“Transparent” – Season 2 (Amazon Prime)
Created by Jill Soloway
What made Season 1 of this incredible series so amazing is somehow surpassed in its second go ’round. No, its not the well-publicized subject matter, which is intriguing, educating and wall-crushing enough. And it’s not the production values or script, which tower over most anything else on television in the comedy category. No, it’s the acting, the acting, THE ACTING that makes this show soar like no other. (Full disclosure: I am quite close friends with members of the cast…and friends with the creators’ family…so while bias exists, I’ll do my best to be objective in my summation)
But let me start with my (very) minimal negative observation. Just as in the first season, the initial episode is uneven, occasionally unbelievable, and seems like a nice rehearsal for the cast to get back in to the swing of things. With some exceptions, it just feels…creaky…but I implore you…get past that episode and you’ll be rewarded with one hell of an emotional ride.
There are four main themes this season. First, I loved the way Solloway has taken us on a tour of the suburban Jewish journey. I won’t give anything away, other than to say it was a tour I was not expecting, then not sure of, and eventually, fell totally in love with. Second, her choice to go beyond the initial day-to-day choices and experiences of the newly out transgendered individual, and ask the next questions, is a smart one. The complex mapping of gender identity, sexual identity and sexual preference, or how it “works” for each individual portrayed against the backdrop of public assumption is beautifully, and heartbreakingly, shown here. The third is a beautiful essay on the epic nature of family…secrets, revelations, loss and forgiveness. And finally, what does it mean to be adrift in one’s own skin…to be afraid of the unknown, yet even more terrified of the status quo…especially as it relates to intimacy. Heady subjects all, but rife, somehow, for comedy…and, of course, tears.
But, holy shit, the acting. You watch the last five minutes of Episode 2 and tell me Jeffrey Tambor isn’t one of our greatest actors. Jay Duplass, who was sort of an afterthought in Season 1, is truly a revelation this season. The other actors all show a much wider range of emotional experience in the sophomore exprience, including Judith Light, Alexandra Billings, Gaby Hoffman, Trace Lysette (who I have now fallen in love with), Carrie Brownstein, and the ALWAYS fantastic, Kathryn Hahn. But to me, the entire season belongs to Amy Landecker. Her journey, after playing the grounding force in the first season – telling us and the world to get over the shock of her Dad’s experience – is, to me, this season’s main focus. She perfectly portrays the suburban mom, “stuck” in a world of regret, boredom, adventure and outrage. It’s one of the bravest performances in a series I have ever seen.
Finally, the score from Dustin O’Halloran is one of my favorites in any medium over the last two years. There are very few shows that, even if you binge, you do not fast forward through the Opening Theme…for me I’ll never bore of those belonging to “Downton Abbey”, “Black Sails”, “House of Cards” and O’Halloran’s “Transparent”.
Still one of the top three or four shows on television. Start watching early in the evening. You won’t be able to stop until you’ve completed all ten episodes.
Written on 1/6/2016