Tweetable Takeaway: We’re still feeling the repercussions of the slap but this week Uma Thurman finally gives us a character we can sink our teeth into. Not literally, of course.
Thursdays at 8pm on NBC
By: Rikki McKernan, Contributor
Remember last week when I said I didn’t care about any of these characters? Well, I finally do. A little. It was a struggle: these pretentious, privileged narcissists don’t lend themselves to empathy but this week we’re given a small opening to peek our heads through. It’s an uphill battle that will hopefully pay off in the end. The one character I’m starting to empathize with is Uma Thurman’s Anouk, the focus of this week’s episode.
This episode starts off to a slow start, with the characters basically summarizing what’s happened this season so far. They also drive home the characteristics of Thurman’s Anouk (which, btw, who knew that was her name?) and Penn Badgley’s Jamie. Who would have guessed that their May-December romance would come with some emotional issues? Oh, wait… Anyway, Anouk has commitment issues stemming from her childhood insecurities and – wait for it – her mother. Jamie is an immature but looks up to the older, wiser Anouk.
True to form (and this show), when Rosie, Aisha and Anouk get together for lunch, a fight ensues. Rosie is giddy over the fact that Harry got arrested and Anouk is in no mood to talk about “the slap” yet again. She wants Rosie to get over it because Hugo won’t have as many long-lasting issues as their friend group will if they can’t get over this incident. To highlight even more of her insecurities, she then gets offended when she feels her views aren’t being respected because she doesn’t have children. Well, as we know from last week, that’s about to change.
Of course, the big, gasp-worthy moment has been previewed in the last two episodes, so it doesn’t have quite the same effect as it otherwise would, but it is the turning point of the episode where we finally see a bit more of the humanity in Anouk. As soon as she finds out she’s actually pregnant, she seems to want to tell Jamie who is high, watching cartoons and literally says, “this cartoon makes me believe in God.” So she obviously can’t tell him after that. It does set in motion what we’ll now call “Anouk’s literal and emotional journey.” Anouk goes Ebenezer Scrooge-style to practically everyone she knows to get advice, comfort, or perspective.
Anouk goes to have a chat with Hector about his relationship with Connie. She only ever obliquely refers to the issue, which is nicely handled until her narcissism kicks in to overdrive. Anouk chides Hector for the relationship, putting the situation in relation to her – she doesn’t want to have to stop coming by the house. She doesn’t want to be a liar to her best friend.
Anouk and Jamie go visit her mother (Blythe Danner with a British accent because why not?) and Anouk gets her first reality check. Her mom, a psychologist, springs it on Anouk that she’s moving to Scotland. She’ll find out later that it’s just a rouse, though, as her mom has cancer and is seeking treatment in Scotland instead. This is after Anouk reveals to Aisha that her mom didn’t want custody of her in the divorce. Anouk was raised by Blythe only because her father died during the divorce proceedings.
While all of this emotional baggage is a little depressing, it gives Anouk a depth that wasn’t present in either of the other characters we’ve focused on so far. There’s a reason she is the way she is and when she tries to break up with Jamie or goes to Aisha to get an abortion, we can see the stakes that are there for her and the emotional journey she took to get there. Why would she want to have a child with a man who’s practically a child himself? How can she be a mother when she never had a good example of one growing up? The only way to stay “safe” is to never put yourself out on a ledge emotionally. You can’t be abandoned by the people you love if you don’t have anyone there to love in the first place. Of course by the end of the episode, Anouk has come to terms with the pregnancy and the new path that takes her down, which also includes Jamie. At least for now.
This episode is a small step in the right direction for THE SLAP but we’re not quite there yet. While we do get something resembling character development, each emotional beat, each over-simplified metaphor slaps us right in the face. (Yeah, I said it.) There’s no nuance here, which probably shouldn’t be so surprising, given that it’s a series based on a slap. I might be able to get over that if we continue to see some of what we saw this week – the heart that’s been missing from the show so far.
Next week, it’s a Brian Cox-centric episode where the grown ups get to work blaming the victim in a court of law. This could be where some of that long promised controversy comes into play.
In Rikki’s perfect world, she’s Queen of Westeros, best friends with Mindy Kaling, and her other car is a TARDIS…a girl can dream, right?