In the first episode of the second season of Slings & Arrows, it all falls apart. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Slings & Arrows.
Trigger Warning: For brief discussion of ableism
I’ll repeat what I said on video: this season starts at such an unexpected place, but I really enjoy how surprising this was. I went into this believing that “Season’s End” would be the next season’s beginning, and I realize how hilarious that sentence is. LOOK, I DID NOT KNOW THE TITLE OF THIS EPISODE. Without that context, this was a shocker. I expected Jack to be gone, I expected to move directly into the production of the next year of the festival, and I expected… well, not this.
I’m so glad I got this. LET’S DISCUSS.
Ah, the beauty of serialized storytelling. I love that this premiere anchors us in the ramifications of what Richard did. You can’t deny that. He opens this whole season with the fallout from turning on Holly. Holly’s corporation revoked their sponsorship, the festival has lost nearly a third of all funding, and Richard has been effectively begging for money around town. His character growth from the last season has still stuck, though, and you get this great sense that while he does understand the need for his job, he also doesn’t want to dilute what Geoffrey, the cast, and the production team has actually done. Gone is his incessant need to remind Geoffrey that the festival is a business. He does do it in his own way when he drunkenly confronts Geoffrey about it, but the context is different this time around. It’s a scene that bleeds vulnerability, not condescension. Richard is desperate for an answer to his problem, and he needs one that doesn’t repeat the same mistakes he made in the previous season. Well, not all of them. While the context is different, he’s still grossly offensive. This time around, it’s disabled people and the Paraolympics! At the very least, it’s called out immediately when he spews his garbage, so… yay? I guess?
The point I was building to is that there’s a conscious effort on his part to try and do things differently. Which I appreciate! I think that is an important way of acknowledging the past while moving into the future. Thus, Richard’s desperation is twofold: he needs to raise more money—and he may have to turn to the Canadian government for that—and he needs to regain the confidence of the team again. That latter issue crops up when he’s at the party to celebrate the end of the season. It… does not go as he plans? Which is an understatement, of course, but at least he finally apologized. Not to everyone, mind you, as only about a quarter of that bar was actually listening to him. But it’s a start, right? It’s something. He’s got a lot more to make up if he’s gonna win these people over.
Endings and Beginnings
Because of the nature of when this episode is situated, there’s a lot that the writers get to play with around the concept of endings and beginnings, and it’s one of the reasons I enjoyed this as much as I did. As the season ends, these characters have to contend with what just passed and what comes next. The final performance is a matinee, and the crowd is full of some of the worst possible types of people in the theater: the disinterested student who is forced to go to the show. (Well, then there’s the woman who apparently died, but I don’t blame her for that, SHE WAS VERY OLD, SHE DIED WATCHING SOMETHING I HOPE SHE LOVED.) Geoffrey, who cannot leave anything alone ever, pesters his actors with notes during the middle of the show. (Which I did not know is not allowed per union rules! I’M LEARNING THINGS.) And then, when it’s all over, the threat of a new season hangs over them all. Will Geoffrey stay on? Will Kate remain behind while Jack goes on to Hawaii to film his next movie? What sort of roles will Ellen get in the coming productions, and will Geoffrey’s presence keep her entertained or tormented?
The relationships are absolutely a part of this, too. The parallel is undeniable as well, though it’s not the same parallel we saw in the previous episode. What life is there outside the theater? Can you separate the two, as Jack and Kate try to do, or are they married in a much more metaphorical sense? That notion of compartmentalization is so important to what unfolds here! For Ellen, there is no separation between her personal life and her acting, and it’s what she struggles with in her relationship with Sloane. He’s able to put these two parts of his life in separate boxes, but she can’t. Neither can Geoffrey! And it’s not hard to see why both of them are drawn to one another; this line between professional and personal has long been blurred between them. Their art has to be personal to work.
Kate, on the other hand, struggles with this in an entirely different way. She’s living the dream. After Claire was taken out of Hamlet, Kate got to play the part of a lifetime and now, in the upcoming season, she’s been asked to play Juliet. Her dream is coming true… right at the same time someone she loves is leaving and has asked her to give up that dream. Look, I honestly thought I knew where this was going. Kate would stress over this decision, but in the end, she’d choose her career over the potential happiness she’d find with Jack. I mean, she wouldn’t leave the show in the first episode of the season, right?
WOW, WAS I WRONG. Again, I’m fascinated that we got this at the start of the season. In so many ways, the finale was unraveled… sort of? I don’t know where Kate’s relationship is going, and I don’t know if she’s actually going to get on that flight to Hawaii. It looks very much like she is, which is a shocker. But it happens because of Ellen. Without Ellen’s presence, she wouldn’t have pursued her own happiness. But… is she happy? Is that shot of her in the limo meant to inspire hope in us, or is Kate still wondering if she made the right decision?
That mystery, regardless of whether Kate is in the next episode or not, hangs over this whole premiere. Is it the right decision for Ellen to dump Sloane? (I feel like that’s an easy answer: YES. OH MY GOD, THEY ARE SO MISMATCHED.) Is it the right decision for Ellen and Geoffrey to rekindle their relationship, seven years after it ended so suddenly? (That I am unsure of; they seem happy, but there’s so much work that goes into being in a longstanding relationship. Are they willing to do the work?) Is staging Macbeth inviting the curse of the Scottish tragedy upon the New Burbage Festival? HOW QUICKLY WILL THIS TRAINWRECK ARRIVE?
The video for “Season’s End” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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