Tuesday, October 1, 2019

What I’m Watching: Transparent (Series Finale)

Transparent: Season 5, Episode 1 “Musicale Finale”

It’s been just over two full years since the fourth season of this show premiered on Amazon Prime and just two or so months less than that since I finished watching it. I interviewed Jay Duplass, who plays Josh, at SXSW this past March for his role in the film “Pink Wall,” and he said that this musical finale was “in the can” and would be released soon. Now, it’s out there, and this show’s wild, transformative journey is officially over. I’m not sure who thought that a musical finish to this story was the right way to go, and it definitely had its ups and downs. The first song reminded me of “La La Land” in its street-specific California geography lesson, but musically it got better from there. The most moving song was the one with the young Shelly and Maura as dancers, and, thematically, the song that contained the lyrics “your boundary is my trigger” was enormously effective. The duet between Raquel and Josh in the sanctuary was also strong, and far better than Raquel’s more inexplicably scandalous number earlier in the episode. Ari’s “Bart Mitzvah” was weird but somewhat fitting, but I wasn’t fond of the “Joyocaust” ending which sought to sum up the entire Jewish people with this progressive attitude that feels more than a bit flippant. I’d prefer the show stick to its strengths, like Ari’s religious and sexual identity and Shelly’s desperate efforts to fit in when her deceased former spouse has now effectively replaced her as the matriarch of the family. Comedy like the rabbi continually saying “Pefferman” worked well, and familiar faces like Lila, Colton, Leslie, and Tammy showing up were appropriately short and sentimental. Rainn Wilson and Richard Kind showed up for brief appearances, and Davina singing was another highlight, an enduring non-family presence on this show. The most obviously missing part of this show in this finale was Jeffrey Tambor, who contributed tremendously to what it was but evidently wasn’t all that it is. It’s nice that, especially given the allegations against him regarding his on-set conduct, it evolved beyond him. The concept of this send-off was indeed intriguing, and I’d say that the execution was mostly good even if it did overreach considerably at the end.

Series finale: B
Series grade: B+
Finale MVP: Alexandra Billings as Davina
Series MVP: Jeffrey Tambor as Maura
Best Season: Season 1
Best Episode: Pilot

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