In the fourth episode of the second season of Dead Like Me, OH MY GOD. OHMYGOD. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Dead Like Me.
oh my gods
- OKAY, WE’LL TALK ABOUT THE THING AT THE END OF THIS, I SWEAR.
- (Now all I hear in my head is Lemongrab shrieking WHO DID THE THING.)
- See, this episode is why Dead Like Me can be compelling and thoughtful, and this episode is why I totally understand how affectionate people feel about the show. I don’t think the show is all that consistent in quality, but when it’s great? It is great.
- This is an examination in being shallow, in going for the lowest common denominator just to feel accepted. I’m surprised that the writers didn’t draw more parallels to the way the other reapers treat one another, because I think every character aside from Betty has used rudeness and being mean to get what they want.
- Anyway, “The Shallow End” is framed by a flashback in which George refuses to be mean to a girl named Beth-Ann at a local public pool when she was younger. Coming off of “Ghost Story,” which showed us how George is coming to terms with always being an outsider, I really appreciated how this episode felt in terms of continuity. If George wants to start feeling desired and wanted, then how does she go about doing that?
- Enter: Ethan. Ethan, who is clearly harboring a crush of some sort on George, is a pushover, and George exploits that as soon as she realizes she can use the young man to help herself. It’s something she learned partly by accident and partly because of the way her reaper friends have treated her. And while those people influenced her, ultimately, what she does to Ethan is her fault. And super fucked up. Like, super fucked up. Withholding affection works for a while, and George discovers just how much she can manipulate and control Ethan, but at what cost? Eventually, she gets to a point where she’s just outright abusing the guy at work, and how is that a good thing to do to a person? Then she takes that attitude and utilizes it on other people at the office. Like Crystal. Which is a bad idea. Oh my god, George, WHY DID YOU EVER THINK BEING RUDE TO CRYSTAL WAS A GOOD IDEA? Have you already forgotten your epic prank battle with her from the last season? Crystal is ruthless, and you do not cross her. EVER.
- At the end of this, George drives Ethan away. The dude resigns because his treatment is so bad. I know that the show definitely portrayed this as a negative ramification of George’s behavior, but I kind of felt like they could have done a bit more to say, “WOW, THIS IS REALLY FUCKED UP.” I didn’t get the sense that there’d be any lasting effects for George. Ethan is gone, and that’s the end of it.
- Using that as a jumping point, I’m also disappointed that the writers didn’t use the most obvious character here to elaborate on this theme. How the hell are you going to have an episode focused on people who are mean and rude to everyone AND NOT TALK ABOUT ROXY? She is the queen of smashing people’s hopes and dreams. (And for that matter, so is Rube in a way.) But you know, I don’t think it’s all that ~radical~ to suggest that this show is doing what many other shows in America do: rarely use their side characters of color. Astrid from Fringe, anyway? I get the same vibe here. You have this rich, interesting, and tragic character sitting there, she gets a single episode devoted to her, and then she’s just background noise for all the white characters in every episode. It felt more gratuitous in this episode because of the subject matter, too!
- Still, I really enjoyed this episode. I was happy to spend more time with Joy and Reggie, who are both trying to explore their own identities amidst a divorce. Plus, they’re two characters who use rudeness or sarcasm as a defense mechanism. (Is it any surprise that Joy, Reggie, and George are all related? IT SHOULDN’T BE.) It fits so well! So “The Shallow End” follows them as they spend a day in the mall, trying to redefine themselves through their physical appearance. I didn’t actually feel like the writers were trying to say that what these two women were doing was shallow, though, given the title. It was more about how desperate they felt to make some sort of progress away from the emotional weight of the last year of their life. Reggie latched on to an older girl who was kind to her, probably projecting her sister all over her. She felt special because the sales associate gave her such positive attention. Joy, on the other hand, uses retail as a form of therapy to make herself feel beautiful. And holy shit, it works. She looked INCREDIBLE, she got hit on, and she rejected the asshole who hits on her in less than five seconds. She is in control, and it is awesome. Granted, it doesn’t solve her problems, but it provides her with a reprieve from all the self-hatred and negativity.
- Reggie doesn’t find such release, though, and HOLY HEARTBREAK, IT’S NOT FAIR. 🙁
- And then there’s Daisy. I don’t know if the portrayal of a transsexual woman here is offensive or not to the community, so I’m not going to speak on it. I’d rather hear what others who are actually affected by it think. I will say that I appreciate that Daisy is not condescending, rude, or dismissive to Stan at any point here. She does her best to comfort her reap instead, and it’s helping me to really respect her growth as a character. Honestly, she’s gotten the best treatment from the writers in terms of character development on the show.
- Which is not to ignore the fact that Mason also impresses me in “The Shallow End.” After he reaps an older man (who refuses to put clothes on the entire episode), he surprises me and Rube when he is remarkably sensitive and kind at the end. Mason’s often portrayed as being haphazard in everything, so it’s nice to see that he can stop and appreciate the role he plays in the lives of the souls he reaps. He nearly relied on Rube to solve his problem in getting the man to not go to his own funeral, but he found the words to get the man to move on to his next life. That was awesome.
- All right, let’s talk about it. I thought I understood the nature of the flashbacks once it was revealed that Beth-Ann was the one to actually push George into the pool. But I’d been fooled during the old man’s death sequence. The writers cleverly hid the appearance of a graveling hand in the pool’s drain amidst that scene, getting us to think that we were glimpsing the man’s oncoming death. Nope. That was in George’s flashback. The opening image of her floating in the pool, eyes wide open? SHE WAS STARING AT THE GRAVELINGS WHO HAD COME TO TAKE HER. I mean, there’s no confirmation that she actually saw them, but you could clearly see one graveling whisper something to the other one. Oh my god, does this imply that they somehow knew she’d become a reaper? Does that mean reapers are chosen long before their actual deaths? OH GOD, WHAT A FASCINATING FINAL SCENE. I WANT TO KNOW MORE.
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