What a magnificent hour.
If Nicole Kidman doesn’t win an Emmy this summer for her spectacular portrayal of Celeste Wright, there WILL be hell to pay. I don’t think there are enough words to describe the brilliance of her performance in this week’s bone-chilling therapy sequence. From her impeccable delivery to the subtle nuances in her body language, Kidman perfectly brings to life a complex woman who is not only a victim of horrifying abuse, but who is in denial of her gut-wrenching reality. She denies its effect on her children and she denies that she’s a victim (with the excuse that she’s also violent). In between Dr. Reisman’s question, Kidman showcases the cracks beneath Celeste’s facade, and it’s chilling to behold. Infusing the therapy sequence with even more impact are the silents cuts to Celeste’s abuse. I felt so relieved when I thought Perry had just packed up the legos and gone to work, but the sequence reveals the true ending to that encounter: Perry viciously dumped all the toys on Celeste’s head, then they had violent rape-y sex before he almost suffocated his wife with a pillow. It’s so tremendously hard to watch on every level, but it’s devastatingly well done. This is powerful television.
Of course the rest of the hour was just as fantastic. Madeline and Joseph’s car crash was both jarring and expected, as the scene itself piles on the dread through dialogue and claustrophobic camera angles. I genuinely jumped back at the moment of impact, and then found myself completely captivated in the silence of the crash aftermath. The panic, the destruction – it’s all breathtakingly realized.
And then there’s Jane who thanks to Madeline, tracks down her rapist and almost shoots him dead. Naturally she’s paralyzed with fear when they meet, and ends up hightailing it out of there (and gets chased by the cops thanks to speeding). I’m not exactly sure where the writers intend to go with this storyline, but Shailene Woodley’s been terrific throughout and I’m definitely rooting for her.
It’s worth noting that the season is almost done; yup, we’re only getting seven episodes. Although that’s a real pity, I’m glad that means we get such a stellar debut season in which every episode is packed with story and devoid of filler. Once Bitten‘s final moments reminded me of the murder in the pilot, and that’s a testament to the show’s quality that I’m never nagging about how little we know about that “big” event. In fact, I care much more about the characters and their layered dynamics.
Bits & Lies
– Hilarious nightmare as Madeline imagines Renata pushing her off the cliff with those darn puppets.
– How awkward were Madeline and Ed trying to have kitchen sex? But the fact that Chloe just knows makes it priceless.
– The fight between Renata and her husband over Amabella getting bitten felt SO real. I’m eager to see the moment where everyone realizes it’s probably Celeste’s twins and not poor Ziggy causing the mayhem in school.
– It’s true that Kidman was amazing in that therapy sequence, but kudos to Robin Weigert as well for her excellent portrayal of Celeste’s therapist Dr. Reisman. She’s just the right kind of compassionate and inquisitive.
– Even more proof that this show really understands female friendships: that beautiful and empowering scene with Jane joined when she’s suddenly joined by Celeste and Madeline. Wow!
– It’s a small touch, but you can notice the woman who catches Madeline going off with Joseph is the same one whom we see gossiping in those interviews.
– Sure it’s a cute moment when Perry asks the kids to shoot mom playfully, but since he’s so abusive, this otherwise innocent act comes off as terribly unsettling.
– Remember that Madeline warned against texting and driving in the pilot? Because we hear in this episode that the kid who crashed into her and Joseph was texting! Awesome payoff!
– Heartbreaking moment with Amabella hearing her parents arguing about her.
– Every time Celeste and Perry have a scene together, I just want it to end because I never know what the latter is going to do. It’s so volatile.
– Much like a few episodes ago, Celeste listens to her iPod and stares out into the ocean in reflective thought. Love it.
– The fact that Jane says Ziggy was born “upset” thanks to the circumstances surrounding his inception is heartbreaking.
– Such a sad montage with Celeste covering up all her bruises.
– Although she says nothing, you can sense that Joseph’s wife is suspicious about Madeline visiting her husband.
– I love that Celeste keeps saying that she’s violent too whereas Dr. Reisman recognizes that Celeste is only reacting to the violence. She just wants so badly to not be a victim and it’s such an illuminating perspective.
– Awesome touch with Saxon Baker pouring the water and Jane cutting back to the alcohol being poured in the hotel room. Notice how the silent editing is just like the technique used in the car crash.
– Love the music and editing with all the moms hugging their kids. This show really has a very distinct style.
– Celeste consoles a crying Perry after the abuse. He cries in her arms in the hour’s final moments as well when she meets him at the airport. It’s a very effective fake-out as you assume she’s leaving the country with her kids.
Renata: Come on, you can’t go to a playdate in dirty clothes. In this town, they’ll report me to child services.
Woman: When I first meet a couple, I visualize them fornicating.
Doctor: We can do a CAT scan if you want.
Madeline: I’m not going to expose myself to unnecessary radiation just to keep your premiums down.
Principal: I understand Ziggy’s father’s not involved in his upbringing. Is that right?
Jane: The only thing I know about Ziggy’s father is that he’s keen on erotic asphyxiation and raping women.
Celeste: We never fight in front of them. They never see anything. They’re fine. They live in a happy household. They have no idea.
Dr. Reisman: He will hit you again.
Dr. Reisman: Yeah.
Celeste: And I’ll hit him again.
Dr. Reisman: All right, our time is about up. We should make an appointment and come up with a plan.
Celeste: A plan?
Dr. Reisman: For the next time he hits you.
Ball and Chain by Janis Joplin
A jarring and unforgettable hour. This is one of the finest episodes of television I’ve seen all year.