Okay, now I’m just angry.
The over dramatic soap operatics, I’ll take. The extra villainous holiday-themed turn, I’ll live with. But wasting the divine Kelly Bishop on a throwaway mother role? That’s unforgivable, Flesh And Bone. We’re talking a world-class dancer who originated Sheila from A Chorus Line on Broadway. Not to mention Emily Gilmore, the only bitter kitten mother on television who could also manage to be the most likable character on a show genetically engineered churn out likable characters. And all she’s going to get is bitterness about tennis rackets.
Naming an episode of Flesh And Bone “F.U.B.A.R.” is not really fair. I’m a newspaperwoman at heart, and naming what is really a disaster of an episode “fucking up beyond all repair” is making my hackiest tendencies tingle. It’s almost too easy. Everything that happened in this episode raised so many questions that had nothing to do with this supposed storyline that we’re hurtling toward the conclusion of. This episode was an unnecessary detour from the goal of actually seeing the show that the painfully effervescent Toni Cannava is mounting. Okay, so Jessica definitely embezzled, which is fine but I don’t care about her or her child, so unless this ends with Paul literally spontaneously combusting out of rage (rage-busting?) I’m going to continue not to care about a perfectly ineffectual character. Mia clearly has some kind of brain tumor — they don’t call you into neurosurgeon for the all clear sign, plus there’s the whole suicide attempt — but once again, I had little sympathy for her impending doom throughout the episode because she’s genuinely an unpleasant person. And then there’s Romeo doing … well … doing his Romeo thing that I’m also beginning not to care about.
There are two big plots in this episode and neither of them made a whole lot of sense. Let’s start with Paul who has panties in a twist because it’s the holiday season. So here’s the problem with the entire Paul storyline: If Paul is such an awful sad sack during the holidays, a guy who fires people for no reason and who puts the health of his dancers at risk to prove his own dominance, why doesn’t someone just invite him over for Thanksgiving? It seems like all of these people, who just happen to be able to cancel their Thanksgiving plans in order to go hang out with a guy who makes their lives miserable, could skip a step if they just planned on having Thanksgiving with him anyway. The problem with Paul is that there’s no benevolence in him. We’ve seen him do nothing good for anyone. He promoted Claire, but to do so forced her into a sexual situation she didn’t want to be in. He promoted Daphne but only after the promise of a $250,000 grant. He sexually abuses Ross (which, ugh, Ross). And he’s just a general dick to everyone else (poor Mona) that I’m not entirely sure why people want to go over his house for Thanksgiving to begin with. There’s the self-serving idea that helping Paul will lead to better standing in the company but Paul’s Thanksgiving feast was presented as more of a way to help him than to save themselves. Why help this guy? Sure, the sadistic teacher trope who is an asshole in order to hide other personal shortcomings is wide and well-known but Paul is so out-there villainous doesn’t have any of the charm that was inherent to, say, J.K. Simmons’ character in Whiplash. There’s a component of psychological complexity manipulation that seems to be missing from Paul’s character. The charm is so put upon that when he explodes with rage, it rings even falser.
Although, if there was one good thing about Paul’s insanity it’s that we actually got to see some dance. For a show about the ballet, there’s been so little actual scenes of dance, or even of practice and I’m happy there was a comparative abundance of those scenes considering the rest of the show has been frankly devoid of them unless they involved female nudity and took place on a pole.
Then we get to teleporting Claire, who has figured out a way to manipulate holiday travel so as to get a flight to and from Pittsburgh over Thanksgiving weekend with what seems like no prior plane tickets. The timeline here makes little sense. In Pittsburgh, we find out what Claire’s pre-American Ballet Company life was like, and it involves an incestuous baby. It’s not even shocking anymore, although this revelation gives Bryan sympathetic shade. Bryan is such a weird character. At first, he’s this psychopath threat, now he’s her long-suffering brother-lover, forced into war as an act of second degree murder by a disabled, beer-guzzling father who is just as much of a caricature as the rest of them. I kept questioning why Claire would reach out to Bryan after she successfully ejected him from her life, and the answer to why she was so interested in his well-being is that his character was about to shift wildly from a dangerous killer to sympathetic love interest who is invested in the baby Claire had to give up. I honestly have no idea what will happen next with these two, because if a character like Bryan can go from rapist to loving would-be father in the course of a couple episodes, how is there any way to guess?