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The Romanoffs - Bright and High Circle - Review + POLL

2 Nov 2018

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The latest entry into The Romanoff’s is a difficult one for me to review. On one hand, I enjoyed elements of this episode and found it a strong improvement over last weeks in most aspects.

On the other hand, its central message is murky at best and borderline preachy at worst. It stands for things I’m very much against, namely it authorizes victim-blaming and seems like Matthew Weiner’s thinly veiled criticism of the #MeToo movement and his way of tactlessly trying to shut down the woman who accused him of harassment.

We begin with a piano recital. David Patton (Andrew Rannells) is a beloved piano teacher to the community and has honed the musical talents of many students including the three sons of Katherine Ford (Diane Lane) and Alex Myers (Ron Livingston).

Katherine, who works as an English professor, is interrupted during a student meeting by a detective from the Special Victims Unit. Officer Gutierrez informs her that David has been accused of misconduct by someone. She is incredibly vague on the details, unwilling to detail anything beyond the accusation but not whether or not it is sexual in nature. Katherine immediately becomes concerned.

She decides to ask each of her boys whether or not David has ever acted oddly around them. Her eldest son, Julian, says that David has made a few inappropriate jokes before, “about blowjobs” but that they were more of an effort to be funny rather than harmful. The overture here being that Weiner doesn’t think inappropriate jokes are a form of harassment. I get the feeling he’s made his fair share of them before and doesn’t understand the problem with them, that’s what the show is saying anyways.

Neither Benji or Alex have any strange happenings with David to report. But both Katherine and Alex are unsettled. They start to re-examine every aspect of their interactions with David, seeing them in a new light with this information. He never has a car, he seems to always be asking for money, he waits in their house for them even when no one is home.

Cheryl (Nicole Ari Parker), one of Katherine’s friends and another mom who pays for David’s services, is immediately on his side. She pins the accusation on Debbie (Cara Buono) who was apparently offended by one of David’s jokes. She’s portrayed as a hysterical blonde woman with an obsession for Parisian decor. Again, Weiner seems to think women who hear a distasteful joke would be likely to make allegations out of revenge against men.

Debbie denies making the statement. Also worth noting, Cheryl claims that David said he was of Romanov descent, he lied and told her Katherine’s own family history to make himself seem more interesting when in reality, Katherine is the true Romanov descendant. This continues to make David look like a shady guy.

We see Katherine in her classroom giving a lecture on a Pushkin poem, “When Your Young and Fairy Years” a poem analogous with the David predicament as it is all about public perception and vicious gossip hosting a public trial by fire and destroying one’s reputation. This is when the episode truly begins to lose all sense of subtly.

The truth of the accusations against David are never discovered. A rumor goes around that it was actually about him buying a minor alcohol.

At the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter, the show decrees. All three of Katherine’s sons decide they want to quit piano. These accusations have made them feel uncomfortable.

Alex is upset by this and in a flashback we learn that he once had a friend who was teased for looking like a girl. One day he asked him if he was a girl and he replied no. When Alex tells his father, he gets this blunt, ridiculous speech about how his son “listened to the mob.”

This is followed up by Alex’s own on-the-nose speech to his sons:

“When you accuse somebody of something whether they did it or not, you make everybody look at them differently. Bearing false witness is the worst crime you can commit. Otherwise anyone can say anything about anybody and just saying it ruins their life, no matter what they did.”

I mean could Weiner have been anymore obvious? The Romanov storyline was lacquer atop this episode as it had no real necessity or meaning. This episode is Weiner’s defense written in script format.

Sure, that quote may be true in some regards, but this is clearly a pointed barb directly at victims of sexual assault, harassment, and rape. People who have been treated as liars for years, people who are still treated as hysterical and money-hungry even in modern times. These are crimes where the victim is telling the truth in an overwhelming amount of the cases and false accusations are incredibly rare. But backlash is inevitable, particularly when it surrounds a movement that often forces powerful white men to buckle.

It’s a shoddy, lazy attempt at satire. Phrases like “witch hunt” are showered throughout. It’s always funny to me when men describe the #MeToo movement as a witch hunt given the history behind that actual event in time. This is the inevitable backlash. The cries from people who complain we’ve gotten too “politically correct” when in reality they’re upset there are real consequences for their actions now.

This episode is tone deaf and incredibly heavy-handed. Which is a shame because extricated from its social implications, it is a more enjoyable episode than last week’s and a solid entry all together.


Standout Performer: Diane Lane as Katherine Livingston

Best Scene: I really enjoyed the scene between Debbie, David, and Cheryl when they’re drinking cappuccinos in Debbie’s kitchen. Debbie’s face when David makes the comment “it looks like Versailles threw up in here” is priceless. I wish there was more Cara Buono in this episode.

Most Confusing Moment: Why did Katherine get a rash from an ant crawling on her arm? What was the purpose of the rash in general? If you have any thoughts please let me know in the comments. I actually went and googled superstitions about rashes and ant symbolism to see if I was missing something there!