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A Teacher - Episode 8 - Review

23 Dec 2020

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I think this is the shortest episode of the season. It was a wise choice. The audience is only going to tolerate so much of Claire justifying her actions and not showing the slightest hint of remorse.

We begin with Claire sitting outside of jail waiting for her ride. When Claire reaches down to scratch her ankle, we’re given a view of her ankle monitor. Looks like Matt’s out of the picture because Nate and dad come to get her.

Nate and Dad are tall. Honestly, it was impossible not to notice the height difference between Claire and Eric. At the time, it just seemed like a happenstance of casting. Robinson is above average in height and Mara is petite. Although, she’s never appeared quite as petite as she appears in A Teacher. I also no longer believe it was happenstance. All of the men around her are above average in height, towering over her and making her seem this tiny, fragile thing. I think it is an intentional ploy to make it easier for the audience to sympathize with her. Again, I think television continues to underestimate the intelligence of its viewers. This isn’t working.

Claire’s dad wants to be there for her. Nate lets us know that he’s been sober seven years and even watches the grandkids. Claire, the felon, rolls her eyes at Nate’s willingness to forgive. Certainly, Claire, the child of an alcoholic, gets to forgive and heal in her own time, but surely she can see the absurdity here. And surely, if Claire’s every action is being painted as a reaction to her prudish adolescence and the young adult years she squandered caring for her drunk father, then a man watching his wife die works as an excuse for alcoholism. Alas, Claire prefers a narrative where she is the only wronged party and the only person hurting.
One of the terms of her parole is finding a job. This isn’t an easy thing for someone with a record. The criminal justice system in the U.S. is designed to punish, not rehabilitate, and life on the outside can often be as cruel and unforgiving as life on the inside. However, Claire’s unwillingness to demonstrate a shred of remorse means I can’t muster the emotion to care about her hard knocks post-prison life.

With the divorce finalized she’s been relegated to living in her brother’s basement, sharing space with shelving and a washer and dryer. Claire cleans herself up and sits down to a glass of wine, which is where her sister-in-law finds her. It’s immediately clear that Claire is not welcome. I get it. Claire is probably a registered sex offender. She was a teacher that had sex with her student. Who would want their children around her? Who would trust her with their children? Any children?

Claire’s first attempt at finding a job is a bust. Discovering the store would run a criminal background check, she tries to head them off at the pass by characterizing her felony as a small misdemeanor. Luckily, we don’t have to listen to her lie for long because Victoria, Logan’s mom, sees her and lets everyone in the store know that Claire is a sexual predator. Claire cries in the car.

We see the world outside of prison continue to break Claire down when she reports for drug testing. The attendant not only asks Claire to lift her shirt so she can check her back and stomach for stashed pee, but watches her in a strategically placed mirror. I’m just not sure what the show wants from the audience? I’m not feeling anything for Claire and her altered existence. And the next scene shows that she’s learned nothing.

Claire flips out on her sister-in-law and her brother, painting herself as the wronged one. Claiming she’s a victim of her sister-in-law, a victim of the system, and she comes close to suggesting that she was powerless to refuse Eric thus making her his victim. She is arrogant and defiant. Claire has learned nothing. She continues to blame everyone else. She is truly horrible, even intimating that the six months she served and her five years of probation are consequences far too severe.
I thought this episode would be Eric free, but when he texts Claire she agrees to see him, but she showers and fixes her hair first. Can you imagine caring so little about other people that you would invite the person you victimized to the home of your police officer brother? No concern for Eric. No concern for her brother’s career or reputation. Zero is what she gives.

When Eric arrives, he wants to know how she’s been. We know he still isn’t doing well because he apologizes for her circumstances. He’s still taking the blame, and she’s still letting him. When he moves in close, I’m ready to set my television on fire. When he tells her that he needs her and she caresses his face, I’m thinking about where we keep the matches. She doesn’t touch him for long and instead says that what they had was an escape not love. Claire tells him to go be a kid. I suppose this is her setting him free, but she stole from him and broke him, so she gets no credit.

She cries after finally being an adult, but I don’t believe her. She’s yet to admit what she did was wrong. I need that. I think Claire needs that. I think Eric deserves that.

Claire leaves her brother's house and goes to her father. I guess to heal herself.

Mara does a good job of moving between Claire appreciating the small moment where she’s made to feel like a normal person instead of a criminal, when she’s given a scone for free, and being a monster of a human being when blaming everyone but herself. Like Robinson, she brings believability to the portrayal. I wish they both were given better material.

What did you think?