Friday, July 29, 2016

BSN Mini-Review: "Petra"

“Petra” is not what you might call subtle writing, but then, the Mechanicals aren’t all that subtle of subjects. They don’t speak subtly, they don’t act subtly, they don’t think subtly, which lets the Candle Wasters ramp up both the comedy and the on-the-nose thematic dialogue to levels previously unseen in Bright Summer Night. The Mechanicals are BSN’s answer to Lovely Little Losers’ Costa McClure, which makes sense, since they fulfill similar roles in the Shakespeare plays the series are inspired by.

The Mechanicals are a joke—ridiculous, over-the-top, out-of-control—but they’re a joke the narrative demands that you take seriously.  Sure, Frankie can’t keep track of where she stands on what issues, and Taylor really needs to pee, and Nicky doesn’t know when to quit with the poetry (OH MY GOD, Nicky’s poetry), and Petra’s losing control of everything. Sure, they’re a mess. But they care. They care so much, they don’t even know what they care about yet. They try to take on everything: gun control and climate change, politics and peace in the Middle East. They don’t know much about any of those topics, they don’t really know how to make a difference, but they know that something’s wrong, and they want to do something about it. The Mechanicals are 14. They’ll grow up, they’ll learn the details of the world, they’ll focus their caring, they’ll figure out how to create real change. Or maybe they won’t; some people never do. But they’re starting from the right place.

We know this because of Puck, who is starting from the wrong place. Before Puck shows up, the Mechanicals are just comic relief; they’re likeable, but they’re ridiculous, and there’s no particular reason to root for them. But Puck’s arrival reminds the viewer that there’s something worse than being ridiculous: Being disaffected. Puck gives the Mechanicals a concrete problem to unite against, and Petra and Nicky the chance to step up and explain (with, again, no subtlety to be found) why the Mechanicals’ view of the world is useful, and Puck’s is not.

Puck is the antithesis of the Mechanicals: Where the Mechanicals care about everything, Puck tries very hard to care about nothing. It’s earnestness vs. irony, selflessness vs. self-consciousness. Puck and the Mechanicals both sense a wrongness in the world. The Mechanicals are trying to fix it; Puck is trying to protect themselves from it.

Which is not to say that Puck is a villain. They’re the antagonist of this episode, because this is Petra’s seven minutes in the spotlight. But looking at BSN as a whole, Puck is the closest thing we have to a central protagonist; they start off the series, and if A Midsummer Night’s Dream is any indication, they’ll likely end it. This is their story, which means, inevitably, that they have a lot to learn.

Random Bits

It’s cool how TCW use phones to keep track of time. We know from Lena’s phone check in “Lena” that she was hanging out on the dance floor at 12:47, which anchors “Petra” in time. Combined with Puck’s dialogue in “Puck,” we can deduce that they’ve been searching for the Idleness for a little under an hour. And Lena and Deme’s text messages at the end of “Lena” let us look a little bit into the future: Bryn still doesn’t have the drugs by 1:13. (Although Puck has now found Awhina’s purse.)

Yeah, the water problems are definitely leading up to something.

I’m gonna go ahead and guess that the next episode will be “Zander.”

I got a little caught up in the thematic talk (what else is new?), so I should make it clear that “Petra” is a really, really funny episode.

“I am a neo-Marxist libertarian, and I will not be labeled!” OH MY GOD.

“Fuck the patriarchy!” “I’m not the patriarchy!”

“That’s America, Frankie. New Zealand has different amendments. I think. Probably.”

“Palestine. What’s going on there?”

And, okay, the obligatory thematic quote: “Look. This is valuable, what we’re doing.”

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