THIS IS THE THINKY BIT!!
So, why do I love this undeniably weird episode even though it was at times irritating and at other times just… not like an episode of Show?
Well, I didn’t at first. The first time I watched it I liked it just fine, I thought the premise was good but the execution could have been better. Then I started to think about it. I like thinking about things. The more I can think about something – and get new realisations every time – the more I like it. I love this episode because it has levels.
On its first level, it’s just what it appears to be – an amusing idea that shows us a little more of the characters by putting them in an unusual situation and making them react to it. In most cases, they reacted exactly as we would expect, and in the one case where that didn’t happen – Max – the response was revealing rather than out-of-character. For the most part their reactions were amusing because we know these people and we know how much they would hate this.
On the second level, this is a TV show within a TV show. I thought it was a really interesting way to approach the outcome of this storyline (the capture of Wo Fat). This is the second time that Wo Fat’s been captured and it certainly won’t be the last, so there does need to be some variety in how this is depicted. This led to something that I really didn’t expect from this episode: I didn’t entirely register what a big deal this COTW was. We’re already only invested in these characters to a certain point because we understand (on some level at least) that they don’t exist and it’s just a TV show. Now we’re seeing this huge plot development through the eyes of someone who is not invested in these people at all, because she knows nothing about them. So we get a little swept up in that (well, I did anyway) and start thinking it’s not such a big deal, just what’s on TV this week, next week it’ll be about camels again (or whatever). To Savannah, it’s just an interesting snapshot of these people’s lives like you’d get from a news story, and then move on to something else. She asks about the history with Wo Fat, but she – and the audience – will have forgotten about it in a few days because they don’t really care, it doesn’t matter to them. The tone of the ep was lighthearted, almost jokey, for almost the whole forty-five minutes until the credits rolled on the Savannah show and it made me see it in more the way she did than the way I usually do. I think this was partly because I was paying attention to how incredibly irritating she was at times (this is in level four, incidentally). At the end of the ep, we have the cheerful goodbye from Savannah, the audience clapping, the happy upbeat music – and then all of a sudden we’re in the hospital and there are armed guards everywhere and the music has turned instantly serious and we’re pitched back into a proper episode of Show because when we see McG there outside the context of the Savannah show, we remember that it’s more than that to us, that we know all about the background of this and what it means for McG to be there looking at his nemesis and it makes him seem MORE real than he did before. I got serious goosebumps from that last scene. SERIOUS goosebumps.
On the third level, it’s a TV show within a TV show that knows it’s a TV show. So we get lots of little self-referential moments (and I always love those) like Danny talking about Easter eggs and the send-up of the Subway commercial (I do love a show that can laugh at itself) and ‘welcome to my world’ and ‘they fight but they love each other really’ and so on. It was a little silly, but it was rather charming for all that.
On the fourth level – and it’s possible that I am reading far too much into this, because that has been known to happen – it struck me that this is not really fiction at all. It was when they were filming the victim’s girlfriend through the window that I had the sudden thought that the reason I was finding Savannah so irritating is that, for all her happy, friendly demeanour, she’s actually a bit of a cow. She asks incredibly personal questions. She doesn’t respect other people’s boundaries or rules. She doesn’t seem to understand that the reason these people don’t really want to talk to her is because they don’t want her around. She pays no attention to what they’re doing if it gets in the way of what she wants to know. In the car, McG and Danny are talking about the case – which is kind of a priority – when she interrupts to ask them why McG is always driving. She cuts Charlie off because he’s going into more detail than she cares about. She asks Cath about her relationship with McG even though, as Cath says, that’s not really relevant (which it isn’t really, if they were just former colleagues he would still be calling on her for help and her CO would still be OK with it. It doesn’t change anything about the appropriateness, or otherwise, of Cath giving him information). And when Cath asks her why it’s relevant, she replies “because America wants to know”. I thought that was the most important line of the entire episode, because it was really about how annoying it is to have someone following you around, asking questions, shoving a camera in your face, believing that they have the right to ask you anything just because they want to know, even personal things that you don’t want to share with someone you don’t know, let alone someone who is going to broadcast these things to the entire country. And yet, you feel obliged to co-operate because it’s somehow become a part of your job. I hesitate to use the word ‘paparazzi’, but – oh look, I just did. Oopsie. I wanted to high-five Cath when she said ‘that’s none of America’s business’ . You tell ’em, sister.
One of my favourite films of recent years (and probably of all time) is Inception and I thought this episode was rather similar to the concept of that film, which when I think about it… an episode of TV, in forty-five minutes, without making me say nothing but ‘what in the whaaaaa?’ for two days afterwards? I am seriously impressed. It wasn’t a perfect ep by any means, but it made me think and for that, I love it.