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The Nights He Came Home

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Home means a lot of things to a lot of different people. It can be comfort, family, or nostalgia. But for Laurie Strode in the new Halloween, home is something else entirely, something closer to Hell than anything else. Home is where the spectre of the original night he came home continues to live. Home is Haddonfield, Illinois, the infamous stomping grounds of Michael Myers.

David Gordon Green’s 2018 Halloween is naturally indebted to Carpenter’s original from forty years ago, serving as the closest thing to a direct sequel since Halloween II, picking and choosing what to keep and what to ditch in terms of canon and continuity. But the one thing around which the film revolves isn’t Michael, but Laurie. This is her story, just as Haddonfield is her home, and the journey through her past traumas is where the film is at its strongest.

Two journalists are working on a piece about the “Babysitter Murders” committed by Michael. This takes them to the sanatorium where Michael is being kept. But a journey into Haddonfield’s past is meaningless without an attempt to reach out to the woman who survived an encounter with Michael. But Laurie is a long way from home, and a long way from the person that she was back in 1978. She’s spent decades of her life planning for Michael to come back, driven by some combination of trauma and obsession, desperate to end him herself. After Michael escapes the bus taking him to a maximum security prison, he does the one thing he knows to do: he comes home. Laurie says that she prayed for it every night, so that she could kill him.

The direction and visual style of Gordon Green’s Halloween works on multiple levels in terms of the way that it relates to the 1978 original film. On one level, it allows the new film to pay homage to where it came from; some of the shots and music cues play as knowing nods to other films in the franchise, to the looming spectre of Michael appearing in a similar way here and in Carpenter’s film, to the use of the Season of the Witch pumpkin masks as Halloween costumes. But it operates in a deeper way than just to give knowing nods and winks to long-time fans of the series. Through a series of call-backs and reprises, this Halloween manages to show us how much has changed in four decades, and just how much has stayed the same.

In the 1978 Halloween, Michael stands, silent and imposing, outside of a high school, glimpsed by Laurie as she sits at her desk. In the 2018 film, it is Laurie who keeps a haunted vigil, noticed by her granddaughter, a student at the same school at Laurie attended forty years earlier. Family runs through the core of the new Halloween, it is something that Laurie sacrificed, or was forced to give up, in response to the events of the 1978 Halloween. There’s also a role-reversal of the final moments of the original film that plays out towards the climax of the new one; violence and trauma become cyclical through the visual language of the film, one that is acutely aware of its past, and the way that impacts the potential for any kind of future.

Although the final conflict of the 2018 Halloween doesn’t take place at Haddonfield, the weight and trauma of that place follows both Laurie and Michael to their fateful showdown. Many characters in the new Halloween comment on the ways in which Laurie and Michael might symbiotically be keeping each other alive, how the nature of predator and prey means that one needs the other in a twisted way. But this film isn’t a tale of mutually assured destruction, of sinning teens brought low by a vengeful monster. It’s the story of Laurie Strode; of who she became and how she got to be living in a self-styled fortress in the forest. Michael is a monster in the eyes of everyone, but this is most clear when he’s being looked at by Michael; the repercussions of his rampage cost her everything. In Halloween, the legacy of the final girl isn’t as simple as just surviving; it’s needing to live with everything that’s happened, with knowing that The Boogeyman knows who you are, and might be hiding around the corner to finish what he started. The weight of trauma anchors Laurie to her past, and throughout Halloween she dances a familiar dance with Michael, one informed by their past together, and everything she’s done to try and break free of it.

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LFF 2017: All Summer Long

Beach Rats literally flashes to life. The flash of a camera phone taking selfies at various angles that are trying to be provocative. Trying to look a certain way, project a certain image. They’re trying. Frankie, the film’s adolescent protagonist, on the cusp of a summer of love and hate, is trying, too. He’s trying to work himself out.

Frankie is torn between two things. What he wants, and what he thinks he should want. What he wants, is to go online and cruise older men. To begin with, this seems to be for nothing more than validation, to look and be looked at, to want and be wanted. He insists he doesn’t meet up with the men from the site he frequents. What he thinks he wants is just what his friends (who he insists are “not his friends”) want: to hang out, do drugs, and sleep with pretty girls. Frankie does all of these things, but they don’t seem to bring him any kind of happiness or fulfilment. If anything, they just serve to highlight the lack that he’s dealing with, the lack that comes from not going after what it is he really wants.

When Frankie meets up with people, it begins the same way as his online interactions do. He looks and is looked at. He wants and his wanted. These meetings all lead to sexual acts of one kind or another; some by the beach, some in hotel rooms, but wherever he goes, he doesn’t go there alone. They’re not shown as being terrifying or titillating, they’re simply shown. They just are what they are. Beach Rats exists at a kind of distance from its subject. Not an unfeeling distance, but a Larry Clark kind of distance; like a voyeur, always worried that if they’re caught too loudly, they’ll be caught in the act. In sex, as with the light of Frankie’s phone camera, bodies are shown in fragments; hands grab and touch, but any kind of wholeness is avoided.

Throughout all of his interactions, with friends, family, or lovers, Frankie is afraid. Afraid of being too much, of not being enough, of being outed, of being inadequate. Beach Rats has fear beating through its heart. Every breath that Frankie takes in the company of the men he sleeps with is imbued with fear. The interaction he has with his girlfriend when she says “when two guys make out, it’s just gay,” is fearful. The simple fact that Frankie doesn’t know what he is, and doesn’t understand what he wants, is full of fear. On a primal level, the unknown is sheer terror, and that’s what Frankie contends with throughout Beach Rats. He flinches away from intimacy after sex; not wanting to be too much, or maybe not wanting to be too “gay.” Sexuality isn’t really brought up much in dialogue, other than Frankie saying he “doesn’t think of himself as gay.” But Beach Rats is about fear, not sexuality or coming. The closet exists, of course, and Frankie is obviously in it, but coming out of it isn’t treated as being all that important. Instead, coming to terms is. Coming to terms with what you want, who you are, with the small degree of safety that can come from knowing, a moment of intimacy on a hotel room bed. Frankie doesn’t live in the closet, he lives in fear. He waits for the truth to set him free, and it doesn’t as his summer ends the way it began, with fireworks on the boardwalk. The truth will set him free, later, just not before its finished with him.

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LFF 2017: Being Alive

There seems to be a visual contradiction running through Call Me By Your Name. It’s a film about intimacy, and sexuality. Yet it keeps some things at a distance. It favours long takes and images of stunning scenery to close-ups of faces in anguish or ecstasy. But that doesn’t make it cold, or unfeeling. If anything, it’s exactly the opposite, and the slight distance that the camera keeps is the only way to stop Call Me By Your Name from being utterly overpowering.

Call Me By Your Name is, simply put, full of things. This is true on a lot of the levels the film operates on. It’s full of longing glances and stolen moments, full of sculpture and literature and art, full of nature and food and music. But nothing feels like it’s there just to be there. Everything there feels alive. Call Me By Your Name isn’t just full of things, its full of life, it shows a world that’s lived in. Even discussions about etymology manage to relate to the world of the film. It might be a bit on the nose, with reference to things being “precocious” just as the camera presents us with a shot of Elio, who even gets described as precocious in a plot summary on IMDB. But the film never tries to be subtle, not really. It zooms in on the first moment of intimate contact between Elio and Oliver, a shot that, by now, seems all too familiar.

It makes sense for Call Me By Your Name to be unsubtle though. After all, there’s something about it that threatens to overpower. We see the way these characters live and feel through the things and people that they surround themselves with. Art of all kinds, from pop music to classical piano, is treated with paramount importance. As a way of seeing someone, a way of understanding them. There’s a scene where Elio plays the piano for Oliver, a version of something he played minutes earlier on an acoustic guitar. He plays variations on it, and one of them is tinged with rock and roll. As Elio plays it, we see him swept up in the feeling of the music, face contorting like Mick Jagger or Jim Morrison. There’s a similar moment, much later in the film, when Oliver is looking at slides of sculptures with Elio’s father. Oliver is being told about the way the sculptures curve, their ambiguity, and the way they “almost dare you to desire them.” Then Elio walks in, desiring Oliver as he desires the sculptures, which are really a way of desiring Elio.

