Jill Soloway’s Transparent series, airing on Amazon, walked off with five Emmy’s back on September 20th. Two months and 20 plus days later, on December 11th – Amazon rolled out the second season. All the episodes are available now and you can space them out, or binge watch all 10 of the half hour shows in one afternoon if you like.
I watched the first two episodes tonight. The titles are Kina Hora and Flicky-Flicky Thump-Thump which won’t make a lot of sense to many or even most of you, at least until you’ve seen both episodes. But to help, I’ll offer a bit of a leg-up for you.
Kina Hora is a version of a Yiddish expression, and it is often used in a variety of circumstances – but the long and the short of it is this.
No evil-eye! May the evil-eye look elsewhere.
In practice, it is said by a well-wisher as praise to ward off the evil eye. It compares to Knock on wood.
So that’s the title of the first episode which opens at the wedding of Sarah Pfefferman, played by Amy Landecker and Tammy Cashman played by Melora Hardin. This wedding required everyone to be dressed in white, and every member of the wedding party and every guest was. Soloway opens with a four-minute shot of the wedding party attempting to pose for a group picture. Every one is not completely happy, as some unexpected family members are present, and there’s bad blood in the air, plus the photographer is a putz. So while some photos are taken – the upshot is when this happens:
Mort/Maura Pfefferman (to the photographer): Do you want my chin up or down? Photographer Reggie: I think chin up for you, sir. Mort/Maura: Did he just call me ‘sir’? Shelly Pfefferman: Yes he did. Mort/Maura: That’s it. We’re done. (As in we’re out of here).
And with his former wife Shelly in tow, Mort/Maura storms off.
We are now just 4 minutes into Season Two and things are not only off to a rocky start, but they’re going to go downhill from here. And it won’t matter how many Kina Horas have been said.
Flicky-Flicky Thump-Thump is a sexual activity reference. Not one that any of us have heard before, and I won’t describe it in detail. What I will say, is that back in the Seinfeld days, a certain sexual act was called The Move. Jerry: Did you close with the swirl? Hope that helps.
Okay in this episode we have another party/gathering, and as the wedding party in the previous episode crashed and burned, this party, held by Josh Pfefferman (played by Jay Duplass) is for music industry folks. Josh is launching his latest musical find – a band consisting of three women. But besides the music industry types, all the Pfeffermans are there. Some secrets are revealed, and some hard feelings are exposed with all the rawness and pain that such things can create.
But the party doesn’t totally crash and burn until Tammy arrives. And shortly thereafter, people, being smart when they should be smart, have determined that now would be a good time to leave, as an emotional downpour has certainly dampened the festivities, so all are heading home. Maura tells Ali to tell Sarah to make sure Shelly gets home safe as he/she has a stop to make.
Maura and a lady friend end up at a club. And as the episode closes down we get the episode’s highlight. The club is a disco and the dance floor is filled. Maura is asked to dance, but declines. That is until the lady friend actually pulls Maura out onto the crowded dance floor. The music? The music is the world’s foremost party anthem Chandelier, a song written, performed, and sung by the Australian singer Sia.
To give you an idea about this song, the music video, which you can find on Youtube, has been viewed more than 1.02 Billion times. It isn’t a happy song, nor is it about a happy person. From the song lyrics (read clockwise) :
For me, it was the first time I had ever heard this song. I usually listen to the radio only in my car, and I’m generally listening to NPR on the radio. So this song, about a party girl, in a severe downward spiral – was a real kick in the head for me. Literally I was blown away by the song, and can’t commend Soloway enough for using this song.
The song is about the blurring of the line between celebration and self-destruction, and in Transparent’s first two episodes of its second season which centered around two celebratory events – both the wedding and the band launch party each imploded.
So far, I think the individual characters of the series are each flawed in their own way, yet they are functioning adults – even ordinary adults. Yes, they make mistakes, and they may reveal themselves to be selfish and self-centered. But none are evil or remotely close to being monsters. Yet by the end of the second episode, one person will call the Pfeffermans, collectively and individually – just that – monsters.
But here is the thing that Soloway is putting before us. These are fine people individually, but collect them together, and put them into the same place, like under the same roof, or under the same section of sky, and their collective dysfunctionality emerges. What’s more, this is a multi-generational dysfunction, that works both backward as well as forward. At least this has been the case so far – and I’ve only watched the first two episodes.
But wait there’s more. I call these observations.
The opening scene of the group photo was excruciatingly over-long. I yelled at my tv – Soloway, you’re killing me.
Josh’s now high school age son, Colton (played by Alex MacNicol) attends the wedding. Despite being Josh’s son, apparently he got none of his father’s Jewish genes. And it shows.
The wedding is crammed full of Jewishness despite the fact that Tammy’s family and friends are all so waspy, and they constitute the majority at the wedding. Watch for the stirring rendition of Hava Nagila. As well as a flashback to a 1933 wedding in Berlin. Which we will explore more in the upcoming episodes. This is the backward and forward aspect I mentioned above.
Which brings us to a bit of mysticism. Ali is in college. The lecture is about our origins. The stars existed before we did. And the professor calls this – Our origin, Our past. Next is a jump cut to Josh and Raquel watching their unborn child via mammogram which can easily be called the future. Impressive.
Best line: Seconds after Josh told his sister Ali, played by Gabby Hoffman, that he and his latest paramour, who happens to be Rabbi Raquel Fein (played by Kathryn Hahn), are expecting a baby, and seconds after Ali has been sworn to secrecy, Ali is telling her sister Sarah the very same secret. This happened literally seconds later; again, a jump cut- I’m not kidding. Sarah’s reaction:
Joshie knocked up the rabbi?
Check out the Transparent Season 2 trailer: