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Transparent provides the Pfeffermans no easy answers

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).

Whether asked or left unsaid, no one can find an answer to their questions. At the doctor’s office, Maura’s thrown by a series of questions regarding the technicalities of her transition: Does she want breasts? Gender reassignment surgery? Does she top or bottom during sex? Overwhelmed, she asks for time, to which her doctor gently suggests that she should “get to know her body.” But it’s not only a new body that Maura must become acquainted with, it’s a whole new everything. At 70-something years old, she has to learn how to interact with people as her new self for the first time. Watching her try to flirt—or maybe just make a new, platonic girlfriend—with a stranger at the bar, feels like watching a nervous tween navigate the turbulent social waters of a middle school dance. Juxtaposed with the calm, controlled—albeit contemptuous—relationship she has fallen back into with Shelly (it’s easy to see why they got divorced once upon a time), it’s unclear which is worse at the moment. But, unlike in her relationship with Shelly, discovering who she is as Maura has the potential for a new growth and fulfillment. Honestly, though, it’s so much work—work that no one in their 70s should be forced to undertake, and I don’t fault Maura for trying to stay sheltered in her familiar old patterns, stagnant as they may be.


Raquel and Josh confront the Rita in the room, inviting her over for a very uncomfortable dinner. Raquel’s constantly questioning how much she’s willing to put up with for Josh’s sake, although there’s no clear solution in sight. It’s taxing on Raquel and Josh, but it’s Colton who’s caught directly in the crossfire. He tries so hard, sweet Colton, and it’s a credit to Transparent that the cis, white boy has become the most lovable character so far (did you see Colton and Josh splashing in those waves?! I gurgled in delight like a baby duck in a pond!)

Ali continues to pull the mysterious Weimar thread, visiting her maternal grandmother and picking up on a name from the past, leading us into another flashback. So far these have been the weakest part of the show. Not weak on their own, necessarily, but somewhat distracting from the rest of the show. Hari Nef gives a great line read on the homage joke, and hopefully she’ll be better-served as the season continues.

As Ali and Josh tackle their newer, adult-er lives, Sarah’s continues to degenerate. After playing The Put Together One throughout season one, it’s perversely delightful to watch Amy Landecker lean into her new role as A Mess. She brings humanity and heart to what could otherwise be an unlikeable, bordering on unwatchable, development for her character. She’s down, but she’s not out: the little jokes she can’t help but make even when melting down over “wacky hair day,” and her refusal to accept to raffle prizes in a row (“Do you want to…draw again?”) show that her old self is still there, somewhere. After dealing with the gauntlet of trauma that is the elementary school gala (“Gala?”), she stands literally and metaphorically stripped of all the noise and layers in her condo’s kitchenette. It’s the type of freedom you relish when the roommate’s gone for a day, but when days become weeks, you start missing the accountability that kept you from ordering pizza every night, or sitting down on everything naked.

Grade: B+

Most “You’re The Worst” Moments: Tammy’s drunken accusations that the raffle’s “Fixed!” Rita’s a capella rendition of an apropos Sly and The Family Stone song, before saying she’ll “box up” the pizza to go. Maura taking out her frustration on Shelly instead of manning up (excuse the phrasing) and moving out and on with her life.


Most “You’re The Best” Moments: Josh running off to find Raquel so he can tattle on Colton for praying before realizing, “Oh, you’re a Rabi.” Josh saying “footsies.” Raquel and Sarah’s “Rita Talk” proving that this would be the best friendship to be a part of. Sarah’s whole Wacky Hair Day meltdown.

Things I’m Nervous About: Not seeing Amy Landecker in everything always. God, she’s funny, you guys. Where has Amy Landecker been? Who has been hiding her? Why hasn’t she been in every comedy for the last 20 years? The people demand answers! All me of them! That whoever found the song for the boogey-boarding scene didn’t get a raise.


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