontation of his sex addiction, which doesn’t seem to be going anyplace good.

And I’m not sure what the purpose of the whole Bedouin amusement park trip was, other than to give Shelly and Bryna a chance to riff a little bit. (Give ’em a spinoff, I’ll watch that, but we didn’t necessarily need this.) So where does the show head from here? Presumably some kind of reckoning between Maura and the father she thought was dead; an explosive end to the three-way relationship; and Ali, I don’t know, gets arrested? Let’s hope the next three episodes offer a little more action of the emotional kind.


Stray observations

  • I’m surprised we didn’t get a flashback to a Pfeffer road trip from their youth.
  • Josh to his mom, summing up their relationship in a way: “You have zero facts correct in this whole situation.”
  • “Maybe they have Fresca.”
  • “I don’t want to be part of your fucked-up math.”
  • “Don’t get your ish all over me, Josh!” “It’s her term for issues!”
  • “I hate 69. I don’t like it, I don’t get it. The only reason it’s successful is that it has good branding.”
  • The excellent song over the end credits was “Valley” by Perfume Genius.