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Hacks - One Day & Power Play - Review: The Woman Beneath The Wig

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Every single person involved in Hacks is bringing their A-game, but it's Jean Smart and Hannah Einbinder who truly carry the show. Their outstanding performances and the remarkable chemistry between their characters make it nearly impossible to imagine the series could have worked with anyone else in the lead roles.
Episode 5 "One Day" is unusually intimate and mainly focuses on the two leading ladies (it has a similar vibe as episode 1x06 “New Eyes”). The exceptional dynamic between their characters is explored further when Deborah and Ava get lost in the woods during a hike that was supposed to clear their heads. Ava was just broken up with and is depressed while Deborah is suffering from writer’s block. Watching the two women awkwardly stumble through the woods, it almost seems like it's their first time ever being in nature. This isn't entirely far-fetched, considering Deborah avoids the sun like the plague and Ava really hasn’t been to many places in her life anyway. The older woman is astounded to learn that Ava has not even left the continent once in her life. Not even to taste real bread in Paris! Or to see the canals in Venice!
When Deborah slips and Ava’s phone falls into a stream (Deborah of course did not bring her own phone), the two women slowly realize they have no idea where they are or how to find their way back. Ava attempts to build a splint for Deborah’s injured ankle but fails spectacularly as it collapses only seconds after Deborah tries to walk. Undeterred, they continue their journey with Ava supporting Deborah, steadying her as they move.  
Predictably, it doesn’t take long for Ava to get hurt as well. She climbs a tree in hopes of getting a better view, only to be attacked by a bee mid-climb. Fighting off the insect, she falls, leaving both women injured. Together they hobble on, hoping to find their way back to the car, but they only seem to get even further away from civilization. When their calls for help go unanswered, the unlikely pair resign themselves to their fate and prepare to spend the night in the woods. 

"One Day" - HACKS, Pictured: Jean Smart and Hannah Einbinder. Jake Giles Netter/MAX ©2024 MAX. All Rights Reserved

Deborah tries to start a fire but fails. As they sit on the ground, the comedian starts talking about how she is struggling to come to terms with the fact that she is ageing, that her body is not as reliable anymore as it used to be. For her, "one day" doesn't exist – everything she wants to do she must do NOW, no excuses, no postponing. She can't afford to waste a single day.  

They eventually get rescued by teenagers on their dirt bikes who bring them back to their car safe and sound. The scene of their rescue is particularly lovely: Deborah and Ava ride on the back of the bikes, relieved to have been found, enjoying the moment, living, holding onto each other’s hand. America’s “Lonely People” plays in the background, a song about loneliness and feeling left behind, that perfectly fits this episode. However, what is important to note is that the song very much encourages people to keep going, to keep trying "until you drink from the silver cup". And with each other’s help, that is exactly what Deborah and Ava will do.

While most episodes depict the Deborah/Ava dynamic brilliantly, episode five stood out in that regard. The two women exhibit an extraordinary level of comfort with each other, allowing their vulnerabilities to shine through more than ever before. Deborah’s character development throughout the seasons is truly impressive. While some may view it as out of character, I believe she is still very much herself. Previously, we didn't have many opportunities to see behind her facade; Deborah always held back. She did not have anyone to talk to, she did not have anyone who challenged her and who told her the truth. Then Ava came along, and as their relationship deepened, and they grew to know, like, and understand each other in ways that no one else does, Deborah felt less inclined to constantly hide behind her tough exterior. Ava is her only true friend, her best friend, her soulmate even. While so far, their relationship has been platonic, there are certainly several moments that suggest that there is the potential for it to turn romantic in the future. But the question is do TPTB have the courage to actually go down that road? 

A concerning detail about this episode that almost gets lost amid all the great Deborah/Ava moments is the fact that Marcus was offered a job, and he actually seems to be considering it. Deborah heavily relies on Marcus, and his departure would leave big shoes that few are qualified to fill. One can only imagine how Deborah would make his life a living hell should he decide to actually walk away.

