Monday, January 7, 2013

Playing Into Fantasy

Melodramatic Mondays

Hannah's life is made all the more complicated when her sister Jackie comes to stay, proceeds to snoop about Hannah's flat, and falls into bed with Ben. As though that weren't enough, Belle is confronted by an angry Stephanie looking to discuss her depiction in Belle's book.

Previous: Incognito

Secrets have always been a necessity in Hannah/Belle's (Billie Piper) life, but things seem to be quickly unraveling as Jackie (Joanna Bobin) pries into Hannah's life while Stephanie (Cherie Lunghi) interrogates Belle. To complicate matters further Hannah has to deal with Ben's (Iddo Goldberg) new found interest in her sister, while Belle contends with Bambi's (Ashley Madekwe) discovery that black escorts get paid less than their white counterparts.

The initial conflict between Hannah and Jackie feels very genuine for a pair of siblings, bickering over the smallest of issues and blowing things far out of proportion. At the top of the episode Hannah takes Jackie to a fetish club, under the excuse that she's trying to broaden her sister's mind and reboot her sex drive, when in actuality she's taking pleasure in watching her sister's discomfort. Naturally, Jackie lashes out, asking if their "mum knows how much [Hannah] masturbate[s]," with Hannah quickly asking if their "mum know[s Jackie's] left Patrick?" The two of them have spent so little time together on screen before now that their relationship has never felt all that sisterly, but here it feels very authentic, and it becomes clear why the two spend so little time together.

Bambi takes notice that she gets paid less than the other girls, and in confronting Stephanie about the situation, she's told that clients simply won't pay the same scale for a black woman that they will for a white woman. Without missing a beat Bambi tells her that "[she] set[s the] rates, not the clients," and proceeds to make a greater scene the harder that Stephanie tries to worm her way out of it. What's interesting about their argument is that neither side is particularly wrong, Bambi is fully justified in asking to be paid equally, while Stephanie's argument that racist clients sometimes dictate fees is not completely invalid. It's good to see Bambi taking charge of her own destiny, becoming a stronger force even than Belle has been shown to be, and she does so without losing a spark of who she's been shown to be thus far.

Hannah's life is turned upside down with the arrival of Jackie, unable to enjoy taking a bath when Jackie barges in to pee, incapable of finding anything in her closet after Jackie's raided it for clothes, finding all too late that she can't even schedule a client without her sister walking in on them. Its a wonder that Hannah doesn't throw Jackie out considering how poorly Jackie speaks to her, but when Jackie punches her sister in the face it's absolutely unbelievable that Hannah doesn't tell her to go stay with their parents. Not only is Belle's appointment jeopardized due to her black eye, and the client needing everything to be just so, but Jackie refuses to apologize to Hannah for hitting her and proceeds to storm out of the apartment as though Hannah's the unreasonable one.

Jackie and Ben play chess for shots, getting drunker by the moment, eventually culminating in the two of them having sex. After a brief argument with her sister, Jackie chooses to go and stay at Ben's for the night, but neither party takes Hannah's feelings into consideration. Ben is Hannah's ex-boyfriend, and for Jackie to cross that line without a second thought is troubling, but for Ben to do the same when he may still have feelings for Hannah is extraordinarily stupid. Neither character is appearing at all likeable in this scenario, and it's a storyline that can't end swiftly enough.

The chemistry between Piper and Bobin is quite good, getting across the idea that they're siblings very well here, and Steve Edge gives a great performance as Belle's client Hamish, conveying the right amount of awkwardness whilst delivering one of the funniest performances this series has seen to date. Bobin does quite well in playing a woman discovering her body for the first time, and she and Goldberg are quite adept at playing drunk.

Director Owen Harris starts this episode with a fantasy sequence, using the instrumentals of a music box to create a very dreamlike mood, and it's such a fantastic departure from everything the series has been thus far that it sets the tone for the rest of the story. Belle imagines herself in a cocktail dress, made up and passing through life as a ghost in the night, quickly cutting to the reality of her being in her pajamas, ripping her wig off as she walks down the street. This is a very cleverly framed episode, and it's by far one of the more interesting to watch so far.

Tim Price writes this script with a distinct focus on fantasy, both playing into them and living through them, prevalent in almost every interaction throughout the story. Hamish finds himself unable to perform because of Belle's black eye, understanding that it's not from being hit by a pimp, but incapable of moving passed it knowing that someone might have hurt her. Later, as Bambi and Byron have fled from a strange man, broken into a pub, and spent their night doing illicit and illegal things, Hannah notes that the key to playing into a fantasy is knowing when you're in one, Byron's being the sense of danger and Bambi having leaped into it perfectly.

Hannah's voice over in the final moments hints towards a deeper connection between Bambi and Byron, though whether that comes to fruition remains to be seen. Jackie's tryst with Ben is doomed to catastrophe, given that she's still married and that he'll always be Hannah's ex-boyfriend.

Next: Mechanics and Technicalities


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