Friday, June 14, 2013

Dead Like Me, Season 1, Episode 4: Repercussions

We open with some joyous George snark about sweets. Honestly, I would watch this show just to hear the voice overs – normally voice overs annoy me, they’re clumsy writing at its worse, but George’s sarcastic commentary is a joy to hear.

The sweets in question are being eaten by Roxy whose deadpan demeanour still leaves George questioning whether she likes George or not. And they’re waiting and waiting – and the guy they’re waiting for doesn’t show up

To Der Waffle House to report to Rube. Apparently it happens and the guy will be rescheduled – much to George’s annoyance because it has been rammed home in the last 3 episodes that she can’t change fate, she can’t save people. She complains at how really unfair it is that there’s all these consequences when she interferes, but people can escape through random chance. Rube pretty much chalks it down to it is what it is and hands out his post it – including one that sounds like a dream for Mason. Oh and Betty is locked in a morgue drawer/guerney thing (what do they call those things? The big body filing cabinets?) for some reason.

George continues to stalk her family and watches the fraught relationship between her mother (Joy) and her sister (Reggie) remarking that they’re exactly the same conflicts she and her mother had and how little she knew her sister. And how… odd her sister was.

At work posing as Millie, the nauseatingly saccharine Delores wants to give “Millie” some more responsibility!  She has to pick someone for a position – and prioritise the list. And in looking through the people Delores considered “the dregs” she found her old file – Georgia Lass. And she thinks again on her appointment – again considering whether she can cheat death, whether she can miss an appointment. She decides to move her lunch, changing her excuse with Delores which includes a completely unwanted sharing moment about pap smears!

Mason and Rube are heading off on their gambling trip (it’s a reap, honest) and it seems Rube is taking it waaay more seriously than Mason (the gambling, anyway. The rest kind of goes without saying) which turns out all to be a metaphor for George screwing up and Rube venting to poor Mason.

George, meanwhile has to watch a painful, agonising infomercial, trying to see P.J. Monroe, her ETD (she’s 11 minutes early – but 2 miles from the place). She tries to get to see him at his office but the assistant won’t let her near him. So she makes up a story of being drugged by his son and being raped while unconscious.

What? No – this is not something to joke about. This is not remotely funny and I have no idea why Dead Like Me decided to include this ridiculous, awful line.

George keeps up this awful lie, throwing tears into the mix while Monroe looks utterly horrified. Her reason? If she can stop Monroe going where he needs to be at 2:00 – his ETD – then he hasn’t shown up for the appointment and he gets to live. He cancels his appointment and, as a bonus to George, gives her some money. As George leaves, the assistant apologises profusely to her, offers her sister’s card who is a lawyer to help her sue Monroe’s son and makes a gesture of solidarity with her.

Mason and Rube are in an airport, having reaped a bus full of gamblers and are now returning home. Rube is annoyed by crying babies muttering about killing them which excites one of his fellow passengers and Mason is nervous about the sniffer dog. Very very nervous because he’s smuggling drugs in… body cavities.

Back at happy Time, for some reason Delores’s receptionist, Crystal, is licking her phone (do not want to know, do not want to know, do NOT want to know). And Delores and George get to talk pap smears again and Delores is her usual jolly self.

Fun times continue at the airport – Mason gets a cavity search and Rube has to explain to the nice interviewer that he doesn’t want to kill babies. What a fun time they have.

And back at George’s old home, poor Joy is desperately trying to bond with Reggie with some Fun Activities They Can Do Together.

While everyone else is having a miserable day, Delores is paying “Millie” to the moon and back, gushing massively and encouraging her to take more hours and come in an extra day. George is amazed that she’s failing… upwards. Despite having to deal with Crystal the phone licker with her eternal glares.

To the Waffle House and Rube has a whole sheaf of notes, lots of them, many of them without times; and George slips in that her guy didn’t show up. To which Rube hustles her in the bathroom to remind her how sad and repentant she was a few days ago because she’d finally grown up (while Mason suffers horribly in the same bathroom from the drugs packet bursting in unmentionable places). George keeps trying to lie to Rube while her own internal monologue admits how ridiculous it is.

She goes on a job with Mason (who is well and truly out of it from the bursting drugs package) to discover a man who died from using the new exercise gizmo that JP Morgan was selling. See, he had an appointment that day telling him that his exercise machine wasn’t safe – it actually sets people on fire. He would probably have paid attention to this and cancelled the release of the product, had he not been distracted disowning his son after George’s lies. Because of that, many many people have now died from the unsafe product. Ooops.