The life of Call Me By Your Name isn’t all academic and artistic though. It exists on a physical level as well as an intellectual one. Elio watches Oliver dancing to a pop song, watches the way his body moves, the way he kisses the girl opposite him. The music is imbued with desire, like the sculptures or the piano music. Desire is at the heart of Call Me By Your Name, it pulses through the films veins. Everything in the film is felt by someone, every piece of art, every thump of a volleyball; every kiss, all of it is felt. There is a whole world of things in Call Me By Your Name, things that bring us closer to the characters than a camera ever could, closer than the longest close-up of Elio staring at Oliver ever could. The rapture we see Elio feel when he plays piano is more than enough, like the uninhibited way that Oliver dances. In spite of the physical distance the camera keeps us at, the lived-in quality of Call Me By Your Name gives us something much richer, something much more than physical closeness: intimacy.

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LFF 2017: Gemini as a Hollywood thriller

In aesthetic and execution, and possibly intent, Gemini feels very Hollywood. Capital “H” Hollywood, but beyond just its setting. Yes, Gemini is set in the film world, around actresses, screenwriters, the paparazzi, and the (in)famous tell-all interview, but it isn’t only that that makes the film Hollywood. The capital “H” shouldn’t be one of place, but of emphasis, drawing your attention to all of the things about Hollywood as a place, and the people in it, to try and turn Gemini into more than the sum of its parts, into something about Hollywood, and not just set in it.

There’s some David Lynch light that seeps through into Gemini. Like with Mulholland Drive, and Inland Empire, where Hollywood dreams turn into nightmares, Aaron Katz’s neo-noir features murder, mystery, and a woman in trouble. There’s even a shot that feels like it was ripped straight out of Blue Velvet, when Lola Kirke’s Jill spies on a conversation through the door of the wardrobe she’s hiding in. Gemini isn’t as surreal or nightmarish as anything that Lynch has set in the city of angels, but there’s a certain shared sensibility here, a desire to look underneath the surface, to stare beyond something and into the darkness, and wonder what, if anything, is staring back at you.

On the surface, Gemini seems a little shallow. All neon lights and motorbikes, trading in stock images: sleazy paparazzi photographers, the dogged and determined detective, and, of course, the woman in trouble. These are all puzzle pieces that everyone is familiar with. They feature in most films about Hollywood, most murder mysteries, or both. But they’re used in ways that betray their surface simplicity. These predictable images lead to predictable plot beats, but Gemini slowly gets you to look closer. To look at just how Hollywood everything is.

There’s a scene where a screenwriter talks to Jill about the murder of Heather Anderson, Hollywood starlet, and Jill’s best friend/boss. He talks Jill through what would happen “if I were writing the screenplay.” He goes through a list of suspects, even crossing someone off the list because “all signs point to him. So it can’t be him.” This scene is the closest that Gemini comes to broadcasting its intentions. By setting itself among actresses and screenwriters, Gemini deliberately makes us think about the way these stories are told. Not the way that they are in the real world, but the way that they’re told in movies. Movies like Gemini.

At no point does Gemini explicitly say that it’s being self-aware, that it’s using the Hollywood setting and archetypes to say something about the story. That’s where the real mystery of Gemini lies; not in the murder, but in the (un)reality of a story like that, being told in a place like this. The characters talk like characters. In a voicemail left for Jill, the detective, played by John Cho, says “I think that you’re not telling me the whole truth.” I struggle to think that any real-world detective would say something like that. But in Hollywood, coming from the mouth of a character, I’ve heard it before, and it makes perfect sense. It’s unreal. That’s the point. John Cho’s detective even mentions, in an early scene with Jill, the idea of “one small detail” that allows everything to make sense. That makes Gemini the second Hollywood satire I’ve seen in as many days – the other being BoJack Horseman – that mentions, and then uses, that storytelling idea.

