In the twenty-seventh episode of Monster, Richard is tempted, and Karl makes a big decision. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Monster.
Trigger Warning: For extended discussion of alcoholism, PTSD, and police brutality
HI WHAT THE FUCK, THIS EPISODE WAS SO MUCH!!! How did it get me to feel something for two BRAND NEW characters???? I’m overwhelmed.
Y’all, this is some of the best of the best when it comes to portrayals of both alcoholism and PTSD. I have an experience with PTSD that much more closely matches what we see on screen in “Proof.” With alcoholism? Not so much. I went cold turkey without therapy and have never really felt tempted in the nearly eighteen years since I stopped. (My 18th anniversary of being sober is coming up, by the way! It’s generally the weekend of Thanksgiving that I use to celebrate it.) But I have friends who have described what we see here, and this show took great care to show us how physical and visceral both of these experiences have been and continue to be for Richard. Which is great on another level; I am a very, very rare exception as far as I know when it comes to being sober. Most people I’ve met and know of who have struggled do so for their whole lives, and details like the ones we see here—Richard’s physical response to watching another man swallow down alcohol—line up with what they’ve gone through, too.
And Richard is dealing with this on top of the ramifications from his previous drinking, the trauma that came with it, and the loss of his wife and child. “Proof” is often brutal in displaying these realities, such as when Richard’s meetings with his ex-wife are painfully awkward. She never seems all that interested in deep conversations with her ex, but I also wonder if she’s tired of having them. What if she’s also exhausted by Richard’s hope that his daughter will welcome him back into her life? I say that, but then we see her reaction when she must reveal that their daughter doesn’t want to see him at all. The look on her face is a lot closer to pity than anything else.
What’s brilliant about how this all unfolds is that this personal struggle absolutely informs the story as a whole. It matters that Richard used excessive force and murdered a suspect while drunk on duty. (And I caught that detail that the suspect was allegedly a serial killer. I bet that detail is going to be significant later.) His trauma over this act is another thing that is tied to the temptation to drink. But this specific case he’s been hired to work on hits so damn close to home! Here’s a man separated from his child, and Richard can’t seem to accept that the context of that separation is way different than what he’s dealing with. There’s that incredibly revealing line where he wonders why Karl won’t just tell Schuwald the truth. Why? Because all fathers want to be with their children. And while he ends up being correct about Schuwald’s desire, this told me way more about how Richard viewed his own situation. Y’all, this case is FUCKING HIM UP.
So… does the end of this episode mean that Richard isn’t on the case anymore? Will Schuwald even care about that other kid?
HI WHAT THE FUCK, THIS DESTROYED ME FROM A THOUSAND DIFFERENT ANGLES. Because it wasn’t enough that Karl accepted his foster parents; it wasn’t enough that he revealed the truth to Schuwald; JOHAN HAD TO BE THE ONE PULLING THE STRINGS THROUGHOUT. So my joy over Karl’s journey was immediately tempered because of what’s happening here that he’s entirely unaware of.
Of course, he has no idea, and there’s no reason for him to be suspicious of Johan at all. To him, he’s found a friend who allows him to be himself! To be honest! To share things about himself that he can’t share with others!!! And it makes sense to me that Karl would seek someone out like Johan during such a volatile time in his life. But I can’t ignore that this is yet another situation involving foster parents, which plays into Johan’s immensely fucked up M.O., and the way Johan gets details out of Karl makes me suspicious as hell. Why? Why choose Karl? Is this part of sick game that I don’t quite understand yet? Despite that, I can’t deny what a huge leap this episode is for Karl’s character. He accepts his foster parents as his real parents in an emotional scene near the midway point of “Proof.” From there, though, he also inches closer and closer to telling the truth to Mr. Schuwald. It’s interesting, of course, that Johan was the one to propel this forward. Karl did not seem angry that Johan had been the one to give Schuwald the rabbit’s foot. (I truly thought Johan was going to kill Karl and “replace” him.) Instead… lord. Y’all. Y’ALL. That scene where Karl reads to Schuwald for the “last” time and breaks down into tears because he knows he’s giving up this connection with his biological father? AND THEN SCHUWALD REVEALS THAT HE CALLED FROM A CELL PHONE OUTSIDE HIS ROOM??? JUST TEAR ME APART, OKAY.
But then there’s Johan, in the background. AGAIN. I truly can’t deny how happy it made me to see this reunion, but now Johan has inserted himself into this whole nightmare, and I DON’T GET WHY HE IS DOING THIS. I’m fucking SCARED, okay??? I feel like I’m on the edge of a cliff and Johan (ALL OF YOU) can’t wait to push me off. What the FUCK.
The video for “Proof” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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