Tuesday, September 6, 2016

BSN Mini-Review: "Mia"

“Mia” isn’t entirely devoid of an episodic story, but it’s far less focused on its central character than any other episode so far. Not only do we occasionally step out of Mia’s head (as when Mia leaves the room, and the camera stays with Lena), but also the second half of the episode wraps up or furthers several narratives that have little to do with Mia at all.

Which is not to say that Mia doesn’t have a story. She does; it’s just a very small and subtle one, and in some ways, it wraps up halfway through the episode. Mia has spent this whole party—in “Lena,” in “Zander,” and in the first half of “Mia”—trying to cut loose and forget about her troubles. One gets the sense that Mia is a person who generally tries to forget her worries and focus on fun. But forgetting only takes you so far. Sooner or later, you have to reconnect with the world. For Mia, the tipping point happens when she sees Bryn trying desperately to hang on to a couple of people he barely knows. Thwarted, he turns to Mia—and Mia decides it’s time to find her friends, even if that means wading back into the awkward waters of her relationship with Zander.

Mia’s story works partially because it’s very simple, and partially because so much of it has been released in dribs and drabs through other people’s episodes. It doesn’t take much work in “Mia” to establish the troubles that Mia’s running from, because we got a good long look at one of the big ones in “Zander.” Similarly, the resolution to Mia and Zander’s relationship issues works because we’ve had plenty of chances both to see their problems and their love. Mia’s speech to Zander makes sense of a dozen moments that precede it; it doesn’t bring any new information to the table, only clarifies and resolves what’s already there.

Deme and Lena’s resolution does not benefit from the same groundwork. To be fair, their story is really too big to resolve in the series. They can’t hook up or even make meaningful promises to each other, because Deme’s high. The most they can do is what they do in “Mia”: say what they’re feeling right now, and plan to talk about it in the morning.

Which would be fine, except that in resolving Deme and Lena’s story, “Mia” introduces an entirely new element: Lena’s desire not to be in a monogamous relationship. That’s a perfectly valid choice on Lena’s part, but it’s neither referenced nor implied anywhere else in the series. In “Lena,” Lena is laser-focused on Deme, and nowhere else in Bright Summer Night does she express any sort of discomfort with being limited or boxed in. Lena’s emphasis on remaining non-monogamous in “Mia” makes it seem as though it’s a major part of the story between her and Deme—but if that’s the case, why are we only hearing about it now? And if it’s not the case, why distract from the story from making it such a central part of Deme and Lena’s resolution? No matter what The Candle Wasters were going for, it would have been better served by setting up Lena’s feelings on monogamy earlier in the series.

All of that said, the fact that the resolution to the Lovers’ problems is sudden works better than it has any right to, and that’s down to Puck. Given the short run-time of BSN and the number of characters with major storylines, some stories were always going to have to get a quick wrap-up. The Lovers are the obvious choice—their problems are considerably simpler than Puck’s or Bryn’s or (one suspects) Awhina’s—but their resolution still feels a little overly pat.

Rather than run away from that, TCW use it. The Lovers’ easy resolution becomes a challenge to Puck. Puck, we’ve seen, has a lot invested in their nihilism. The idea that people could just forgive each other—that they could simply love each other enough to screw up and argue and then let it go—is entirely foreign to Puck’s experience and their worldview. It’s almost an insult. Moving out of Mia’s head and into Puck’s turns the Lovers’ sickly-sweet resolution into something just a little bit sour.

Random Bits

I love the way the lighting in the bathroom changes between “Deme” and “Mia,” and the way that details like the watermelon soap have faded, signaling the shift out of Deme’s drug-addled vision.

I finally, FINALLY know what’s going on with Bryn. Thank GOD. (Although if we don’t get a solid answer about the specifics of his relationship with Puck, I’m not going to be happy.)

I’ve been wondering for a while now if the lack of water is a symbolic/thematic thing, rather than a plot thing. Time will tell, I guess.

“I like other people too. Not you, Zander.” Heh.

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