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A Teacher - Episode 7 - Review

We’re nearing the end of Eric and Claire’s story. I won’t lie, this Claire-free episode was a welcome respite. It also gave Nick Robinson an opportunity to do more than look lovestruck. He does lovestruck beautifully, but he’s capable of so much more. Watching Eric spiral reminded me of Robinson’s compelling performance in Being Charlie (2015). I’m sure the next episode will showcase Claire, and while there is nothing that can redeem the character, it will be good to see what nuance Mara will bring when removed from the need to be a smirky felon.

We begin at a a frat party. It looks like high school is over and Eric has made it to his dream school. Is he a freshman? Sophomore? I wish the show had opened each episode by orienting the viewer in time.

Eric is drinking, smoking weed, chilling with the boys, and having conversations that center on the objectification of women. Not much has changed from high school. We do learn that Claire went to jail. I know the show is a limited series and doesn’t have the time to let Claire’s trial unfold, but I feel robbed. I at least wanted to see her sentenced. I wanted to watch her face while her world crumbled.

Eventually, the intellectually riveting conversation turns to Eric being pelted with questions about Claire. The show once again turns to talking about her hotness. Could we address something I’ve refrained from saying? Kate Mara is absolutely attractive. If she were a teacher, I have no doubt students would crush on her, but the language the male characters use to describe her is bordering on hyperbole. I mean “smokeshow.” Really? A quick peek at Urban Dictionary tells me the term is reserved for people so hot you can see smoke rise from their bodies.

Claire is not a smokeshow. It’s like the show is trying to make us understand why Eric would be attracted to her. We get why he would be attracted to her without the overblown descriptors. It’s just odd. Whenever Claire is described in such exaggerated terms it feels fake and stands out in a bad way. I suppose it could be the show’s way of painting all boys as devolved cavemen. To which I say, do better than this heavy handed singular portrait of boys.

Sadly, I fear the real purpose is to show the viewer that every story has not just two sides, but multiple causes. It’s just another attempt to justify Claire’s narrative, the one she uses to proclaim her innocence, that Eric pursued her. It’s as if the show is saying, of course he pursued her, he couldn’t help himself, just look at her, and all his friends agree she is too hot to ignore. Please never forget that Eric had a crush that needed to be immediately crushed. Instead, Claire took advantage of his attraction to her.

Eric, tired of talking with the boys, finds a girl on the dance floor. And dancing leads to sex. Apparently, it is mind blowing sex. What is the audience supposed to take away from this scene? That Claire, the adult, taught him some things? That Eric’s namesless partner only perceives the sex as mind blowing because he had the prowess to “bang” his teacher? This is just gross, but also patently demeaning. This show continues to operate in a toxic space.
Eric is spiraling. Of course he is. The show let’s the viewer see that Eric has paid a serious cost for Claire’s choices. And even as she sits in jail for what she’s done, Eric is still the one taking responsibility. He’s blaming himself for convincing her to run away because her sentence was more severe as a result.

I wondered if Eric was in counseling, but a visit home lets me know he isn’t. Mom tries to turn the conversation toward Eric’s need for therapy, but he doesn’t want to talk about it, declaring he didn’t go through anything and that he’s fine. In fact, Eric screams about being fine, which illustrates that he isn’t fine. Also, Claire is being released after serving less than a year of her sentence.

Eric doesn’t know how to cope, so he’s silencing and drowning his pain in drugs, alcohol and sex. It’s sex he seeks after learning about Claire’s early release. Unfortunately, his nameless hookup also wants to talk. She wants to talk about him being a survivor. She wants to talk about trauma. She recognizes him as the victim he is and wants to slow their relationship down. Eric isn’t looking for a relationship though, he’s looking to lose himself. Pissed he storms out and heads to the frat house.

Here they get the brilliant idea to drink, drive, and ride the roof. Eric is on a path of self-destruction, but what’s everyone else’s excuse. Does this really happen? It must have happened at least once for someone to put it in a script. Eric rides the roof and is thrown when they have to break to avoid crashing into trees. They panic, but Eric stands clutching his wrist before raising his fists in the air and whooping. The frat bros whoop with him and declare him the man. Makes total sense. He didn’t die, so they avoided a litany of charges that would have likely ruined their futures. Time to celebrate. The ratio of idiots to normal people on this show cannot reflect the national average. It just can’t.
With his face a series of scratches and cuts, Eric heads to the frat house for either his official induction into the fraternity or his acceptance as a pledge. It’s unclear. I think he’s officially becoming a pledge. Part of that involves an exotic dancer. She’s clearly older than the boys there. Eric gets singled out for a lap dance. You can see how reluctant he is to participate, but he takes a seat in the center of the room. A few moments into the lap dance, he wants her to stop. When she keeps going and the crowd keeps cheering, he gets up and storms out. He’s done with the frat. Logan’s brother, Cody (Cameron Moulene) is too stupid to realize the root of Eric’s reaction. The hazing choice is ridiculous and confusing, but Eric’s reaction is heartbreaking.

After leaving the fraternity, Eric encounters one of his dorm or suitemates in the hallway, and he’s got shrooms. Eric is down. Just one more way to deaden the pain, silence the screams, and ignore the demons.

This poor baby. That’s all I’ve got.

What did you think?

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