Garfield: “Can I tell you something? I’ve been ravished.”
Blanche: “Men can’t be ravished. When I was at the institution, staff ravished all the patients except for me. It really did a number on my self-esteem.”
It would be so easy for Another Period to rely solely on humor that goes no further than “Look at us! We’re in the past!” There’s not much of an art to it, and at its very worst, it leaves the world with the lasting memory of television shows like The Secret Diary Of Desmond Pfeiffer (the P is not silent, because that supposedly makes it funny). Instead, Another Period takes the historical humor while also (intentionally) not-so-subtly inserting contemporary issues within that context.
That’s “Divorce” in a nutshell, and it does so as an episode full of rape and spousal abuse jokes. That’s a bold choice for any episode of television but perhaps even more so in the second episode. As I mentioned in my review of the pilot, Another Period isn’t afraid to tackle comedic taboos (and downright horrific issues), and as female comedians Natasha Leggero and Riki Lindhome are able to do so without it coming across as just plain tasteless or misguided. The episode even has a throwaway exchange about the inherent humor (or lack thereof) of the rape jokes—
Victor: “Oh, I love a good ravishing joke, don’t you?”
Albert: “Don’t you find them a bit distasteful though? Some people feel that ravishing is not a habit that should be made light of.”
Victor: “Oh, not me. You know the old chestnut: Why is it always your ugliest friend who’s the most afraid of being ravished?”
—but the humor in this situation really comes the fact that it’s more about mocking the amazingly callous and stupid responses to such vile happenings than it is the happenings themselves. Although, when it does make a joke out of the events—especially with the concept of rape, or “ravishing,” as it is presented here—it’s within the context of this being a ridiculous show with ridiculous characters. In a time when “serious” television finds deep grittiness to translate to sexual abuse, “Divorce” flips the gender script in a world where it’s seemingly (which is the key word here) even more preposterous for a man to be the victim of such a crime.
The plot of Garfield’s ravishing is another one of those beats that makes Another Period come across more like a parody of the nighttime soap opera genre (of even just a Lifetime movie), with the early peak of the plot being the post-ravishing montage as Garfield continues to work through his pain and recent violation. It’s melodramatic, and the reminder that this entire episode all takes place in the span of one day makes the whole situation all the more absurd. The plot itself is not supposed to be taken seriously; it’s the social commentary that is. Garfield goes through the episode experiencing every bit of criticism one can in a “ravish culture,” all amplified by the fact that he is a man and that he is a servant, which is considered an even lower life form that the wealthy women in the Bellacourt family.
Peepers: “You should be ashamed of yourself. You should be thanking your lucky stars that she chose to ravish you instead of crying about it like a mewling kitten with a pin in its paw. I’m docking you six months of gruel.”
Hamish: “If you didn’t want to be ravished, maybe you shouldn’t be wearing such an inviting little valet’s uniform. It’s your fault.”
Garfield: “I wear my valet’s uniform for me!”
Peepers: “Must it be so tight, Garfield?!”
Hamish: “Hey, does this mean that I can ravish Blanche?”
Blanche: “Thank you for the thought, Hamish.”
What’s especially interesting about the success of this plot is the fact that an earlier sex scene in the episode—Lillian and Beatrice with their husbands—doesn’t work nearly as well. In the case of Beatrice, there’s the fact that she takes choroform in order for her husband to have sex with her while she’s unconscious, which could open up a can of worms that the episode thankfully doesn’t focus on. It’s a consensual non-consenting to the upsetting sex, which is a bit of a gray area, if not just absolutely confusing. That’s Another Period for you sometimes: It’s willing to be so aggressively stupid that it makes you think.
That’s the case for the divorce plot of the episode as well, when upon learning that divorce is not a myth, Lillian decides she wants to upgrade her husband (while Beatrice just wants to marry her brother). While Frederick/Beatrice is barely even the worst kept secret with the house, Lillian is amazingly oblivious to the fact that her husband is is having an affair with her sister’s husband, which causes her to go the fake spousal abuse route. It leads to another victim-blaming scenario, even though in this case, the victim really is full of crap. She’s also considered less than a human being, which is how a victim of abuse now could feel in such a scenario. The early 20th century setting of the show allows it to tackles these issues in a different way from Inside Amy Schumer or even Key & Peele (though that is obviously from a male perspective), and it’s great to see in a show that kind of came out of nowhere.
But to get to the real point, it’s all terribly funny. This a show where funny people get together and make funny voices, in funny period garb, and get to do so while kind of being history nerds. Will Sasso and Jon Daly show up as the police officers in this episode, sounding strangely Irish/Jamaican for no real reason, and do so while poking fun at the ravish culture of the then and now. Then there’s Frederick’s day-long courtship of Pussy Van Anderstein, which gives the male heir of the Bellacourt family something to do and proves he’s a very, very special boy. “Divorce” is a smart episode of television, filled to the brim with dense, despicable characters, and terrific one liners. The series still can be hit or miss with its talking heads, but even those have their moments, as the combination of the talking heads with the ritual dancing in the cold open immediately gets the episode going. The future of this series looks bright.
- Falling Charlie (Charlie Chaplin pre-“Charlie Chaplin”) and his pratfalls are just the type of thing the Bellacourts would find hilarious. Ah, poor people.
- One of the best things about watching the show is just watching the show. There are some amazingly funny visuals (like the opening “procreation sex” ritual or the lawn boating), and the act openings being shot like music videos give the show its own visual identity.
- Lillian: “I don’t know why we took all that land from the Indians if we’re just going to act like them.”
- Lillian: “I’d rather give birth to a goat than another girl. At least a goat might have a good idea every once in a while.” Lillian should do an open mic night one day.
- Frederick: “It frightens me when you act all smart like that.”
Beatrice: (changing the subject to the sun) “Look, the day moon!” Beatrice isn’t just a very troubled girl, she just might be hiding a secret intelligence.
- Dodo: “Pussy Van Anderstein’s former husband was a coon tie tycoon. He made his fortune designing raccoon skin neckties.”
- Hopefully every performance of Hamish’s former minstrel show—Lazy Black Hamish & His Negro Knights—ended with such smooth scatting.
- Lillian: “Father refuses to cover up another murder. We can’t have another weekend at Bernard’s.” Like every self-respecting person, I appreciate a good Weekend At Bernie’s joke. I even appreciate a bad Weekend At Bernie’s joke.
- Lillian: “Victor’s the most vile, hateful person I’ve ever met! You’d think we’d get along.”
- Frederick: “My current lover is beautiful, but she only does the normal stuff. Missionary, man on top, possum style. It’s where you lay down completely still, waiting for the danger to pass. Should we have a spring wedding? I’ve always thought of myself as a June groom.”
- As people pointed out now, Hortense is being played by Lauren Ash now. She’s in the opening credits in the close shot, but I believe the far shot is still Artemis.