In the twelfth and penultimate episode of Wonderfalls, Jaye gets a message from something that’s not an inanimate animal. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Wonderfalls.
Well. That happened.
- I don’t know that I feel as strongly about this as I did about “Buffalo Muffin,” but there are a few issues in “Totem Mole” which prevent me from truly ever enjoying this episode.
- In part, it’s place strangely in the episode order. How do you go from “Cocktail Bunny” to this? This feels like it should be earlier in the season, you know? It’s not that I need every show I watch to be highly serialized, either. It’s been nice to watch shows that sort of do their own thing episode-to-episode. But after the emotional turmoil from the the previous story, it seems strange that none of that pops up here.
- This episode also treats Native Americans in a bizarre and probably racist manner, and I can’t parse how I feel about what I just watched. It’s nice that there are a ton of characters of color present and that an entire story was devoted to them. There are purposeful efforts to destroy stereotypes and tropes, and through Bill Hooten, we get a portrait of a man unsure of what his identity is within an ethnic minority. There’s commentary and criticism of exploitation and prejudice, and then…. Lord. I don’t know. This episode is both respectful and entirely derogatory of the same group of people. Like, in one instance, the writers are poking fun at boycotts that protest racist imagery in children’s toys, but then a character is admitting that they are racist? So which is it?
- I just don’t understand why two people wrote this and thought that it made sense? Or wasn’t offensive? Like… y’all made up a fictional tribe, attached a mish-mash of actual traditions and totally stereotypical ones, and then made one person’s journey entirely about opening up a casino? Am I supposed to believe that whatever force in the universe “chose” Jaye really wanted the Satsuma to build a casino? That’s it???
- Ultimately, I think that grates me more than anything. It’s like the writers started to try to do something thoughtful, and then just gave up and threw in every stereotype they could find. I mean, this episode literally features a nasty, self-centered woman of color being super mean to a white lady just because. There is no resolution to her story that makes any sense! And if you’re not familiar with it, it’s a very common racist trope to pit evil and mean women of color against totally reasonable white women in fiction and in real life. So what gives? Why does this episode feel so disjointed?
- I guess it’s even more frustrating when you think about how great it is that “Totem Mole” is used to explore what it means for Jaye to be “chosen.” My god, that scene in the end where Bill and Jaye lay on the cot and discuss purpose is fantastic. It’s totally revelatory for Jaye, who comes to understand that maybe she should stop referring to this power she has as a burden. The universe has given her a purpose, and as ambiguous as that purpose might be, there are so many people who feel listless and aimless in life, who desire a sign from anyone or anything that would help them feel like they matter in life.
- It’s difficult for me to write about being disappointed in a show because I’ve been so lucky to be recommended a ridiculous number of shows that I’ve liked and loved dearly. But this just isn’t good, and Jaye’s interactions with Bill don’t save the episode from feeling lackluster and exploitative.
- Also, just a casual reminder that the writers named this fictional tribe after either a citrus-y fruit or a land snail.
- Sigh. The lord is testing me.
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