One of Gemini’s greatest strengths is that it doesn’t explicitly signpost what it is being self-aware about, or when it’s being done. It expects the audience to pick up on it, to notice when the known becomes the unknown. This deliberate evasiveness can lead to some frustrating moments and dead ends. The hotel scene that borrows from Blue Velvet, from example, is tense in the moment, but none of that tension carries over once the scene is over. Instead, it shows us that the screenwriter was right, that the guy in the hotel room couldn’t be the killer, because all the signs pointed to him. Like so many effective mysteries, all of the pieces fall together at the end, and with hindsight, one can’t help but wonder how they didn’t work it out themselves. Gemini is a slow burn, that takes a familiar LA drive on an unfamiliar route, and along the way it does something that feels more and more rare in cinema; it trusts the audience to notice things, it trusts their intelligence, and rewards them for the time they spent watching those familiar images on a familiar screen.

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Golden Eagle: Foxcatcher’s American Dream

Foxcatcher might be Bennett Miller’s best film to date, and even if that’s not the case, it certainly seems to be his most thematically accomplished. Much like Capote and Moneyball before it, Foxcatcher appears to be fascinated with outsiders, people that are viewed as second best, never quite living up to the expectations put upon them. However, the thing that seems to set Foxcatcher apart from Miller’s previous efforts is the way that it considers the bigger picture; it treats these characters and their situations as a microcosmic picture of the American Dream, and the toxic reality of the situation, something more akin to an American Nightmare than anything else.

The idea of the American Dream, that anyone can get anything if they aspire to greatness and put in the work, is perfectly embodied in Mark Schultz (Channing Tatum). The thing with Mark is, even though he wins gold medals, he still doesn’t feel like a champion, he doesn’t have that independence and self-assuredness you’d expect from a man who, theoretically at least, has the American Dream within his grasp. Well the reason for that is simple; in reality, the “American Dream” doesn’t create those things in people that never really seemed to have them. John du Pont (Steve Carell) says that Mark has spent his “whole life in [his] brother’s shadow,” and to be blunt, he’s right. In fact, du Pont appears to be a gateway for Mark to get that American Dream, the money and the independence and the sense that he, as a human being, is worth the fruits of his labour, especially given du Pont’s fascination on the nation’s need for role models, and making Team Foxcatcher “citizens of America.”

John Du Pont is another man who seems to have everything, but in reality appears to lead a rather hollow existence. He and Mark seem rather like kindred spirits, constantly reaching for something that moves further and further away from their grasp. Much like Mark, he lives in someone else’s shadow; the shadow of his mother, Jean (Vanessa Redgrave), a woman from whom he needs to ask permission on where to put a trophy. John du Pont is a man that seems to embody the very notion of the American Dream, or at least someone that wants to. He pontificates on the role of the coach, considers himself to be a father and a mentor to his athletes, a role model for them, which is something that he thinks America needs. He’s so patriotic he even tries to get Mark to call him “Golden Eagle.”

So, if between them these two men have Olympic gold medals and a countless amount of money, then what’s the big deal? Why can’t these men get the ideal that seemed to be promised to them by their very nation? Because, unfortunately, the American Dream doesn’t work like that, getting these things, the money and the glory, doesn’t mean you have it all. Foxcatcher’s version of the American Dream is one that doesn’t stop, even once these people seem to have everything, and they need to have more. Du Pont has money, and therefore wants glory in the form of Team Foxcatcher; Mark has glory in the form of a gold medal and then gets money by working with du Pont, but at the same time, he needs more, he needs freedom from the shadow of his brother. That’s where the toxic, almost self-destructive reality of Foxcatcher’s version of the American Dream begins to emerge.

