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A Teacher - Episode 4 - Review

19 Dec 2020

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What’s there to say that I haven’t said before? Not much.

Volumes could be written about the questionable music choices. It’s hard to believe A Teacher is condemning the relationship between Claire (Kate Mara) and Eric (Nick Robinson) when their scenes are punctuated by sexy slow jams. It leads me to ask what’s the point of this show? Certainly not entertainment. Certainly not a cautionary tale. What then?

This episode picks up not long after the other ends. Eric returns home after his car encounter with Claire and celebrates in stereotypical teenage boy fashion, declaring himself the man. Claire returns home and sits in her car with a joker-like smile on her face. For just a moment, the grotesque smile slips and you think she’s considering the problematic and criminal nature of what she just did. Alas, the smile returns.

Later, Eric daydreams about his illegal encounter, text Claire that he can’t stop thinking about her. And that he likes banging her. How romantic. Claire likes it because she enjoys her own flashback after reading Eric’s messages.
I’ve never needed to hide a crime, but I’m guessing it’s probably not cool to use text messages, real names, and actual phone numbers when committing one. I would think that would be one of the top three rules in the How to Get Away with Whatever handbook, but Claire is mired in selfishness while Eric lacks executive functioning skills because he’s a child.

I could continue to take Claire to task, and Kate Mara definitely makes some acting choices that cement my disgust and complete lack of concern or sympathy for whatever fate awaits the character, but she’s been written this way. It’s the show writers that have sketched Claire as this giddy star-crossed lover high over the start of a new relationship. They have shown her to be without concern or remorse for what she’s doing other than how getting caught will ruin her life. And yet, they also somehow want the audience to sympathize with this woman who was denied frat parties while caring for her alcoholic father and who is now trapped in a boring marriage. We don’t. We can’t. We aren’t that stupid.

Can we all be honest right now? If this was a male teacher and a student, people would be losing it. And no one would call it art.

To Mara’s credit, her subtle acting choices make it impossible to care for Claire—the smirk, the smile, the way she trains her eyes to the side, the confidence in her stride when Eric follows behind her, and the flat affect of her voice when she orders Eric around. The writers may not know Claire is gross, but Mara does, and thank goodness for that.

Later, Claire and Eric meet at their spot, which just appears to be a never used parking lot. Claire declares that “this” cannot happen, and the audience is given just a second of hope, but she doesn’t mean the “relationship.” She just means there need to be ground rules so they don’t get caught.
Claire returns high on further destroying Eric’s psyche and treats her husband to some kitchen sex after he tries to comfort her when she feigns having a crappy day. She is a horrible human being. The ground should swallow her. The ground should swallow them all.

The cool teacher from school, and the show’s attempt at diversity, takes Claire to a local bar. It’s here that the cool teacher notices a hickey. Claire is thrilled at this physical proof of her sexy new life. And the audience once again gets to bear witness to her stunted adolescence. Happy about the hickey, Claire pushes her boobs together and takes a selfie in her bra for Eric. She’s so hot and bothered by it all that she decides to throw the newly minted rules by the wayside. She wants to see him, but he’s babysitting. When his apologies result in no return text from Claire, Eric hastily arranges a babysitter, one without experience. This is the show showing us what we already know. Claire is manipulative and grooming Eric.

We’ve returned to the empty parking lot and the backseat. Claire is there for the sex. Eric is confused and wants to talk not just have sex. He actually likes her. I’m ready to Oedipus myself. The talk lasts long enough for her to say she likes him too. Profound.

When Eric returns home, his mom isn’t having his lies. Finally, an actual adult. She turns to the old are you on drugs. He acts the ass and tells her to get off his back. She verbally slaps Eric by saying his little brother burned himself, but that he probably doesn't care. Eric is too high on his “conquest” to worry for long because he must once again declare himself the man.

The romanticization of this relationship continues, which means for all the artsy, edgy street cred A Teacher wants to have, at this point it really is nothing more than Pretty Little Liars with less appealing characters, boring wardrobe choices, and hazy cinematography. It also means that while the warnings and link to resources for victims are much needed, they feel like an afterthought tacked on when the powers that be realized how much potential the show had to harm and offend. It just feels disingenuous.

What did you think?