Welcome to The A.V. Club’s Transparent binge-watch. From Friday, December 11 through Sunday, December 13, A.V. Club contributor Shelby Fero will be watching and reviewing every episode of Transparent’s second season. Though she’s working straight through the season, she’ll be taking some breaks, too, posting three reviews on Friday, four reviews on Saturday, and three reviews on Sunday. You can weigh in on this episode here, discuss the whole season on our binge-watching hub page, and track her Pfefferman-addled mindset on Twitter (@shelbyfero).
It’s the holiest day of the year for the Pfeffermans and everybody’s sinnin.’ That’s right, y’all: It’s the motherf*cking Yom Kippur episode. As a godless heathen, my knowledge about the holiday comes only from second-hand experience, history classes, and the internet, but it doesn’t seem like anyone’s getting very saved this year.
As Ali explains to her family and friends seated before her at the table, Yom Kippur is a day to ask for forgiveness so that your name may be added to the Book Of Life. But what she fails to take into account is that atonement isn’t a form someone has to fill out once a year so that they can “get” Joshua’s sacrifices–and, by extension, their own salvation; it’s about being forced to stop and consider why and how we ask for forgiveness, so that we may learn and grow and follow a more righteous path. It’s almost impossible to exclude selfishness from the act of apology, however: Fear of retribution does not the purest motive make. So when Ali delivers her longwinded apology for upsetting Syd, it’s full of placating words, round-about explanations, and a ton of BS. Syd feels it, and metaphorically inches further towards the relationship’s door.
It’s this same fear of unrequited forgiveness that drives Sarah first to Tammy, then to her pot-dealing sex buddy. When one seeks forgiveness, there is always the chance that it will not be granted. That’s the right of the scorned–and for themselves to deal with in their own time and with their own Gods–but accepting that someone has not accepted you is hard. There’s a reason why people instinctively say “sorry”–why one of the oldest organized religions imparts such significance to the act: It’s biologically upsetting to ourselves to think we’ve caused distress to a fellow human. And it’s not in our nature to live with pain, naturally seeking absolution however we can find it.
For some, that means hardening themselves to the person they’ve hurt, while others turn to drugs. Some try to ease the burden through charity, while others seek confession. Sarah’s not wrong when she tells Tammy that she’s missing a source of parental approval and love in her life, but the realization is too little too late in this case. But Sarah craves the feeling of security we receive when someone says “I forgive you.” Her continued desire for rough, “rape but, like, not rape” sex is a literal manifestation of the pleasure she derives from punishment. Sarah seeks that external approval, somebody saying “you’re allowed to be ok with yourself now.” But that sort of approval is like slapping a band-aid on an open wound. There’s a brief sense of accomplishment; it’s never enough.
For Maura, this Yom Kippur is marked by the apologies she doesn’t make. She receives her first dose of pure misogyny, as Dav’s boyfriend Sal unleashes an unrepentant stream of advice about face lifts and how many CC’s she should do her breasts. However, instead of confronting him openly and honestly, She and Dav have their first fight. Just as Maura’s never had to date as a woman, she’s never fought with friends, as a woman, and adopts a patronizing tone meant to direct Dav as a superior, instead of discussing as an equal, and is sharply reprimanded. Silently feeding challah bread to a flock of geese, her face is an iron curtain, unable to express the hurt present on just the other side. It’s her own small moment of attrition to tell her son that “it’s ok to be sad.”
But Josh doesn’t want his (former) father’s permission. Josh doesn’t want his mother’s self-serving pity. Josh doesn’t want his namesake to bestow shit-all unto him. It’s overwhelming, what he feels, and there’s nothing appealing about forgiveness. Instead, he rebels in his pain and anger, stuffing fistfuls of pork into his mouth in the best scene to take place in a Safeway since Lebowski’s milk run.
Grade: Baruch atah Adon–A plus!
Favorite Line From Sarah’s Booty Call: “I reserve this for myself and cancer patients.”
Most “Shelly” Moment: Wailing in pain at Josh’s bad news (“This isn’t yours mom!”). Close second: Asking for a senior discount for synagogue services.
Best Yom Kippur Decision: Getting high for breaking the fast (while definitely not recommended, I have some extremely devout Jewish friends who maintain that this is a truly remarkable experience).
Best “Jewish Santa” Of The Episode: Buzz