May 19, 2017

[TV] Transparent: Season 3

Transparent remains to be a series that moves me deeply, although I can understand how the premise may make it difficult for some people to approach easily. Transgender representation in the entertainment industry is often a complicated subject and complicated things tend not to get featured even on the small screen.

But new television-style ventures like Amazon Studios have opened the doors to new creators outside the traditional network system. Thus we get shows like this with a strong transgender narrative at its heart making it on such a large, global distribution platform.

Synopsis: Transparent is a comedy drama TV series created by Jill Solloway and produced by Amazon Studios. The show has already been confirmed for a fourth season.

The season begins with somewhat of a new status quo that has Maura (Jeffrey Tambor) in a seemingly good place. She now has a job trying to help suicidal teens and she has a new female companion of a sort in the form of Vicki (Anjelica Huston). And Maura's efforts to help her first caller - a girl named Elizah, turns into a complicated journey that perhaps reveals more about Maura than it does Elizah. Her efforts to help another transgender girl quickly turn complicated as her world view is different from everyone else's.

The rest of the Pfefferman family isn't quite doing so well either. Shelly (Judith Light) feels a little lost in all this and eager to find new meaning in things like social media or even Judaism. Her children don't fare much better as Sarah (Amy Landecker) has resorted to regular spanking / BDSM sessions in her continued search for meaning. In this season Josh (Jay Duplass) discovers he has a son with his former babysitter Rita (Brett Paesel) and he quickly reorients his life to become a father figure to Colton (Alex MacNicoll). And Ali (Gaby Hoffman) manages to bring her own relationship into a weird place over the course of the season as well.

What I Liked: This season is filled with amazing moments and full episodes that are masterful demonstrations of storytelling done right. Maura's birthday becoming a venue for for her to announce here decision to undergo gender confirmation surgery was quite the game-changer and was a test of everyone's principles and beliefs related to the matter. And the revelations about Josh's son and how things came to be the way they did really shake things up.

But man, the birthday episode remains one of my favorite ones because of...a turtle! Nacho the turtle's story is oddly gripping as while he was obviously crafted as a narrative device but he just became this amazing delight to experience. How can a turtle accomplish this? Only in a show where the writers feel free enough to create truly interesting stories like this one!

What Could Have Been Better: There are still a lot of character narratives involved and keeping Rabbi Raquel Fein (Kathryn Hahn) as a main character felt like not the best decision to make. While she didn't have as much screen time as the Pfefferman family members, she still had a bit of an arc that I'm not sure if it was all that necessary. If anything the Pfefferman stories alone were complicated enough without us needing to explore too much more about her in the second half of the season.

I could nitpick a bit more about the likes of Josh's side splots or Ali having a really weird arc in this season, but that feels like too much.

TL;DR: Transparent remains to be an amazing show with some powerful writing inspiring some amazing performances from its cast. And this season continues to push the show into new directions and creative episodes about a turtle. Thus the season gets a full 5 trippy drug dreams Ali gets out of a possible 5.

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