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Room 104 - Bangs - Review

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WARNING: Please don't read if you haven't seen Room 104 4x04 Bangs yet!  SPOILERS AHEAD!

This week's edition of the final season of HBO's Room 104, to me, was basically a female version of the previous three episodes. It was written by Jenée LaMarque and Lauren Parks, and directed by Jenée LaMarque (who also directed last season's fascinating "Rogue" episode). Mark Duplass is nowhere to be found except as a producer for the first time this season. This means that this might be the first time that Room 104 has followed on a consistent theme, rather than present itself as a hodgepodge of self-contained moods and esoteric concepts that compromised the first three seasons. The main theme so far this season seems to be identity. Every character we've seen this season goes through an existential crisis and nearly loses their mind trying to figure themselves out.

The events presented in "Bangs" veer from remembered to possibly imagined. It is very arguable which events are which. Here, we follow Eva (Melissa Fumero) as she is trying to find herself once again after her divorce from Derek (Adam Shapiro). We see several people in her life, like Jaimie (Vivian Bang), tell her to become a new person, rather than just do different things, like cut her hair to give herself bangs; to become unrecognizable. We already know that hair can be a symbol of someone's identity and femininity.

A rather heavy-handed symbol, the scissors Eva must use to create this conceptual new persona keep appearing and reappearing throughout the episode, including in a neon pink box that we have seen the title card appear in at the start of every episode of this series. So, what separates this episode from the infamous moment in Felicity where she cut off most of her hair to free herself of her old flame? This is an episode where even an actor's surname bears the episode's title. Well, it seems that the act of cutting one's hair actually does have some serious psychological effects and physiological changes, even in real life. This is why so many television and film stories like to try to replicate the effects of this seemingly simple act.

The argument can be made that cutting one's hair is different for women than it is for men. Some think that men wouldn't care about changing their hairstyle or just going bald like nothing has happened. Popular belief is that only women go through any type of psychological torment over it. However, the classic story of Samson would suggest otherwise. But, here, we are dealing with classic feminist ideology. In this case, Eva might be sensing trepidation in going through with it b/c she does not want to become a female Samson, at least at first. The first person she visualizes when she is considering going through with the haircut is Walker (Finn Roberts), a girlhood crush who represents what might have been. He continues to haunt her even though she probably doesn't even know what he looks like in the present.

I was surprised that there was no scene where Eva imagined what Walker could have been doing in his 30s. Did she ever try to track him down? Does she imagine him married to someone else with children? None of this is answered. Instead, he just exists as a faded image in her memories, one that never evolves or really disappears. Eva is 33 or 34 now. She doesn't like the song he plays now (which has shades of the early 90s-style acoustic music Mark Duplass played in "The Murderer" episode). She even acknowledges that Walker only smells good b/c of the shampoo his mother bought him back then. Does he still use it now? Sadly, there's only a 1/2 in the episode and such details are forbidden to the audience. Nevertheless, the notion that we are not the same people in our 30s we were in high school is strong here.

Yet, Eva clings to the past, even though she claims she wants to move past it. She gets caught in a Groundhog Day (or perhaps Palm Springs now)-type time loop involving Derek. This shows that even though Eva says she wants to move on and cut her hair, she still has trouble letting go of the past and past events that haunt her like ghosts. We see the character Poppy March (Breeda Wool) telling her to be her unique self. However, Eva keeps showing everyone that she isn't the same girl who was too scared to give the letter to Walker. But, she didn't give to it him, so she still kind of is. She never reconciled that. So, by trying to be "unique," she may just be trying to replicate Poppy's style.

 So, does Eva find herself by the end of the episode? Of course not. No one can ever really "find themselves." That is an illusion, especially in a 1/2 hour self-contained television episode. Identity constantly evolves and changes. Nothing is ever found or revealed under our behavior patterns and societal conditioning. It just goes on and on. Eva decides to forego and the bangs idea and tells Vivian to shave her head -Britney Spears style. Fine. Is might be a good idea for Eva to rid herself of her rotten emotional baggage. Sadly, I think she will discover that healing one's self involves more than a quick fix head shaving later on.

We don't get to see the results of this impulsive decision, but it doesn't matter. Vivian describes her as a "baby" in the first part of the episode. That works since she wants to start anew. A shaved scalp isn't a bad place to start, but dealing with trauma is a little more complicated than that. Trauma makes one's life into a "before and "after" bi-section. Eva might be too conventional of a person to ever go beyond that. She wants a future she may not be able to handle without the influence of her past. But the idea of her being open to it is a step in the right direction anyway you look at it.


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