In the second episode of the week, Deborah tries to charm influential older white men who can sway the decision on the Late-Night gig she so desperately wants. They convene at a charity golf tournament at an upscale hotel, where, as luck would have it, the network CEO Bob Lipka (Tony Goldwyn) is also present. Deborah pretends to be a much worse golfer than she actually is to get Lipka's attention, playing the damsel in distress and letting him give her pointers to improve her handicap. 

However, her charade seems to be without success when she runs into Jack Danby (Luke Cook), her young and handsome rival for the Late-Night show, having dinner with Lipka. Deborah immediately senses she has lost the game, a suspicion confirmed when Danby meets her at the bar later on and brazenly invites her to be one of the first guests on his Late-Night show. The Late-Night storyline does not at all feel finished, so we can expect it to come up again before the season ends.

After finding out she didn't get the gig, Deborah drops the charade; she has no interest in being friendly with Bob Lipka anymore. Instead, she channels her anger into her golf game, hitting the balls with fury and precision, making Lipka look like a bad golfer (which he most definitely is). However, the meaner she is to him the more interested in her he becomes. When he asks her for pointers on improving his game, he takes a chance and kisses her. Deborah is not opposed to it. They end up in his hotel room with Deborah, fueled by anger, taking the lead. While some viewers might not have been thrilled to see her with Lipka, there's no denying that the hotel-room-scene was electrifying. It's rare for shows to portray women over seventy as desirable and sexually active beings. Hacks consistently shatters these ageist and sexist stereotypes, and it's an absolute delight to watch every single time. I very much hope other shows are taking note.

"Power Play" - HACKS, Pictured: Jean Smart and Tony Goldwyn. Jake Giles Netter/MAX ©2024 MAX. All Rights Reserved

During their stay at the fancy golf hotel, Ava almost gets seduced by what turns out to be a gay republican fracking mogul (Christina Hendricks) who wants to pee on her as she gets off by being mean to working class subordinates. A no-go for Ava. She only lets socialists pee on her!

The next day, Ava watches as Deborah sneaks back into her room and immediately goes to find her to ask who’s room she just shame walked out of. Deborah reluctantly admits she spent the night with Lipka. However, she very much regrets it. After all, the man is married, and she had sworn never to do to another woman what her sister did to her. Seeing Ava, who is always such a mess, try to cheer her up and actually give her helpful advice (“be kind to yourself”, “being a good person is hard, at least you are trying”) is heartwarming.

One of the most surprising moments of the episodes was undoubtedly Palmetto’s Marty being somewhat likable for once. Being mostly ignored by Deborah during the charity golf tournament, he joins Ava at the bar one night and interacts with her almost as if she were his equal. Marty tells Ava that Deborah has changed for the better in the last couple of years and believes that Ava had a lot to do with that. He seems to respect the young woman for managing to make such a significant impression on Deborah.

The episode ends with Kathy (J. Smith-Cameron), Deborah’s estranged sister and biggest disappointment, receiving an invitation for the Vance Christmas FĂȘte. DJ insisted on inviting her, however, Deborah only considered it after a conversation with Ava. These two episodes truly showcase how far Deborah and Ava have come in their relationship and how their bond has helped them grow individually as well.

As the beginning of the episode perfectly depicts, Deborah remains vain, determined, and at times unnecessarily mean. She is still Deborah Vance, the Diva, the Queen of Comedy. However, this season delves deeper into the layers of Deborah, the woman beneath the wig, and I, for one, am loving every second of it.

What were your impressions of the episodes? I'm genuinely curious about your perspective on Deborah and Ava's unique bond! Would you consider them best friends? Do you sense potential for a romantic turn? And are you anticipating the encounter between Deborah and Kathy at the Vance Christmas party? Share your thoughts in the comment section below!


About the Author - Julia Krassnik
Writer and traveler from the country of Sound of Music looking for the meaning of life.
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