By David Oliver
OK, so this episode was superb. Expertly written. I have one large problem with it though: it was almost too on the nose. While reminiscent of “Mad Men’s” “The Suitcase,” a character study of the show’s two leads, the plots felt forcibly too convenient. Let me explain:
This week was all about gender and what it means to be a man. In the most physical way, Bill delivers a baby boy early on in the episode with a “hole” for genatalia – something that can be fixed either way surgically and that the baby’s father wants taken care of ASAP. He grows very angry and wants his son to “be a man.”
Meanwhile, Virginia’s daughter is lost in her fairy tales and insists “men can’t be fairies” and that princesses always get “happily ever afters.” Between Scully and her mother, the world of this show is no home to either of these wishes, which makes it that much more gripping to watch.
Bill and Virginia – ahem, the Holdens – meet at the hotel and Bill aggressively has his way with Virginia in the bathroom. He is extremely angry, and Virginia picks up on it.
The two then start discussing the sex scientifically all while playing up a rouse about each other’s backstories. However, this leads to real discussions about Bill’s upbringing. He started to learn to box the first day of boarding school because his father would beat him senseless.
There is a boxing match going on TV – the 1958 match of Archie Moore and Yvon Durelle to be exact (thanks EW).
Bill and Virginia create names for each other: Frances and Lydia. Re: the sex, Bill asks Virginia, “Did you like that?” “I did.” Cut to surgery of the baby from earlier – looks like the parents didn’t listen to Bill’s advice to wait. “Isn’t that what every man wants, a son?” Virginia asks.
Next is where things get dicey: Bill and Virginia decide to box themselves. Before things get too intense, Virginia’s bracelet gets caught in Bill’s hair and she has to cut it out. He tells her, “you are weak,” a clear indication this is what he thought of her when he dominated her in the bathroom earlier.
Her robe falls accidentally, and he insists she leave it off, which leads to this loaded exchange.
“I want you to tell me how much you want me to make you feel good. Beg me.”
“No, I won’t, I can make myself feel good.”
Virginia proceeds to start masturbating as we hear panting breaths along with boxing footage.
In bed later, Virginia revisist Bill’s past with his dad. “There’s no shame in saying you had enough,” she insists. While Bill is in the bathroom, she talks with her daughter on the phone and TRIES ON BILL’S WEDDING RING. A little too far, even for Ginny, no?
Meanwhile, Bill goes to check on the baby, only to find out the surgery happened against his advice. He goes to the father: “This is irrevocable. You have a son. I’m begging you. Let him be what he is. A boy.” But it’s too late – the parents decided to have a girl. “Better a tomboy than a sissy,” the father snaps.
The storylines are tight and flow well together, but gives the viewer pause – shouldn’t a show of this prestige have its stories play out more realistically and all less convenient? “The Suitcase” brought two platonic characters together halfway through a series and its season where there was more at stake. While there is a lot at stake, this episode played out so many emotions for both characters that one wonders where the show goes from here. Won’t this same back and forth get boring after awhile? This will they-won’t they would have served better much later in the season, even if the episode itself was solid and poignant.
Virginia is leaving the hotel when she sees men watching the boxing match in the hotel bar. “I want to see how it ends,” she says.
Don’t we all, Virginia, don’t we all?