Nearly everything about the final episode of Nathan For You’s fourth season felt different, from its opening credits and feature-length run time to its lush cinematography and emphasis on character over comedy. In it, Nathan Fielder helps Bill Heath, a Bill Gates impersonator with whom he’s previously worked, find his long-lost love, Frances. But Bill’s sincerity is as questionable as that of Nathan’s, especially once the latter invites the cameras along to his “courting” of an escort named Maci. Everything seems to be about the nature of truth these days, but this offbeat Comedy Central series has offered one of the best modern explanations with this episode.
“We all know it’s a TV show. We all know that it entails an element of artifice. But where does the artifice begin and end?” So asks famed documentarian Errol Morris, who shared his thoughts today on the finale for The New Yorker. In his article, Morris calls the episode his “new favorite exploration of love,” as well as “some of the most interesting ‘reality’-based work yet made.” That’s quite the compliment from a filmmaker who’s built his entire career on exploring the malleability of truth.
In his exploration of this episode, and the series as a whole, the Thin Blue Line director touches on several of the qualities that make Nathan For You such distinctive TV in a landscape that’s only continuing to blur the lines between reality and fiction. “What makes Nathan For You so heretical,” he writes, “is that all of his projects are based on misrepresentation and lying; and yet, not accidentally, they capture something of the essence of American business.” On this note, Morris points out, with Nathan For You specifically, how willing people are to believe that what they’re witnessing is real—he even draws attention to our review of the finale as proof of this.
He writes of the episode’s final moments: “We’re so far into a bizarre, constructed realm that, when the camera pulls back and we see everything as a kind of set, as a TV show which is being filmed, it has a destabilizing effect. We knew it all along. Or didn’t we?”
As a savvy culture, we’re often quick to dismiss any depiction of “reality” on television as being manipulated, yet we offer Nathan For You a devout level of faith. Just why we do that is something we can all debate; we’re just hoping we can get another season to answer the question.