When Mark loses a round at the Olympic tryouts, he goes back to his hotel room, and in true Raging Bull fashion – a comparison I will admit I’m far from the first to make – destroys his room, binges on room service and then makes himself vomit. It isn’t easy to watch; first of all because its raw and brutal, and also because it shows what happens when these people can’t have it all: they become angry and destructive, something that leaves an even more bitter taste in the mouth given the futility of their efforts.

The interesting difference between du Pont and Mark (two men who seem remarkably, perhaps even frighteningly similar in their ways) is how they manifest their anger. Mark is self-destructive, but John takes his anger out on the world at large. Upon discovering no members of Team Foxcatcher are training in the gym, he hits Mark and calls him an “ungrateful ape.” So given the futility of their endeavours and the chilling results of those failures, why do John and Mark keep fighting for this American Dream? Well, because they have to; they seem to think that, as Americans this is their right and they fight tooth and nail for it. From the very beginning of the film, Mark seems in instil in his medal a certain a sense of grandeur, he says that “it isn’t just a medal, it’s what the medal represents,” and that’s what it is that these men are after, something greater, something that can’t be given corporeal form the way a medal or money can, and what could perhaps be called the tragedy of Foxcatcher is the lengths that they’ll go to try and get it, as well as what they’ll do to liberate themselves from failing to do so.

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The Dark Side of Sexposition: “Breaker of Chains” and the Lannisters

There is something perhaps morbidly fitting that Game of Thrones, the show that appears to have given rise to the term sexposition in TV criticism would be the one to take the concept to an area that is at once troubling, a betrayal of character and, quite simply, outdated storytelling and characterisation tactics. Now, much has already been written on the rape of Cersei Lannister in “Breaker of Chains” that can be described, quite simply, as controversial, from the aspects including the deviations from the source material (in this case George R. R. Martin’s novel A Storm of Swords), the role of women in Westeros and, of course, rape itself. I won’t be focusing on any of those; while I of course agree that they’re important issues that should be discussed, I’m not quite sure I’d be able to speak particularly eloquently on. One of the things that interests me most about that scene in “Breaker of Chains” is the way in which it has used outdated tropes in order to create characterisation.

For those who don’t know, sexposition is the idea of divulging expository plot and character passages during or in the proximity of sexual situations. There’s plenty of this in Game of Thrones, from Littlefinger’s monologue about his childhood and love for Catelyn Stark to pretty much every scene that involves Oberyn Martell (including one in “Breaker of Chains.”). Now, while Game of Thrones is the show that seems to have caused the coining of the term, it’s certainly not the first show to use it, between the strip club in The Sopranos and the brothel in Deadwood it would perhaps be fair to say that HBO has something of a penchant for sexposition. As a trope, sexposition of course has it’s own problems, from the pointless objectification of the background characters involved in the scenes to the fact it is, given it feels the need to use explicit and rather heavy-handed exposition, quite simply, bad storytelling. However, the problems of sexposition aren’t the focus here, but are instead a jumping off point to discuss the ways in which the rape of Cersei functions more as a plot device than anything else.

Before what could politely be called the unpleasantness of “Breaker of Chains,” I think it’s fair to say that lots of people were rooting for Jaime Lannister, between the season three episodes “Kissed By Fire” and “The Bear and the Maiden Fair,” he was on track for a fascinating redemption arc made all the more compelling by the fact that he is not only the infamous Kingslayer, but also a Lannister. What the adaptation of Game of Thrones does in a way that the books don’t, and I must admit I have no idea quite why this is done, is create a much more clear divide between heroes and villains. In season one, for instance, Eddard is clearly the hero and the Lannisters clearly the villains, Dany, with her myriad titles has always been painted as a hero throughout, and the opposite can be said of the late Joffery Baratheon, in that he is more monstrous and outright villainous on screen than he is within Martin’s original pages. By proxy, this has always made Cersei a somewhat more sympathetic character than she is originally written as being, here she is a long-suffering mother who watches her child become a monster; now, it’s a compelling arc, but it’s perhaps the root of some characterisation that is questionable both for it’s departure from the source material and how antiquated it is. After Joffery’s death in “The Lion and the Rose” fans everywhere rejoiced, and after all, why wouldn’t they? The savage boy king, the main villain of the series, had been killed off. But what this does is raise an interesting question: where does the show go next?

