Friday, September 20, 2013

Dead Like Me, Season 2, Episode 4: Shallow End

Oh dear, we open with George voice-overing about how everyone wants to know they’re loved – or whether people even like them. This episode is going to be sickeningly twee or very angst laden. Or both. Get your vomit bags ready.

To reassure young George of that question, Joy decided to take the insecure girl to swim day. Reminding us that Joy, bless her heart, tries very very hard but doesn’t always get it right. Still, uncool 10 year old George at least can look down on even less cool Beth-Ann.

And in the present poor Joy is having similar difficulties with Reggie, who also doesn’t fit in, has no interest in doing so and has a razor sharp tongue to go with it.

To the Waffle House where everyone is delightfully random – bouncing off each other so incredibly well covering withholding love to make people desperate for your attention, how Roxy scares people and Mason playing with pepper spray.

And a messy Reap ends up with George going into work covered in bloodstains, much to her work colleague’s consternation. And to her consternation, her computer has been hacked by Neo-Nazis in Oregon now using it to send out mass mailers; she has Ethan, the nice IT guy, to fix it but in the meantime feels the need to convince everyone she isn’t a Nazi. On the plus side she does gain a super intelligent and efficient lackey in Ethan – she tries to figure out why and realises that her keeping him at arm’s length and reacting with panicky violence probably counts as “withholding love” to encourage people to want you.

She revels in the sudden power and popularity that comes from being an arsehole. Especially since being a nice girl never got her anything (though it has to be said the sarcastic George was never what you might consider a fluffy person). And she even laces into Crystal – ooh she’ll regret that.

George starts to have second thoughts about the whole being mean thing, though she’s not sold on niceness; especially when Delores tells her that Ethan just quit.

Meanwhile Daisy has a reap in a plastic surgery clinic, where her self-confidence makes her a little out of place among the enraged fighting women in the waiting room and the trans woman, Stan, waiting surgery who is, alas, her Reap when caught in the cross fire of thrown high heel shoes. Daisy is there to provide lots of comfort and they go to church together. At church Stan rants and curses at god and tries to throw a bible at the cross, incensed by her own exclusion. Stan asks Daisy to throw the Bible, but she refuses. Daisy urges Stan to pray and Stan says “I’m willing to forgive him, but I want him to say sorry first.” The stain glass window breaks and Daisy runs outside to chase off the kids who threw a rock. Stan’s trip to the afterlife arrives in front of the window, in the form of a figure robed in light opening their arms to Stan.

And Mason has a Reap at a pool – and didn’t bring a swim suit and makes do with his underwear – not that it matters because all the other men at the pool are naked. And elderly and with unbelievably huge balls. And said naked man has a wish to go to his own funeral and making Mason’s life difficult. Mason takes him to the Waffle House to traumatise George and get Rube to talk to him – though Roxy criticises him for not taking care of the problem himself. Mason joins Rube talking to the man – and continuing the theme of caring whether other people like them or not. He takes over from Rube and convinces the man to move on – to see his dead wife.

And Joy takes Reggie shopping which involves lots of eye rolling and avoiding Joy. Who gets herself a make over, not that Reggie is supportive of course – but she does end up in the clutches of an excellent sales woman. Reggie transforms herself, but when she returns to the shop she finds the shop assistant using exactly the same lines on another gullible, insecure girl.

We continue George’s flashback of being an insecure girl swimming, she refuses to bully Beth Ann, the “weird girl” in order to be popular and even tries to make friends. But Beth Ann pushes her into the pool, seeking that popularity of being mean – and George, not a strong swimmer, nearly drowns (even seeing gravelings, though one stops the other from acting).

The scene with Stan in the church was one of the most powerful Dead Like Me has ever produced – one of the most powerful any of our shows have produced. Stan’s rage, fury, over feeling rejected by god, of the prejudice and hatred spread by the church was incredibly powerful. Even while Stan’s ascension brought her the same joy the other Reaped souls have felt, we had that overt acknowledgement and incredible emotional power of the damage and misery the prejudice has caused.

We’re beginning to see some more character development on a more subtle level. Daisy is becoming steadily less shallow and more spiritual; I’m not entirely sure how comfortable I am with that since Daisy’s character is often represented by sexual hijinks – to have her go from sexual to spiritual feels like an implied condemnation of her sexuality. Still, it’s not just her growing attachment to religion, but she’s also growing kinder, more caring.

Mason is also growing stronger, an ongoing theme from the first episode this season. But I think they need to address the fact he is an alcoholic who has fallen off the wagon rather than just keeping the character the same – even growing – while falling back into alcoholism.

George… I don’t know; every episode is about her and lessons she learned but it doesn’t seem to add up to an overall character growth. In fact, if anything she is less mature this season than last season – but in part that’s because George is angrier this season.