In the fourth episode of the first season of Slings & Arrows, everyone must deal with the aftermath of… well, a lot of things. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Slings & Arrows.
Trigger Warning: For discussion of sex, fatphobia, transphobia (particularly transmisogyny, and mental illness
Oh my god, this is like a non-stop train wreck, and I absolutely cannot look away.
I really do feel like the bulk of this episode concerns the after: What happens after Darren and Geoffrey’s fight? How does the fallout from it affect the production of Hamlet? How can Geoffrey face the fears that are causing him to lash out so spectacularly at the people around him? What do Holly and Richard see in this event that they can exploit?
I’m now certain that this is what Holly and Richard had in mind after their trip to Toronto. Indeed, the two of them—but especially Holly—see the chaos wrought by Geoffrey, and they use it to their advantage. Holly knows that she can push the narrative that Geoffrey is unstable and a risk to the New Burbage Festival, and I imagine that if she had gotten her way, she would turn the fest and the theater into something more commercial, more accessible, and far more profitable. And what better way to do that than to sell the board on the idea that Geoffrey is costing them money? (Which he probably was to some extent, and I don’t want to ignore exactly what May says here: Geoffrey kind of handed them this.)
However, this “coup,” as May refers to it, is not as successful as Holly or Richard wanted. I’m furious about the way May is treated this episode, but I’m less upset with Holly. It’s Richard who angers me because he’s worked with May for YEARS, and he threw her under the bus and lied to her face just so he could grab power and please Holly. Don’t get me wrong, I massively dislike Holly, too. That grossly transmisogynist line was just… ew, y’all. Writers, don’t do this shit. Trans women exist outside of your shitty jokes, and this stuff does nothing but contribute to their harm. But my dislike of Holly is because she’s an outsider who is changing the culture to her suiting. Richard is not an outsider in every sense. He’s worked for this theater/organization for a long, long time, he knows these people, and at the very least, he’s got a working relationship with all of them. Yet he still betrays them! And it infuriates me so much because he’s so detached from the reality of their day-to-day struggles and challenges.
Again, it’s not like Geoffrey helps make this better, at least not initially. His fight with Darren is egotistical and violent and messy and lands the festival in a wave of negative, ridiculing press. (BASIL, YOU’RE NOT HELPING, EITHER.) But it’s here that Oliver plays a role that is—surprise, surprise!!—undeniably Shakespearean. From beyond the grave, he forces Geoffrey to an epiphany, one that is seven years in the making. I love those scenes in the jail because it almost doesn’t matter whether Geoffrey is really a ghost or if he is a manifestation caused by Geoffrey’s mental illness. I mean, it always matters what kind of stories we tell and what tropes we use. Of the two options, I’m generally a huge fan of ghosts as narrative devices, but I actually like the latter reading more. As Geoffrey vocalizes in “Outrageous Fortune,” Oliver only seems to show up under times of duress, so I like the idea that this is all Geoffrey’s mind forcing him to deal with years of unresolved issues and trauma. Like, the guy is literally triggered back to his nervous breakdown while he’s in that cell. There’s so much he needs to deal with!
So the aftermath of this for Geoffrey initially involves Ellen and the disastrous end of their relationship. (I’m still interested to see what Geoffrey meant by Oliver “screwing” Ellen. Did he mean that literally or did Oliver screw her over?) I don’t think Oliver’s wrong at all: Geoffrey still feels like he “owns” Ellen, that he desires her so badly that he picked a fight with Darren for insulting her. The writers parallel this with Sloane, and I found it hilarious that it took Geoffrey a while to realize that he’s no better and no different than Sloane. Both of them have done foolish, violent things out of their love for Ellen. I’m curious if Ellen ever treated Geoffrey like she does Sloane, though. She never quite seems as interested in him as he is in her. What little we’ve seen of Ellen/Geoffrey, though, was very, very intense, you know?
Anyway, I’m glad that Geoffrey is starting to make amends, even if he isn’t doing the best job at it. He apologizes to Ellen for a number of things. (But not enough, of course; that’s going to take a lot of time.) He fires Darren, who is gracious not to have to do Hamlet anyway. (HE’S THE WORST, OH MY GOD.) He apologizes to May, who put her reputation on the line in order to recommend him. And then he reclaims the stage. Is he going to succeed under all that pressure? I don’t know! Oliver appears briefly once Geoffrey begins directing, so clearly Geoffrey is stressed. But for the first time since Oliver appeared, Geoffrey ignored him.
Maybe that’s a good sign???
Which leaves us with one more story about the aftermath: Kate and Jack. I do wanna voice a bit of criticism about that line where Jack admits he had braces and “was fat,” and then Kate says that he was clearly a loser in high school. Hi, maybe don’t do that? That doesn’t even feel particularly in character for Kate. Jack, maybe. He comes off as more insensitive as she does, but regardless, the line feels excessively cruel towards fat people, you know? Anyway, I also feel VERY ANGRY at Claire’s comment toward Kate because WOW, it’s both mean and projecting? Like, how are you gonna tell Kate that maybe she should just get good at acting when YOU ARE SUCH A HAM ACTRESS YOURSELF.
But Kate’s reaction to sleeping with Jack is so REAL, y’all, and it’s such a great addition to the stories we’re getting this season. Kate’s struggles have all been so personal, and it’s refreshing to see that. Dating within your own peer group is hard enough, but within your industry? Oh, lord! On top of that, Kate has to deal with the sexist attitudes of the people around her. If the two were reversed, would Jack be accused of sleeping his way to the top? Or would he be seen as being ambitious and clever? (THE LATTER.) So yes, she does have to think about these things because they can absolutely affect her career. MY HEART HURTS FOR KATE.
Whew, this show is a LOT, and I’m having a fantastic time. LET’S GO, I WANT MORE.
The video for “Outrageous Fortune” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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