IR TV Review: DIRTY JOHN – THE BETTY BRODERICK STORY – EPISODE 5 (“Scream Therapy”) [USA]

The further detriment that visits Betty Broderick in the wake of her husband breaking down her resolve reveals something nihilistic in the bran of Dan Broderick. The essence of his two faced conniving personifications to his ex-wife maybe are meant to be a reflection of America at the time. With Episode 5 of “Dirty John: The Betty Broderick Story”, “Scream Therapy”, the progression of Betty’ s path to possible redemption which skews to a wanton path of destruction is undeniable. Even without full support, she almost finds her way almost to balanced ground. There is however an imbalance and lack of control. The downfall is not primarily or even remotely her fault. it is a world bought out of Dan’s belief that he is right. He only admits at one point in an earlier episode that he is wrong and what is interesting there is that he seems almost on a mission to show that he was not. It as if his truth was a victory when in actually it shows that she is the victor but she doesn’t have the tools or a feeling of focused vengeance…hers is uncontrolled. Dan Broderick’s new girlfriend has her own issues (as she displayed in an earlier situation). Her parents didn’t want her to be a homewrecker but she is just worried what the outside thinks. Once she is inside the den, she doesn’t care. At a certain point inside a therapist’s office Betty asks that question in “Is anybody else asking about the well being of the children but me?” It is a dark place that Betty exists with no money, and no support. Even worse there are summons against her because she cannot control her rage. While it is a hopeful element that she might be able to find a power base, she makes small understandable mistakes that undermine er position.

The situation is vicious and immovable. It is a tale of love lost and love rebuked. As much as Dan does, Betty still harbors some love for him which is why it makes no sense to her as to why he would shun and destroy her so. This series has been dramatized but it is hard to think that someone would be this cruel to the mother of his children and then manipulate their minds (especially one son) into the idea that his mother was always disturbed. This is, of course, a reflection back to code cinema in certain ways of the metaphor of what is right just because society deems an action at the time as acceptable as long as it is swept under the carper. However in the modern age it might be a Shakespearean metaphor on the inherent unfairness that reigns in some circles. “Scream Therapy” is just that: the continuation of Betty’s maddening decent into oblivion is based not so much on her mistakes but her blindness to the lousy and cruel person her husband has become. Slater plays that darkness as light for all its worth and that is part of the charm of why the character can continue to function. But like the title namesake of “Mr. Robot”, Slate understands the necessity of a villain as the dark specter who simply turns the knob a little but more against his opponent each time.

B-

By Tim Wassberg

IR TV Review: AMERICAN DAD – EPISODE 9 (“Game Night”) [TBS-S17]

The inherent buffoonery of Stan Smith knows no bounds. That is why the slightly differently structured episode “Game Night” brings into perspective an idea of the subconscious inside Stan’s head: lost but with instincts that overcome his ignorance. While there are elements of “The Game” but also the undeniable hark to “Labyrinth” with Patrick Stewart’s CIA Chief as Bowie, the idea is metaphorical in many ways but inherent in why Stan is the way he is. His family lets him win game night over and over again because he become mean and violent when he doesn’t win. But like when he is nursed back to health by Francine in an earlier episode, it is all black and white with Stan, no gray. He therapy leads his family into a huge maze his boss created filled with beasts and puzzles of which he has no clue how to solve. Without giving away the progression of the plot, the different rooms can represent a breakdown of Stan’s walls of perception but instead of that, it becomes a creature feeding on itself. The side story with Roger trying to unlock the secrets of making foie grae with his geese friends perfectly mirrors this. “Game Night” as an episode of “American Dad” is a story of gluttony that destroys an empire from inside. Stan ultimately sees somewhat the errors of his ways but it is locked inside his mind. He can’t see the writing on the wall even when it is read to him.

B

By Tim Wassberg

IR TV Review: PENNY DREADFUL – CITY OF ANGELS – EPISODE 9 (“Sing Sing Sing”) [Showtime]

The aspect of acceptance and continuing are a blend on the idea of what can be and what is inevitable. Does the texture of possibility allow for fate to be changed or is it simply the human endeavor. Is it the crux of fate or whether life turns out the way it is supposed to be or where life sets itself. With Episode 10 of Penny dreadful City Of Angels entitled “Sing Sing Sing,” it is about this collision of life converting on a single place. In this episode without giving too much away, it is The Crimson Cat which was the pinnacle of energy in the series as the focal point. It is the swing music club in the heart of Chicano territory Like The Gym in “West Side Story”, it is the place where one sees all the colors flying through but the emotions played in one structure. While the flow is not as vivacious as that earlier episode, the character work that is done in one specific scene is undeniable. Without giving too much away, it revolves around to identity and family and how that changes over time. This dynamic is very rich but there is always strife right behind it. The secondary stories in the episode are still chumming along but the aspect of acceptance in the reverse is a double edged sword (which is what is playing out on the flip side). This is true, without giving anything away in the inter-cutting because of the kettle that is brewing.

But what is interesting is that there is a moment’s hesitation from one of the key characters, a slip in the fabric. The aspect of coincidence as it builds to The Crimson is undeniable. While it works well, there is a slight bit of magic missing from that earlier episode, a sense of the cinematic. but the characters were in different places. Forgiveness and acceptance are the backbones here now and what can be believed. Faith and a sense of duty is an interesting conundrum for the Vega family. As much as the Goddess Of Darkness wants to pull them apart, there is a sense of decency to them. The problem is that too much pressure leads to an spark point which this episode does have. One very nice coda plays in a small scene of one of the titans of LA. His perspective gives a voice to the actuality of what is going on, supernatural or not. Progress , good or bad, is inevitable…and whoever wins is dependent on a sense of worth and will.

B

By Tim Wassberg

IR TV Review: THE CHI – EPISODE 1 (“Foe ‘Nem”) [Showtime-S3]

The aspect of peace versus a sense of inevitability seems to flow through the heart of the S3 premiere of “The Chi” entitled “Foe ‘Dem”. The idea revolves around a community with so much loss being tested interrelated with a procession of joy. Writer Lena Waithe knows the classical structure of tragedy versus light but placing that idea within this Chicago neighborhood makes it all the more rich when the stakes are revealed. She also integrates the idea of relationship, young and old, straight or gay which gives the story even more universality. In an age still buried in certain toxic traits balance with enlightenment, it is a matter of how each family and each person deals in their own way, through hardships, successes and failures. People are finding their way here while others fall back into a sense of normalcy and habit whatever that may be. The dark criminal drama is unfolding underneath it all but it doesn’t play like dread but instead just a reflection of normalcy and a way of life. The wedding, especially with its unusual family, plays with the right beats although the foreshadowing leads to a bad possibility, but not from the exact direction one would think.

Behavioral tendencies are universal while situations are different. There is a speech during a funeral that is utterly rich because of its stark truth to the lady speaking it but what Waithe does is balance it with the smaller conversations whether it be on the sea wall outside a wedding or with kids hanging out in the afternoon. The scenes are not based in sentimentality but an authentic air. The words, especially in some of the darker scenes, seem a bit stilted but work. The idea speaks to the alphas and the betas but also those characters that filter in between trying to get ahead. Like any city or community, there are joys and heartache but this sector of Chicago and its lives have its fair share of heartache. Many are struggling to get out. Many return to find that this being their home, they need to fight for it and risks need to be taken. As the episode ends the idea of stakes continue despite best intentions for a peaceful resolution because of the essence of human nature.

B-

By Tim Wassberg