The Memorial Day weekend has wreaked havoc on our schedule, as three-day weekends tend to do. We’re gonna do a quick n’ dirty review of this show now, even though it’s several days late. Later, because the American entertainment industry took the weekend off and there’s little in the way of interesting red carpetry to be had anywhere, we’re going to go ahead and do Mad Style a day early. In between now and then (because MadStyle takes a long time to put together), we have a present for all the Downton Abbey and costume fans out there, which we’re putting together presently.
We’ve always wanted to use “presently” in a sentence. Anyway, that’s the roster for today, you guys. Television and costumes straight down the line. And possibly a Penny Dreadful review tomorrow, if we get a chance.
The wild videogame-style plotting of this show (where a picture leads to a church which leads to a name which leads to a man in a cabin) is turning out to be both a feature and a bug. It allows you to move the characters around and pair them off in increasingly unlikely matchups, but it also leaves a lot of characters doing incredibly dumb and out-of-character things.
Yes, this is the one where we start complaining. But first: it’s still a big, fun ride and Tatiana Maslany is still kicking it week after week. We still love the craziness of the plotting and the way it veers all over the place. We’re still in it, we swear.
Art and Sarah just let Helena go, more or less; the crazy, traumatized, unpredictable murderer. “Eh. I’ll check in on her later. Busy now.” Sure, things are moving at a hectic pace with a deadline bearing down on Sarah, and we can understand the point being repeatedly made this season that Sarah tends to come in and out of people’s lives, depending on whether she needs anything from them, but this goes quite a bit beyond that. Helena is still a psychopath and dangerously violent when cornered. You don’t let a person like that out of your sight voluntarily or without some anxiety as to what might happen. It stood out so much more because the writers went to great lengths this week and last to show the very deep bond the two sisters have with each other, despite their wild differences. It reminds us quite a bit of Felix abandoning Alison right after she told him she was a murderer and telling her it was a simple thing she should just get over. After a while, these off-kilter character moments start stacking up and you realize that not only is the plotting videogame-like, the characterization is as well.
On the other hand, as we’ve said, it allows you to pair characters up in increasingly interesting ways: Art and Felix, Paul and Mrs. S., Alison and Vic, Vig and Angie. And we’re happiest about that last one, because we found the likelihood of the Alison/Vic friendship to be ridiculously remote – until that last scene that explained it all. Angie’s been trying to get at Alison for a while, so this makes perfect sense. The Art and Felix teamup also makes a certain prosaic sort of sense: Art has no one to talk to about this case and he needs a really big wall and someone with a well developed visual sense to help him figure out all this evidence. Who else but Felix? It’s also of a piece with the show’s motif of having characters “rescue” other characters from bad impulses or dark moods. It’s something Felix has done for Alison several times and now we see Art doing it for Felix. Which is good, because a depressed and angry Felix is no fun for anyone.
As for the plot, it’s starting to show some strain, with far too many agendas, groups and individuals competing in one story. In a way, we’re glad that Dr. Leakey is revealed to be the Big Bad. We’d have hated it if someone new had been added to the mix. This way, we get the impression that the wild plotting of this season is starting to come full circle. We got the same feeling with Siobhan and Paul’s scene. She’s been kickass all along, but the banter and clear history the two characters have helped color him in just a bit more and make him more interesting. It’s always about the pairings with this show; the way the plot is driven forward and characters drawn more sharply by pairing them up with other characters. We don’t know if that’s a deliberately established motif by the writers, but it makes wonderful sense, given the subject matter of the show. We couldn’t help but notice that Sarah suddenly bonded with Cosima after having dropped Helena. It says something about her. She’s constantly seeking that other half of herself and then constantly dropping it.
And while it seems almost unbelievable that Helena would go back to Insemination Farm voluntarily, we can more than see why she would choose to do so. She has no family in the world, not even her sister – and they have her babies. And it’s another closing of the circle, we suppose. Anything that draws this plot in a little tighter can only be good for the show. Fingers crossed that, for now, there will be no more major twists, reveals, or new characters introduced. There’s more than enough on the table as it is.
[Photo Credit: Steve Wilkie for BBC AMERICA]