“The Genuine Article”

Posted on October 31, 2011

Well, now we know why Pan Am’s ostensible star, Christina Ricci, has been spending a puzzling amount of time in the background so far. It was so they could do this character-defining episode. We’ve been complaining since the first episode about the curious lack of Christina and while this episode was a welcome chance to fill in a lot of the blanks on her character Maggie, we couldn’t help thinking that we were supposed to be a lot more shocked with the reveals. It’s one thing to present a character as one way and then pull the rug out from under the viewer because Everything You Know is a LIE, but that’s not really what we got here. It’s not like Maggie was defined as an erudite, worldly, educated type up till now, making the reveal that she’s from humble origins and basically conned her way into everything she’s got all that much more titillating. Maggie was largely undefined and the most we could say about her prior to this episode was that she was the sassy one. Well, now she’s the sassy one who lied on her resume. We think we’re supposed to find that captivating, but this isn’t even close to the Don Draper/Dick Whitman reveal it’s so obviously mimicking.

If anything interesting came out of this story, it was the revelation that Maggie is not a particularly nice character. Backed up against the wall, she somehow parlayed her knowledge of Dean’s affair into a method of keeping her job. We’re not quite sure how she did that or what the fallout of that action will be, but it sets her apart from the plucky Kate and Laura, as well as the cooly sophisticated (and still TRAGICALLY UNDERUSED) Colette. This is definitely a group that needs a little conflict to make it interesting. We think it would be boring to make Maggie into some sort of villain, but she suddenly became a lot more interesting when it became clear that she’ll screw people over to save herself. And Laura came off a bit like a petulant child, which is another necessary bit of character-building. She may have taken control of her life, but she still has a tendency to be childishly judgmental, especially of her heroines. We’re just happy they didn’t spend any time on the Ted thing this week. Any story for Laura that doesn’t have to do with how she’s reacting to various men is a good thing.

Kate’s still a favorite, though. Probably because she has the best wardrobe – seriously, she looked fabulous sitting on that park bench talking to her hot CIA contact – and has the most consistently fun storylines. We keep saying this, but the silly, glossy, glamorous stuff like Cold War – era spying is perfect for this show and immediately sets it apart from Mad Men. It’s just fun watching Kate get to be a spy. In fact, we think we would have enjoyed a much higher concept version of this show; a sort of Charlie’s Angels meets Love Boat by way of Happy Days, with all the female characters working for the CIA and posing as stewardesses. Silly? Sure, but it beats the hell out of watching bland Dean get pissy with his girlfriend. Give us Kate in a pencil skirt making out with a hot Hungarian in a skinny suit and that’s half the battle won right there, as far as we’re concerned. Give Maggie some more bite to her like we saw this episode, drop Ted and Dean out an emergency exit, give Laura a story that’s not about how pretty she is, and GIVE COLETTE HALF OF EVERY EPISODE TO BE FABULOUS and you’d have a perfect show.

As it is, it’s still floundering, we’re sorry to say. A couple good moments here and there, but it’s still not shaping up to a consistently engaging whole. We’re enjoying Revenge and American Horror Story way more than Pan Am and that surprises the hell out of us.

And yes, we think we will pick up blogging those last two.

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