Friday, June 21, 2013

Dead Like Me Season 1, Episode 5: Reaping Havoc

Begin with a brief flashback of how Betty died – jumping off a cliff, before hitting the present hard, in the Waffle House, with George still finding Rube mad at her and telling her not to meddle with fate. Even angry he tries to be nice to her – and she heads off to her work with the sudden realisation that she has no friends – only co-workers.

She briefly considers Delores for the role – but then we’re all reminded how very very very annoying she is. Delores questions also required George to invent a jet pilot brother for “Millie” (I would have gone for only child myself) and suddenly being dragged along to a scrap booking meeting. As George puts it, the lengths she goes to for free food. Delores shows off her work related scrap book which promises to be a read several times worse than anything we’ve DNFed. George contemplates her own work related scrapbook – body parts and bones and mementos of terrible accidents! Yay!

What is scrapbooking? And how is it a social activity? Do people actually do this? Really? Do they come with warning signs?

To the Waffle House to spend time with Betty, talking about guys, cheese and how she thinks George is beautiful – definitely friend potential. Oh and they’re sharing a table with a very confused complete stranger  - who is actually dead and doesn’t quite realise it yet (they’ll get to that once George finishes telling Betty about her fictional brother)  and George remarks on how alive Betty is – for the undead.

Back Betty’s her actual life – and death – being reaped by Rube after that jump which she did for the thrill – and isn’t impressed by her boyfriend not joining her. She extolls the joy of jumping to Rube, the will and courage it takes and plans to do it again – then sees her body floating downstream. And we learn that Betty takes polaroids of every soul she reaps and sorts them into sacks – her signature.

To the Waffle House with George wondering about order and Betty preparing to go “shopping” – which means lots of items for removing tags. And Mason arrives with news about a dust storm in China and an awful comment about “yellow people” that makes even cynical George speak up. They quickly divert to foreign travel and Betty tells a wonderful tale of how she went to terrible devastating volcanoes alongside sandy beaches. Rube suggests taking George to the next running of the bulls.

Much as I loathe Mason’s comment, I do like the casual way they’re referring to death in the conversation. Is it insensitive? Sure – but how jaded would these people be by now? They get their appointments, George and Mason snipe about the fruit and Betty calls Rube an asshole for the way he treats George (since she’s a kid). I do love their banter.

Mason goes on a job reaps an old woman’s soul then has tea with her ghost listening to her memories (and she won’t let him use her cup – that’s her cup, she has other cups for guests). She’s definitely a character, refuses to let him call anyone because if it takes them a while to find her that’s their fault for not checking on her more often. And leave the door open – if the coyotes eat her it’ll make her kids feel terrible! Mason starts looking for valuables and even he comments on her racism.

Yeah – what is this, random racist comments for shits and giggles so people can call them out? What’s the point? It doesn’t even serve as a way of dating them by showing supposed “archaic” language because they haven’t been living in a tomb.

Back to Betty and George – since Betty shows up at George’s with all her sacks and Betty talks about her aliases (see, she’s sensible, she goes for “only child” and how she changes them to stop people being suspicious and to shake things up). She also gets Betty’s cynically accurate assessment of people – and how she can so easily split them into bags – like the “reiterator people”, people who take other’s thoughts and personalities and convince themselves they’re their own – and there’s only so many personalities in the world; she’s met them all

And there’s a method to her actions – she’s brought the sacks to show George that people aren’t snowflakes. Oh and she needs more storage space. George takes the lesson with her to work and hopes it’s not true but can’t help but notice the common types among her colleagues and how everything you love or hate is loved or hated by a gazillion other people – each colleague she can picture going into one of Betty’s sacks.

That’s depressing, the dead old woman is much more fun – she’s teaching mason how to forge her signature on social security cheques. And Mason reassures her about crossing over, telling her what she will see (something bright and lit up –something wonderful tailored to her) while lamenting that he never got to see one – only other people’s

Alas we can’t remain with those fun folk because George is still stuck in Millie hell. Delores and Mike try to drag her to a social outing involving stationery and George dodges it by saying she’s celebrating being 1 month sober… Is George incapable of telling normal white lies? Delores, being Delores, gushes pride and admiration. And talks about her cocaine addiction. That’ll teach you George!

She’s rescued by Rube – well is rescued is the word – who Delores assumes is Millie’s sponsor. Delores praises Millie to the hills and back – which Rube has trouble believing (can’t think why) and they head out, joined by Betty who is obsessing over Crystal’s hair (don’t ask why, it’s Betty). As to why she’s really going to the park –it’s the Bowers’ family reunion and an M J Bowers is due to die. Given the number of Bowers, the surname and initials isn’t that helpful.

Especially since there is a difference between “an M J Bowers” and “The M J Bowers”.  Especially with several to choose from in various perilous situations.

Back to the Waffle House with Betty’s wonderful way with the dead and the dead MJ asking why they won’t deliver last messages (postage, it adds up) and George repeating her complaint that they’re not paid to Reap.

Back to work where George finds herself actually talking to Delores and wanting to do so – before heading to a bar with Betty (who makes a brief comment about being restless, unable to sit still) where there’s a drunken Irishman, a birthday party and dancing on the bar. Betty takes the happy man’s picture, with everyone around him laughing and clapping and George reaps his soul, touching his foot –before the mounted sword fish impales him.

Outside the lead the soul to his happy place – a white image of the Cliffs of Dover and Betty talks again about jumping and not worrying about the landing. As he moves off, Betty makes a decision – she gives George her ring (the one she dug out of her coffin) and asks George to take her picture – then joins the man on the top of his cliffs – and jumps with him, piggy backing the ride. Betty disappears with the soul.

In the Waffle House, Rube is shaken by an earthquake only he can feel. It’s also felt outside in a field by Mason – who buries the old woman himself. Rube has also left a little note for MJ on his sister’s door.

In the Waffle House, Georgia fights tears asking Rube about Betty. Georgia edits Millie’s history – she didn’t have an older brother, she had an older sister. A fearless older sister. She asks why she keeps losing the people she cares about and Rube tells her that’s what life is.

To the scrapbooking meeting where Georgia shows her own – a book of photos of people who are Mysterious and Reassuring, just like Betty. Of course, apparently photoalbums are a big no-no with scrapbooking.

Rube leaves a note to his mysterious superior asking “what happened to her?” George puts her frog in her new terranium (the frog has been an ongoing death metaphor), and a photo of Betty into her album.

Last week I complained that I was at my limit of George screwing up episodes – and lo, the writers seemed to have perfectly balanced that and moved on. I loved how they managed to give us so much information about Betty, the sense of her and who she was without actually passing on that much information. Just seeing her through the flashbacks and George’s eyes really revealed her as a person and made her jump seem that much more realistic

I think part of this is conveyed so well through the very excellent acting in the series. It’s very understated and often lost under the weight of the very excellent snark, but it’s there and definitely of a high calibre – George’s grief, Mason’s respect and bond with the irascible old woman and Betty’s whimsy were all extremely well done and presented

Despite that, even the poked casual racism wasn’t needed – and I think the use of addiction as a flyaway comedy point with Delores was unneeded and part of the very dismissive portrayal we often see.