In the seventh episode of Wonderfalls, Jaye helps a woman recover her past glory, only to discover that her glory might be a giant lie. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Wonderfalls.
And with just one episode, we’re back to the loveliness of Wonderfalls!
- In a sense, this episode reminded me of the examination of identity in “Karma Chameleon.” What makes us who we are? Is it what we do or is it how we’re perceived?
- “Barrel Bear” essentially says it’s both of these things, though it does so in that wacky, absurd way that makes this show charming.
- AND IT ALSO HAS RUE MCCLANAHAN AS A SPECIAL GUEST.
- I grew up on Golden Girls, y’all. I also didn’t understand half the jokes until I was about 17 or 18 and was rewatching the show with a friend, and I realized I’d been exposed to so many dirty jokes without knowing so. Bless.
- Anyway, this episode is the most regional one yet, specifically addressing the legacy attached to Niagara Falls. And it’s done in a way that speculates about what the actually means. Why is Niagara Falls such a huge tourist location? I’ve never been there, and yet I’ve known since I was a kid that people have tried to go over the falls in a barrel. It’s a ubiquitous association with the place! So how did it get that way? And what if that very legacy was actually built on a really heinous lie?
- This is what we come to learn about Millie Marcus’s past: Her manager screwed over Vivian Caldwell, replacing her with a much more conventionally attractive actress. With this one act, Vivian’s entire life is stolen from her. Which made the bear’s message all the more confusing for Jaye! “Give it back to her” changes its meaning once you factor in Vivian’s existence.
- The writers also manage to construct a complicated narrative about Eric, Mahandra, and Jaye, reflecting on their roles in Niagara Falls and the expectations they have about one another. On the surface, Mahandra’s insistence on supporting Millie might seem completely bizarre, but she’s reacting to Jaye’s secretive nature. The two were once very close to one another, but Mahandra hasn’t been able to ignore the fact that Jaye is constantly acting in contrast to her own nature. Mahandra knows her as someone who specifically acts in her own best interest, so what does it mean when she appears to be acting altruistically? Does she have a secret agenda? If so, why won’t she confide in her best friend anymore?
- Eric, on the other hand, is a character in transition, and it’s why he plays the role of the confused participant here. Who does he believe? Does he support the destruction of one’s past or the continued support of one’s future? This story is one giant metaphor for who he is after having abandoned his wife in Niagara Falls. (You know, until this episode, I didn’t truly understand the nature of Eric’s life. My god, he’s still married. I didn’t pick up on this! In my head, he’d already separated from his wife. No, he’s just ignoring her, which explains why she calls so often. If he wants to leave her, he hasn’t given her a divorce yet. Dude. Dude. Maybe you should take care of that before you move on?)
- Like “Karma Chameleon,” the guest characters must look at their own sense of self in light of a chaotic revelation of their present. Millie is vicious in the first half of this episode, which just makes it more of a feat that I’m able to like her by the end of “Barrel Bear.” She refuses to acknowledge that she’s ruined someone else’s life, instead taking a practical approach to what happened in the past. It’s for the best! No one would have liked Vivian anyway! I was destined for this life! No.
- What’s striking, then, is that despite that animals are telling Jaye what to do, she’s becoming so much better at genuinely helping people! As she tries to get Vivian to do something to reclaim her life, she is doing it all without any guidance. It’s something she’s naturally good at, but since she normally refuses to interact with most people without spitting hatred in their direction, she never knew this was the case.
- Which brings me to Jaye’s role in this whimsical episode: She essentially gets to talk to her future. The writers cleverly draw parallels between Vivian’s life and Jaye’s, allowing Jaye to glimpse what a static future is in store for her. As long as she refuses to shed the restraints keeping her in the greater Buffalo area at a job she hates, she’ll be stuck. Well, literally stuck, too.
- And I love that the show has been gradually pushing this message forward, because it makes me wonder if Jaye will try to change her life by the end of the show. Vivian did! Well… she stole Millie’s life. Her own life. Oh my god, my brain hurts. The absurd end to this story fits the absurd plot, and I really don’t question the logistics of it because I know it’ll fall apart.
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Mark Links Stuff
– The Mark Does Stuff Summer Tour is happening soon! Check out the posted dates, suggest new ones, help bring me to YOUR TOWN.
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