Humiliation is the atom bomb of emotions. So says Evelyn Lindner, a noted social scientist who has done extensive research on why people humiliate each other and the consequences of doing so. And there are always consequences. People can abide pain and make peace with disappointment, but humiliation is a hot knife through the heart. Once someone in a relationship feels humiliated, that relationship is forever altered.
It’s safe to say following the aptly titled “Time’s Up” that there’s no longer such a relationship as “Jamie and Angela.” In truth, that relationship has never existed except in the lovesick minds of Ghost and Angela, who have done their damnedest to keep their sandcastle intact in spite of the rapidly rising tide. They’ve supported each other in maintaining the shared delusion, as crumbling couples are wont to do. Invariably, one of them is moon-eyed while the other has serious reservations, and as long as there’s a cheerleader between them, they’re able to keep moving forward. That game won’t work anymore.
The tipping point comes in a pre-trial motion hearing for Tommy in which Proctor, who Ghost has blackmailed into representing Tommy, successfully petitions the judge to exclude the identification made using the sketch Angela got from young Isabel Ruiz. Given the identification was the linchpin of the government’s case, having it excluded was crippling enough, but Proctor went a step further, convincing the judge to boot the case with prejudice based on the appearance of prosecutorial misconduct. (The judges in Power’s universe are awfully pro-defendant, but that’s a truly minor quibble.)
It’s not a minor setback for Angela, it’s a crushing, public defeat. They’re officially pitted against each other now. Their fantasy is about to come apart, and Angela has more fire in her belly because she isn’t just beaten; she’s humiliated. The situation escalates when Angela confronts Ghost about it, only for Ghost to blithely dismiss her legitimate concerns about her reputation and professional standing as sour grapes. Their confrontation is a strong scene, and perhaps the closest Angela will ever come to unmasking Jamie. It reminded me a lot of the Walter and Hank confrontation in Breaking Bad, which I’m thinking about more the longer I watch this show. That said, there are parts of Angela’s whole story that still ring false for me, and I think I’ve figured out why.
I don’t think I’ve really bought into Ghost and Angela’s relationship. It’s not important to me that they be together, and I don’t feel like they’re soulmates. It’s not an issue of being unable to sympathize with the side piece, because Olivia Pope is the side piece and everyone loves her in spite of it. The Angela-Ghost-Tasha triangle wasn’t built in a way that allows the audience to side with Angela. That’s not necessarily a bad thing except when I’m supposed to remember that Angela is deeply in love with this man, so much so that she refuses to believe what’s right in front of her. I understand intellectually that people can delude themselves into believing anything, and it makes sense for Angela to still be trying to make space within herself for faith in Jamie’s innocence. But it doesn’t come across that way because I don’t have enough of an emotional connection to Ghost and Angela’s relationship. It seems like Angela is terribly stupid at worst, and at best, suffering from the worst case of sex hypnosis in human history.
The humiliation thread connects Angela with Kanan, who is rejected by his son one final time. I initially had reservations about how it was determined that Shawn would kill Ghost. At least, it didn’t make sense that Kanan wouldn’t be able to get close to Ghost to do it himself given that Ghost has been trying to find him for who even knows how many weeks. Kanan could have gotten an audience with Ghost. But the better explanation is that while Kanan is more than comfortable with doing his own wet work, and has a huge ax to grind with Ghost, he likes the poetry of having Shawn shoot him instead. That’s poetic if you’ve been trapped in jail for years because your business partner set you up, only to be released and see that your son has come to think of your betrayer as his father. Kanan wants Shawn to kill Ghost as a symbolic rejection of the man who separated them, and if it means he can replace Ghost’s link on the distribution chain, all the better. He also wants to see how much of him is in Shawn. Men think of their sons as photocopies of their masculine identities, whatever those might entail. Kanan thinks being able to kill without remorse is a masculine signifier, and he wants to see if Shawn’s got any of his daddy in him.
Naturally Shawn can’t go through with it after cornering Ghost at Truth and giving a “here’s why you’re about to die” speech that makes Bond villains sound terse by comparison. Ghost can tell from Shawn’s hesitation that he can’t go through with it, but he waits for the perfect moment to snatch the gun away. Ghost spares Shawn’s life, but banishes him from New York, which is convenient given that Tasha has stowed away $200,000 and is planning to flee with Shawn and the kids. Shawn never makes it to pick them up, because he stops to confront Kanan first. The fact that it seems like such a irrelevant stop to make underscores why it’s so important to Shawn. Shawn fully intends to leave New York with Tasha and the kids, and doesn’t want to leave without staring his father down one last time. The psychology of those scenes wasn’t completely clear, but it seems like Shawn is a just a really impressionable kid, the type of person who, when faced with a dilemma, will follow the most recent advice he’s given. A person who can be easily manipulated values the opportunity to confront the person who manipulated them and tell them it’s over. The meeting was supposed to win Shawn his dignity, but instead it gets him a slug in the gut and another in the head after Kanan is once again denied his poetic justice.
Shawn’s final scenes are tragic and tough to watch on a story level, since it’s essentially the end of two father-son relationships—and the end of Shawn’s life—in a matter of minutes. Those scenes made me really curious about what’s in store for the finale, because I suddenly feel like I could stand for Kanan to stick around for a longer period of time. The writers have actively turned the audience against him by making him purely sadistic, and with Shawn’s murder, he’s gone full Joffrey. But like Joffrey before him, who held court for some time, I hope this doesn’t hasten Kanan’s death. The Shawn and Tasha ‘shippers will be out for blood, but I hope Kanan’s end is much further out. He’s become a much larger villain than should be contained in one season. Also, keeping Kanan around would make sense because Ghost needs an antagonist, and while Angela seems determined to redouble her effort to prosecute Ghost, the threat she poses feels increasingly inert. Hell, maybe Kanan and Angela should join forces. The enemy of your enemy is your friend.
- I had some issues with this episode but it was so effective on an emotional level it felt deserving of an A rather than an A-.
- I’m very curious to see how Tasha reacts to Shawn’s death. There’s still a lot of ambiguity around her feelings for Shawn and whether she’s in love with him as a person or as a symbol of a simple, stress-free life without Ghost.
- I’m not sure how Ghost gets out of this season alive with this many people wanting to kill him. The season finale is called “Ghost Is Dead,” so we’ll see how literal that is.
- I wish I knew more about Angela. Specifically, it would be interesting to hear Angela talk about why she takes her job as seriously as she does. Ghost does his best to spare Angela the embarrassment in court, urging her to “help” Tommy on her own, though it’s entirely unclear what he thinks she’s supposed to be able to do. But she refuses, and she says Tommy is morally undeserving of protection. That line shifts my perception of Angela. I’ve always had the impression Angela is a sexy schoolmarm type, one of those people who, for whatever reason, is really consumed with the rules and adhering to them. But she also breaks every rule, every agreement, and every basic social contract to ensure that other people follow the rules. She seems like the kind of moral relativist that would consider drug crimes small potatoes given the other work she could be doing at the Department of Justice. Maybe that contradiction is part of the concept behind the character, and it’s a valid one. But as Angela starts to figure out her path out of the mess she’s in, I wish I had more of an idea of why exactly she values the work she does.
- As much as I liked “Time’s Up,” and I really liked it, the performances were kind of patchy all over the place. But I get how that could happen in an episode with so many emotional peaks. A scene like Shawn’s botched assassination is not the sort of thing actors can do too many times before the performance starts to deteriorate. I’m speculating wildly, but I wouldn’t be surprised if most of what was in the scene came from the first, second, and just maybe third takes. Sinqua Walls is good, but there were little moments where I found myself squinting at him.