Rodrigo De Souza (Gael García Bernal) and Hailey Rutledge (Lola Kirke) are back with more sex, drugs, and classical music as one of the most underrated shows on any network returns. MOZART IN THE JUNGLE’s third season is more of what we’ve all come to love from the show delivering maybe its strongest season yet. Hot off its Golden Globe and Emmy wins, the show feels rejuvenated as there’s not a wasted episode this season as each one propels the next one forward.
With the symphony now displaced, Rodrigo finds himself in Venice, Italy working on an opera with a world renowned soprano Alessandra (Monica Bellucci). Hailey (or as Rodrigo pronounces her name Hai-Lei) is touring with Andrew Walsh (Dermot Mulroney). As fate would have it, their paths will cross leading to a performance with Alessandra the world won’t forget. Meanwhile back in New York City, Gloria Windsor (Bernadette Peters) and Cynthia Taylor (Saffron Burrows) are trying to save the symphony on their own clashing terms while also dealing with unexpected new romantic relationships.
Hearing the classical version of Phoenix’s excellent “Lisztomania”, I felt an excited, giddy eagerness to dive right back into this show. Music is an integral part of this show and while there’s nothing that comes even remotely close to the excellent use of Daft Punk’s “Veridis Quo” (off their classic second album Discovery) during one of the best crafted montages in the Jason Schwartzman directed second season episode “Touché Maestro, Touché”, this does state classical music’s importance. This is made especially clear in the best episode of the season, the Roman Coppola written and directed “Not Yet Titled” which I might add is one of the most effective uses of being shot on film I’ve seen all year. This episode shows the reunited orchestra heading to Riker’s Island to play for the prison’s inmates. The performance works as balm for the symphony to play as one again as well as provide an escape for the inmates. Framed in the style of a documentary through one of the show’s recurring characters played by Jason Schwartzman himself, Bradford Sharpe’s candid interviews with the inmates are very moving whether fake or not. Seeing how much the music meant for the prisoners made me realize how much I take for granted. It makes me want to use some of my savings, grab a suit and cop a couple of nosebleed seats to see the New York Symphony at Lincoln Center.
This show has always romanticized classical music (as well as other genres that the players listen to or play in) and part of that has been the characters. This is one of the best written and acted (as well as directed) shows. Gael García Bernal continues to make Rodrigo a loveable, aloof eccentric. There’s no doubt that he’s a genius and all geniuses are mad, but here it was good to see Rodrigo’s philandering finally catch up to him. The way that was handled was unexpected as Alessandra knew (just as everyone can clearly tell) that Rodrigo and Hailey love each other. Even if they don’t know it, they love each other deeply. Rodrigo also continues to get ahead of himself, and it finally catches up to him. His intentions are always good, but he tends to leap before he thinks. Lola Kirke continues to make Hailey a heroine that’s easy to root for with one of the most adorable (and admittedly attractive) giggles. She continues to find new ways to make the character stronger and vulnerable at the same time. Her arc this season was aces (and so was her arc last season as well), with her starting to come into her own as a conductor as well as an oboist to be reckoned with. And while the show always seems to knock her down and/or put her in a situation that seems impossible to overcome she always manages to come out of it stronger not because of the characters around her who help her, but because of her resilience.
Malcolm McDowell as Thomas Pembridge had a great arc this season with him composing a new composition, taking on Hailey as conducting protégé, as well trying to come to grips with his feelings with Gloria Windsor. His ego and prick-ishness get the better of him and he comes to terms with that by the season’s end. Does he fully understand that? No, but I think he’s making steps towards rectifying that. McDowell plays the role well and to see him get around with the energy of a thirty year old. Saffron Burrows does well as Cynthia Taylor, whose arc is bittersweet as she sees her time might be coming to an end with the symphony. With her hands becoming more and more useless as well as the surgeries, it was nice that she found solace with a former NBA player. And not mention we get a very cool guest spot from Danny Glover as the green loving mayor of New York.
Having the first half of the season take place in Venice was a nice change of pace and provided one of the strongest storylines of the series thus far. It brought back the magic of going to Mexico (where a certain fortune telling looks to be coming true) from the second season. The cinematography of shooting in Venice also worked to its strengths providing lush visuals as well as having Venice become a character all on its own providing dramatic and comedic beats. Having Monica Bellucci in a prominent guest role for the first half of the season was great casting and plotting. Alessandra is just as unhinged as Rodrigo’s ex-wife. Her assistant (and there’s more to him as well) warned him about laying with her. To be honest if I was tempted by Monica Bellucci, I’d probably give in too. What also made this arc good was that it reinforced how much Hailey and Rodrigo care for each other. It comes off almost as second nature when they help each other or try to save each other and it’s endearing.
This season more than the last two left me wanting more. After finally having a long overdue boning and potential blossoming relationship, it felt like a giant exhale. This finale more than the previous two leave me on edge to see what comes next. While the second season was almost perfect with a finale that took it down a notch or two, this finale wraps up a near perfect season while setting up what’s to come in a fourth season, hopefully. Throughout the show’s run Rodrigo finds himself talking to various classical composers, to have Hailey now start talking to classical composers as well not only makes me excited on what’s to come, but also on how this evolves her going forward. Mozart in the Jungle, it’s good to have you back.
Season 3, Episodes 1-10 (So3E01-10)
Mozart in the Jungle airs on Amazon Video
A lifelong film enthusiast since he can remember, Brandon is an indie filmmaker/screenwriter and freelance critic who resides in Trenton, NJ. Feel free to hit him up on Twitter to talk movies, shows, and music (especially hip-hop) .
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Brandon Norwood | Contributor