Given that Joffery is no longer among the living in Game of Thrones, it’s safe to say that, based on the hero/villain duality they’d created, that a new villain was necessary. Now, while there are plenty of characters who are viable to don that crown, from Melisandre to Mance, the issue with them is that they’re not really close enough to King’s Landing which, for all of the show’s geographical branching and dozens of plotlines, has always been the heart of the action. So, once again, that villainous gaze falls upon the Lannisters. Tywin couldn’t be the villain because, for all of his faults, he’s not as awful a person as he seems, say what you will for his grooming Tommen to be king all of five feet from dead predecessor, Tywin recognised that Joffery was a monster and that it’s not something that King’s Landing should face again; it’s not unreasonable to assume that Tywin, in spite of his hunger for his family’s glory and perhaps, in spite of himself, much like Varys, “serves the realm.” Tyrion is of course out of the question, he’s just not a villain and everyone knows that. This leaves only two Lannisters in King’s Landing who could become the next villain, Jaime and Cersei Lannister.

The issue with using either of them is that it would be a betrayal of their characters up to this point to suddenly turn them into villains, between the stepping stones for Jaime’s redemption to the power-hungry but still somehow sympathetic Cersei. All that besides, would it really be fair to turn Cersei into an out-and-out villain moments after the death of her son? Probably not, and that’s where the cheap, lazy and – for many reasons – downright offensive use of sexual violence enters the equation.

The use of sexual assault in “Breaker of Chains” is many things, but the one I’m focusing on here is it’s antiquated status as a means of storytelling and characterisation. The use of sex, and rape in particular as a way of punishing women is an age old adage that spans Hitchcock, slashers and pretty much everything else. It wouldn’t exactly be a stretch of the imagination to say that Cersei being raped is some bizarre punishment for her having given birth to Joffery in the first place given that the scene in question takes place literally right beside the dead king’s grave. In punishing Cersei through this absurd plot device of an assault, Jaime is also made to be monstrous, because, to put it simply, he rapes her and rape is a monstrous thing, considered almost unfathomable in it’s evil in society, and rightly so (even though I won’t be focusing on perhaps the more societal implications of treating rape in such a way, I feel I should again reiterate that they’re issues that should be talked about and probably have been by people much more eloquent than I.). Now, this of course goes against the source material in terms of both adapting the scene (which is disturbing but consensual) and Jaime’s character; even though the far-reaching implications of the scene are of course yet to be shown, it invalidates his redemption and immediately turns him into a villain. And as well as punishing Cersei, the scene creates an understandable sympathy for her as a victim, which again feels like, for all it’s other problems, bad writing. A perhaps fitting parallel would be the Bates Motel pilot episode “First You Dream, Then You Die,” when Norma Bates is raped by a home invader who she proceeds to kill in self defence. It’s difficult not to simply say that the attacker had it coming, because we at once sympathise with her and hate him, so when looking at this dynamic in relation to “Breaker of Chains,” Cersei becomes the object of sympathy where Jaime becomes the object of hated. Unfortunately, and again, rather morbidly, this scene serves the purpose it needs to within the version of Westeros presented to us on TV, one with heroes and villains where the villains are pure evil (Joffery’s most evil moment perhaps being the execution of the prostitutes that we see as Littlefingers informs in “The Climb” that ‘Chaos isn’t a pit. It’s a ladder.’), and so, in the wake of Joffery’s death, not only is another Lannister being groomed to be king in his stead, but another monster seems to be prepared to step to the fore.

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Is This the Death of the Anti-Hero?

