Monday, November 12, 2012

Professional Development

Melodramatic Mondays

Hannah reluctantly starts a romantic relationship with Alex, all the while worrying what his reaction to her life as Belle might be.

The review for "Tabloid Journalism" can be read here.

There is some conflict here between the lives of Hannah and Belle (Billie Piper) with many mixed signals coming from those around her. As Hannah, she is discouraged from pursuing a relationship with Alex (Callum Blue) due to the nature of her life as Belle, and as Belle, she finds encouragement from Bambi (Ashley Madekwe) to follow through on her feelings for Alex, worried that she might lose herself in the job should she not have some fun of her own.

The episode opens with Hannah/Belle stating that "[her] body is [her] work, [and] if [she's] not in good shape, neither is [her] career," leading to the revelation that Belle, not Hannah, is considering having a breast augmentation. Body issues are something that had never really entered into the narrative until now, and it's something that seems long overdue. When the doctor (Roger Barclay) states that he thinks he and Belle should make another appointment, there is a flash of panic in Hannah/Belle's face as she questions whether he wants Hannah to make an appointment with his office, or if he'd like to make an appointment with Belle. Stephanie (Cherie Lunghi) also plays on Hannah's body issues, using their encounter together to imply that, in their business, Belle is growing old beyond function, an insecurity that continues to play on her as she meets again with her plastic surgeon, finding that he's unable to bring himself to climax with her and she asks him if it's because her breasts remain largely unattractive. He assures her that "[she's] got lovely, normal breasts," leaving Hannah/Belle feeling defeated with no thoughts beyond "oh, normal." Her desire to pursue surgery is curbed only by her date with Alex, wherein he talks about his work as a doctor, and how the largest area of growth in his field "is botched boob jobs." Eventually Hannah decides against the surgery, acknowledging that she is letting the job take over her life, just as she sees it taking over Bambi's, and not altering her physique allows her to stop herself from becoming entirely Belle, remaining, in part, Hannah.

Bambi talks about having met someone on the internet who claims to have his own studio and is willing to take pictures, sending off the proper alarm bells in Hannah's mind, leading her to introduce Bambi to Belle's former madam Stephanie. Bambi is on a very dangerous path that Hannah/Belle recognizes due to her experience in the business, and while she disagrees with how Stephanie managed her career, she knows that Bambi would be much safer in a guided and structured situation, if only as a preventative measure to ensure she doesn't get hurt. Bambi's desperation to get into the business, her determination to prove that she can, leads her to poach another of Belle's potential clients when Hannah excuses herself from the room; Bambi goes onto Belle's website, confirming an appointment with someone Belle deemed too dangerous to meet, the later reveal of which causes Hannah to fly off the handle, telling Bambi not to contact her again. Despite having risked destroying Belle's reputation and betraying Hannah's trust, a panicked Bambi eventually calls Hannah, locked in a hotel bathroom with her client angrily banging on the door, finally realizing the true dangers that Hannah had been warning her about.

During their consultation with Hannah/Belle, the doctor and nurse (Lynsey Pow) are incredibly unpleasant, coming off as cold, clinical, and rather unprofessional. They should be selling the idea of a lifestyle change, but instead are simply making Hannah feel bad about her body. Even later, when the doctor returns to explain to Hannah/Belle that he was rude because he didn't want the nurse to know that he's one of her clients, the question lingers about why he would allow his staff to treat his clients so poorly. His attitude toward her is expanded on later still when he states that he can't concentrate on having sex with Belle as he can't get what he said out of his head. He states that he's only attracted to her because she has had no work done, and he wouldn't want to be scrutinizing another man's work when he should be in the moment with her, and it speaks volumes about his business practice that he allows his emotions to get the better of him in spite of what his clients want and need.

Stephanie compares Bambi to Belle, stating that "the less [an escort has] worked, the more [she] can charge," to which Hannah/Belle acerbically interjects that Stephanie will take nearly half of everything Bambi makes, which sets the tone for the rest of the meeting. Stephanie then goes into detail about the ways in which Belle wasn't suited for the agency, insulting her repeatedly in the process. The issue is that she's trying to win over Bambi, trying to convince her to join her business, and instead is so horribly unpleasant, putting down the one connection that the two women have, that she drives Bambi away. It's inconceivable through this interaction that Stephanie ever could have convinced Belle to join her company, and it's a wonder that she has any girls working for her at all.

The talent in this episode is largely good, with Madekwe giving a notable performance as Bambi is under attack, trapped in the hotel room. Her fear and desperation feel completely genuine, lending a credibility to the threat level of the scene. Piper and Blue also provide a good chemistry during Hannah and Alex's date, and Hannah's embarrassment as she realizes that the mustache drawn on her face hasn't completely come off is played very well, though it is made all the funnier through Alex's reaction as he worries that it might be genuine facial hair.

In his direction of this episode, Fraser MacDonald has the chance to focus a lot of time on Bambi's situation, developing her character far beyond her first appearance. In choosing to mentor Bambi in the trade, Bambi, in turn, mentors Hannah in having a real life, and forces her to call Alex back to meet him for a drink, something that she had previously considered impossible due to Belle's influence on her life. Even after cutting off contact with Bambi, Belle finds herself compelled to help her again, talking her through her situation very calmly and able to identify Bambi's hotel through the toiletries, another talent that comes with experience. Bambi's distress here allow MacDonald the chance to show the maternal side of Hannah/Belle, a side that displays her experience and professionalism in a way that otherwise couldn't have been shown. The scarring on Bambi's arm is shown just long enough to give the viewer a hint of the kind of past she might be running from, and her hint that "it's from a long time ago," and she often tries to hide it, facilitates the mystery of a troubled background, falling into the sex trade perhaps to feel, for once, some form of human kindness.

Lucy Prebble writes Hannah's conflict with her life as Belle very well, showing her intense hesitation to go on a real date with Alex due to the complications that Belle's life could have on any normalcy Hannah might potentially strive for. Prebble also maintains a relative awkwardness in how Hannah interacts with people where Belle is incredibly well-suited to speaking to anyone she might encounter. Where Belle is well-versed in role play and changing her story at the drop of a hat, Hannah seems put on the spot, even in moments she's practiced, and no matter how many times she has lied about being a nighttime legal secretary, it remains absolutely awkward; it would appear more genuine were she to simply state that she's a legal secretary, elaborating at a later time, should the need arise, that her office keeps strange hours, but, otherwise, her schedule could very well go without mention.

Having appeared to have had a genuinely good time, it would be a mistake for the relationship between Hannah and Alex to be dropped as it provides her with an opportunity to lead a real life outside of her work. Also of interest will be seeing whether or not Belle really is up to the challenge of being Bambi's madam, as there certainly will be more roadblocks ahead as Bambi learns the skills of the trade.

The review for "Domestic Dispute" can be read here.


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