Monday, December 10, 2012

In Sheep's Clothing

Melodramatic Mondays

Belle and Bambi are booked for a party that quickly escalates beyond Belle's comfort zone, forcing she and Bambi to flee the party for fear of their safety. Ben comes to the rescue and, in her vulnerable state, Hannah invites him into her bed, risking their friendship in the name of brief comfort.

The review for "Love is for Other People" can be read here.

Fresh from having her heart broken by Alex (Callum Blue,) Belle (Billie Piper) has herself booked for a series of clients in order to keep her mind off of her romantic situation. Normally, she would be very choosy in regards to her clients, but here she isn't thinking as clearly as she should, and finds herself making riskier decisions than she might otherwise make.

While she herself is in the act of pleasuring a client, Bambi (Ashley Madekwi) recognizes Belle's screams and rushes to her aide. In this moment Bambi goes from being the one that Belle had been protecting to the one that instead protects Belle, showing just how much she has grown as an individual since her first meeting with Belle as well as how far their relationship has come in that time. Bambi had considered Belle as something of a role model, teaching her the ropes of the job out of the goodness of her heart, and here Bambi starts to return the kindness, proving that she has learned from her previous mistakes and really is ready to make it on her own. In her first appearance Bambi was all style without substance, talking a big game but cracking under the pressure, and here she proves that she's just as capable as any of the other girls, taking complete control of the situation and getting herself and Belle out of the house as quickly as possible.

The backing music that plays as Bambi and Belle make their escape from the chateau is great, hyping up the tension of the situation and, for one of the first times in the series, adding a very real sense of danger to the narrative. The mood of the scene is changed entirely by the soundtrack provided, and it works very well to make the audience worry for the well-being of these young women.

From the beginning of this episode to the end there is a large amount of swearing, which, in itself, isn't that troublesome, but the use of profanity in this story far outweighs that used in any other episode. The occasional curse word isn't a detraction from the story, but there is more swearing in this half hour than there is in every other episode combined, and it's an incredibly drastic change to the tone of this series. Were there a precedent for this amount of bad language it wouldn't be such a distraction, but as it is it simply appears that there's something amiss.

Having run into danger, Hannah's first instinct is to call Ben (Iddo Goldberg) and have him collect her, seeing absolutely no alternative to her situation despite the fact that part of Stephanie's (Cherie Lunghi) job is to keep her safe. Hannah should have first called Stephanie to see if there was any way she and Bambi could be picked up, to check in to let her know that her clients here were not on the level, but instead it is Stephanie that has to contact her girls to let them know that they've gotten a bad review. Worse yet is that, when Ben tries to leave to go home to Vanessa, his relationship with her already rocky due to Hannah's influence, Hannah convinces him to stay knowing very well what it could mean for his future. She then even brings him into her bed, muddying the waters in their friendship and confusing his feelings for her even more, and it's a wonder that they're still friends as she is incredibly self-involved and ignorant toward his needs.

Piper and Madekwi do a great job in this episode, playing their fear very well, but the best performance of the piece is definitely that of Prince Charming (William Scott-Masson.) Scott-Masson provides a viable threat to both Belle and Bambi here, switching from charming to psychotic in the blink of an eye, and it's quite the feat.

Directed by Peter Lydon, this episode takes place largely outdoors, removing both Belle and Bambi from their normal settings and putting them as far out of their comfort zones as possible. Having the protagonists wander through an unknown forest really invigorates the story, removing them from everything that they've previously been and playing up their fairy tale costumes to comment on the state of Hannah's love life by contrasting it with the cliché of fairy tale romances. The story-themed costume party, with cards being passed out to have the attendees choose their 'perfect match' based on the characters they're meant to portray, is an interesting choice, allowing a very diverse set of costuming and set design that this show is not only very good at, but very seldom has an opportunity to display.

Writer Rebecca Lenkiewicz uses this story as a chance to explore Hannah's philosophies on love and sex, seeking advice from those around her and trying desperately to make them work for her. At first she convinces herself that she simply needs to revert to living as Belle, stating that she's "not upset about Alex, [... and] work, that's all [she] need[s]," while later admitting that she had thought that having sex with strangers would help her get over her breakup. While Stephanie maintains that love is nothing but a marketing ploy, it's finally Bambi that convinces Hannah to give a normal love life another try, encouraging her to go back to Alex and tell him how she feels, stating that she shouldn't give up on love if that's really what she wants to have. Still hesitant, Belle wonders aloud how Alex will react to her asking for forgiveness, musing that the most normal people can turn completely psychotic at the drop of a hat, while Bambi cites that she should be used to it since danger is a part of the job. Belle shoots back that the job doesn't have to be dangerous, and it really shouldn't be dangerous, realizing that, should she want a normal life again, she might have to give up everything that she's worked for over the last few years.

Having botched her work so completely, it's difficult to imagine, even if Hannah/Belle asked for another chance, that Stephanie would work with her again, so further dealings with her previous agency are likely out of the question. It's also hard to believe that her sleeping with Ben won't have major ramifications on their friendship, likely putting his romance with Vanessa in jeopardy and creating a greater tension between all three of them.

The review for "Tentatively Normal" can be read here.


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