Saturday, August 6, 2016

BSN Mini-Review: "Bryn"

“We all know a Bryn,” says the description of Bright Summer Night’s fourth episode, and it’s right. Bryn Alberich is a type. He’s personable and popular. He’s charming and charismatic. He’s a good guy, everyone’s friend, and always willing to help you out if you’ve got a problem—unless helping inconveniences him in any way. He might care about others, but he cares about himself more, and he’ll do just about anything to make his own life easier. And he mostly gets away with it, because of how personable and popular and charming and charismatic he is.

“Bryn” spends a lot of time demonstrating these things about its titular character, but these aspects of Bryn have been clear since the very first episode. Like the description says, Bryn is someone you’ve met before, in fiction and in life, so it doesn’t take much work to get across the broad strokes of his character. A little goes a long way, and in the 11 total minutes of Bryn’s screen time so far, BSN has given us more than a little. Bryn’s type has been well solidified.

But there are a few sequences in “Bryn” that seem to be complicating, or at least elaborating on, that type. The desperate, stumbling search for a quiet room; the total meltdown, after Awhina leaves; the runaway jump cuts and chaotic camera angles all point to the idea that something is off-kilter in Bryn’s life. He’s unhappy, he’s overwhelmed, he wants everything to just shut up and stop for a moment.

But in these all-important sequences, BSN’s generally searing character work suddenly becomes murky. Something is off with Bryn, something is making him unhappy, but anyone trying to figure out what that is has little to go on. (I have theories, but they’re mostly drawn from a general sense of where the theme of BSN is going, not from anything we’ve actually been shown about Bryn.) It’s possible—perhaps probable, given Awhina’s parting shot—that Bryn himself doesn’t even know, and that that revelation will be the culmination of his arc. Which is a reasonable story to tell, but I’m starting to get anxious to see beneath the surface of Bryn’s type. I don’t mind being a little ahead of the character on this one.

Both Bryn the character and “Bryn” the episode make me feel unsettled, like The Candle Wasters are trying to say something that I’m not quite hearing. His basic character type is so clear that when something works to complicate it—like his unhappiness, or his still frustratingly unclear relationship with Puck—I’m left to wonder whether TCW are hinting at something, whether there’s a mystery there, or whether I’m reading into things. Or, perhaps, not reading enough into them.

I suppose we’ll find out one way or another by the end of the series. In the meantime, though, the uncertainty undercuts the efficacy of “Bryn” as an episode. The final shot, with Bryn sitting in silence and just breathing after six minutes of chaos, is clearly designed to cut deep. And there’s a degree to which it does. But it would cut deeper if we understood more.

Random Bits

I have few expectations when it comes to game theory even on very good shows, but surprisingly and happily, Bryn and Awhina’s discussion of the prisoner’s dilemma is totally reasonable. (Not particularly nuanced—they are 19—but reasonable.)

The sequence where Bryn “accidentally” lets Awhina snort too much Idleness is so well executed. It’s a great example of how to tell a perfectly clear story with no dialogue.

It just felt right, hearing Sheepdog & Wolf at the end, there.

“I love you.” “What does that do?” Ouch.

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