Between the season three finale of Homeland and the final episode of Breaking Bad, TV dramas seem to be letting their anti-heroes drop like flies. And since, many moons ago when the Sopranos began what we like to call the TV revolution with the psychological depth it gave to all of it’s characters, but particularly the anti-hero that is at the heart of the show, conflicted mob boss Tony Soprano. And so, now that the anti-heroes that have began to show what it is that makes the TV revolution what it is are being killed off, the real question becomes, what’s next?

I think that the next natural step in the TV revolution – if we’re still calling it that – is for the focus to become even more centred on female characters. From The Sopranos onwards, women have been integral to this new wave of TV drama, from Carmela Soprano and Dr. Melfi to Ruth and Claire Fisher in Six Feet Under, they’ve always been there and they’ve always been important, but they’ve always been a step or so away from the spotlight. Even in Homeland, which very much revolves around Carrie, much of the dramatic action – and more questionable decisions based around the writing of the show and characterisation of Carrie – has been linked to Brody. Of course, that’s not the case based on where Homeland left off at the end of it’s most recent season, and, as important as Saul is, he is and will in theory remain to be a supporting role rather than stepping into the story’s centre with Carrie.

This female focus, this idea of a female character either leading the show alone or along with a male character, appears to be a little more common over the last few years, between female led legal dramas like Damages and The Good Wife, and the twin-lead dynamic that lies at the very heart of Masters of Sex, the idea of the anti-hero as we knew it, which is to say a conflicted, morally questionable man balancing multiple lives like Tony Soprano, Dexter Morgan and Nicholas Brody, appears to be changing. I suppose it’s something like the shift in the focus of tragic drama, between the great men of Shakespeare, kings like Lear and Richard, to the women of Jacobean tragedies, the eponymous Duchess of Malfi, or Beatrice in The Changeling. It seems like a natural progression now for women to take centre stage.

And this impacts much of the dynamic that lies at the heart of the conflicts that these characters have; where the men perhaps lead double lives (William Masters does, for instance), there’s something about the women that is more about the elements of themselves that they see in and want or don’t want to hand over to others, like Elizabeth’s relationship with her daughter in The Americans or elements of herself that Patty sees in Ellen in Damages. Here it’s more a case of mirroring than doubling that’s important. However, it is worth noting that, much like Masters, her cohort in the sex study that drives the first season of Masters of Sex, Virginia is also leading a double life of sorts, balancing work and home life, particularly once her relationship with Masters gets, to put it mildly, complicated. This seems effective in that it not only allows Virginia’s character to develop, but in relation to the notion of anti-heroes, in her sharing plots that tended to be given to male characters, we see both the way in which female leads are sharing the spotlight with their male co-stars, in doing so it also shows the ways in which anti-heroes and TV dramas more generally are shaking off the old stories and dynamics. Along with this, since the anti-heroes of yore have begun to die off, there is a tonal difference in the shows, especially, it seems, the ones that have female characters near or at their core. Masters of Sex, for instance, which could very much be the show that ushers in a new wave of characterisations, isn’t afraid to actually have jokes, to lighten the mood of it’s subject matter, it doesn’t seem compelled to be crushingly bleak or perpetually morose simply because it’s a TV drama in the 21st century.

Of course, it’s worth noting that, in spite of the passing of Walter White and Sergeant Brody, the anti-hero isn’t officially “dead” by any means; Ray Donovan seems to be trying with all of it’s might to essentially be a West Coast version of The Sopranos, and Game of Thrones has more pessimistic, morally conflicted men than you can shake a stick at, but it’s not just the shows that are starting that seem to be impacting the landscape of TV (with Masters of Sex starting it’s second season in a few months), but also the ones that are ending. Of course, Breaking Bad finished recently, next season spells the end for both Boardwalk Empire and Mad Men, and of course Homeland needs to restructure itself in the wake of the events in ‘The Star,’ so it seems that more than anything, it seems that there is a fast approaching void that will need to be filled, and it seems that, rather than simply rehashing the same old tropes that have been used in varying shades for the last fifteen years, the things that carry the banner as these shows take their final bow seem to be taking the form of an entirely different beast.

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