Mark Watches ‘Slings & Arrows’: S02E06 – Birnam Wood

In the sixth and final episode of the second season of Slings & Arrows, the play must go on, and Geoffrey unleashes one final tactic in order to get the version he wants. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Slings & Arrows. 

Trigger Warning: For discussion of manipulation.

I liked most of this finale, but it does drop the ball on two of the subplots. LET US DISCUSS.


I expected that “Birnam Wood” would deal with the fallout from Anna and Lionel, given that things left off at such an uncomfortable place. Lionel had promised to shelve the play that he’d written based off of Anna, but then ran after a producer who wanted to stage it off-Broadway. So, that’s a pretty awkward decision to make, and yet? “Birnam Wood” addresses nothing between these two. We just see them making out in the office, and that’s it? So, she’s not mad about what he did? Their relationship is fine? I didn’t feel like there was any realistic sense of closure in the previous episode, so I’m confused. Why drop this plotline entirely? Why not address any of this?

Romeo & Juliet

I’m guessing that the writers did not see Patrick’s realization as all that big of a deal. There’s nothing wrong with a person realizing that they are bi or pan, but there’s not really a sense that this is what’s happened here. Once Patrick falls for Sarah, he stops acting gay. He stops talking to all his gay friends. By all appearances, it’s not sexual fluidity on display. It looks like he became straight. Granted, there’s still the same problem as before: this is a subplot. We get markedly less than other plot lines.

I can accept that. However, I felt really weird about where this story went. I tried looking for a reason that all this happened, and it appears that this episode finally grants us that. It’s Sarah and Patrick’s young love—coupled with Geoffrey’s manipulative display—that convinces Darren that his production is wrong. That has an unintended message, but a real unnerving one: Patrick had to stop being gay to save the play. Which I don’t think anyone sat down to write! I don’t feel malice in any part of it, and it’s clear these two actors have IMMENSE chemistry with one another. It’s just such an unfortunate turn because those two kissing on stage, in front of everyone, had to happen to give Darren his epiphany. 

At least Darren finally relented and staged a production of Romeo & Juliet that cared about the play! So that’s good. But I expect we won’t see these characters again in season three, and that’s why I wanted to bring this up.


Look, I get why Geoffrey did what he did. Henry’s character was one obsessed with comfort. His career was based on a safe, but entertaining craft. People like him, and for someone like Henry, losing that was tantamount to complete failure. I still think Brian was right: Henry was terrified of doing anything that ruined his image, one he had meticulously crafted. Plus, there was that issue with his GIGANTIC EGO, so we can’t forget that. 

At the same time… hoisting nightmares upon your actors without their consent is very, very, very creepy. And there’s a long line of white male directors who do this sort of thing to get their actors into the right “spirit” for a role. Is Henry an asshole? Yes. Was changing his entrances petty and satisfying? Oh, 100%. Did it give us all a better performance, the sort of flawed-but-human version of Macbeth that Geoffrey wanted? Definitely! But having an actor be nude for a scene without his consent is really a step too far, and so, despite not liking Henry at all, I get why he punched Geoffrey. Geoffrey may have made the scene and the play better, but he also humiliated Henry and implicated Ellen in it, too. 

But I do get the sense that we’re supposed to feel this way about Geoffrey, that he may have produced a fantastic piece of art and he’s still miserable. There’s a tenderness to that misery, especially since season two, with all its ups and downs, was about so many people in that same state. Anna was for a while, and Richard definitely was, too. What sort of cost do you pay when you produce art for the world, but you are fundamentally unhappy? For Ellen, she’s dealing with the reality of aging out of an industry when she has no other skills. (The audit scenes really highlighted that reality.) Geoffrey’s story rings so true for me as a tale of someone struggling to create while having a mental illness. Richard has dreams of leaving the world of finances and accounting and business to be in musical theater, but sometimes, you don’t get to live out your dream. 

What do you do when you’re miserable?

You keep going. If anything, I felt like season two of this show was much more coherent than the last one, and while I had a few minor issues with is, it’s about people trying so very hard to be happy. Did they succeed at that? Well, Ellen and Geoffrey are at least willing to give it another try. They did their best, and that means that sometimes, they failed. Spectacularly. But I have a thing for characters who fail, get back up, try again, fail some more, and then… keep going. Does that mean they’ll fix everything in season three? Oh, most definitely not. I hope Geoffrey remains the artistic director; I hope Ellen finds ways to cope with her own fears better; I hope we see Brian again. I suspect Oliver isn’t done with Geoffrey either. But as a whole, this was just… incredible. Truly, this show feels so achingly real at times, and it’s treat to journey through it.


The video for “Birnam Wood” can be downloaded here for $0.99.

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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