As an added Bonus, Rube has a whole Waffle House full of souls who died from the machine who are delayed because none of them were expected to die. This is terribly awkward for Rube. Awkward for Roxy who has dozens of people rammed into her little cart and Mason is still twitching in a corner. Roxy’s amusing herself by the whole drama and realises what an utter mess Mason is.

And George is crying piteously in the bathroom and still trying to maintain her lie. Which isn’t convincing Rube at all; he’s followed the link back to see where all these deaths come from and recognised PJ Monroe. Rube tells her to “start sleeping with the lights on” which she doesn’t know whether it’s a threat and a warning and storms out on her.

That night, George has to duel with Gravelings playing gremlin with her for breaking the rules.

And poor Rube has to carry Mason to his home so he can look after him. Poor Rube – as George’s voice over points out, Rube would have her back if she hadn’t turned it on him.

The next day dawns –Mason wakes up unmentionably awful, Joy finds the dead bird Reggie has kept and George goes to work at the keyboard where Crystal has purposefully sneezed on it. Ick ick ick and so much ick. Ew, ick. And the gravelings are still playing with her – causing her to swear in front of Delores – oh the horror! The horror!  She still has to go to the Waffle House and find that she’s still very much not Rube’s favourite person at the moment (Mason still likes her – but that comes from someone quietly dying in a corner) and, as he kind of rightly says, will continue to dislike her until he forgives her and she stops doing stupid crap. She asks why he never questions anything and he leaves –but he does give her money to get her a waffle. Mason reassures her – in his rambly and still kind of high way.

I think I’m quite touched by this scene – yes Rube is hella pissed at her and he’s showing it – but still cares.

Another poignant scene follows with Joy, several glasses of wine down, confronting Reggie, her fear and how disturbed she is about the dead bird she found and how frustrating she finds every conversation where she tries to talk to her, how it hurts her and how tired she is. It’s painful and probably in every parenting book on how not to raise a child – but it’s really well acted and feels real.

And at the Waffle house, poor Roxy is nearly brained by a sign (she curses at the gravelings) and, after an awful week, she rants to George – who has an epiphany about Roxy, how terrible her job is and how tough she is to keep going and handle it as she does. And the one time she changed someone’s fate – after days after days of constant abuse at her job there was one man who was kind and generous and graceful; and she then got his name on a post it. And by cutting off the power to his flat, cutting off his alarm, she changed his fate and saved him. Which is why she had a no-show at the beginning of the episode

At work, George/Millie has a brief war with Crystal before finally raising the white flag and acknowledging Crystal as the victor – and possibly reluctant ally. And Joy and Reggie find a common cause – not the pottery class Joy wanted, but a taxidermy class.

And Rube – he cooks a special dinner, an impressive one – and when the packages arrives from his shadowy boss, he offers it to them. But they leave – and we still don’t get to see them and Rube eats alone.

One of the most pervasive problems in our culture and justice system is an assumption that rape victims lie. It’s an assumption that clings to rape more than any other crime – victims are not believed, they’re assumed to be lying (or, at very least, exaggerating). It’s a stain that stops many rape victims reporting their rapes because they don’t think they will be taken seriously. It follows that any depiction of someone lying about rape in the media needs to be extremely carefully done – and preferably avoided – because they’re perpetuating this myth.

Another pervasive problem in our culture is regarding rape as a joke. This, again, reduces the severity of rape, downplays it as a shocking event and makes it a casual giggle. Again, this is something any fiction needs to tread extremely carefully about.

And yet another problem with our culture with regard to rape is the idea that victims are making it up in order

Dead Like Me, that one throw away joke was problematic on multiple levels. She could just have easily punctured his tires, pretended to have an urgent delivery or any number of other lies to delay Monroe.

On the story, I can get behind George trying to find a way around her role as a Reaper, reaping people is hardly fun and the instinct to save people is strong. But, having her attempts to circumvent fate go horribly wrong repeatedly, it’s, perhaps, now time to move past this and stop repeating the storyline. They were good, they were needed, they were natural – but I’d kind of like them to be done now.

I also quite like Rube’s statement about not liking George. It doesn’t mean he won’t like her in the future, it doesn’t mean he won’t forgive her, but her and now, he’s angry at her and that’s not just going to go away with a sorry. I want more depictions of forgiveness like this. And I did like the development of Roxy. I do worry that her actually successfully changing fate may lead to George trying it again.

Joy’s battles as a parent remain one of the more understated but powerful scenes in the show.