Out With Dad – a more involved review, pt 2

Alright, so the thing you need to know about Uncle Eddie is, he keeps his promises… but he’s terrible, and I mean TERRIBLE at deadlines. So sure enough, I missed mine by about… umm, three months (the original posting of my Season One OUT WITH DAD review was back on March 17th). So that means, I have an apology to make: I’m sorry for keeping you waiting so long. I won’t boor you with a detailed explanation. Suffice to say, I’ve been very busy.

So I’m gonna try to do this now, on a lovely, cool Saturday morning with Derek and the Dominos in the headphones and a cup of coffee at my side, I write this new preamble to the article I should have wrote and published in the spring.

We’re coming up on the final episode of the season; possibly the final episode of all, if Jason and company can’t get the money they need to make Season Three. What a terrible thought, after all they’ve achieved. I’m tentatively planning on going to the wrap party at the El Macambo in a few days, though I don’t expect anyone there to know I was the guy who wrote this stuff. It’ll just be nice to be there, if I can swing the train fare.

Now,without any further ado, I give you the link, and then the SPOILER SPACE:

OUT WITH DAD: SEASON TWO LINK (WARNING: the episodes are loaded on the page in reverse order, so you’ll have to scroll down and click the link to the previous episodes, so you can see them all in order)

SPOILER SPACE… here we go again my friends, down the winding road that never ends… going down to SPOILER SPACE country where my heart can find some peace… SPOILER SPACEs for all your SPOILER SPACE needs, right here… after this, I SPOIL the rest of the series for anyone who hasn’t seen it… SPOILER SPACEs are for people who don’t know they’re reading something they shouldn’t… are you one of those people? Well, don’t be. Go watch the series, and then come back if you like. LAST CHANCE TO SEE THE SPOILER SPACE… going… going… gone.

SEASON TWO

2.01 Out with Dad – After the advertisement, we return to the finale of Season One, only from downstairs in the front door hallway. Soup and garlic bread for dinner, and then it’s time to tell Dad the truth. You have to pay careful attention to the opening sequence in the kitchen, because it’s perfect. The music, the humour, the phone messages, the cooking sequence… perfect. Welcome to Season Two.

Rose descends in a cloud of uncertainty, and her shadow self starts telling her to tell Nathan, until he gives Rose her phone messages. Then he catches her in her inner monologue, and leads to… ‘I think I’m gay.’ And then, it’s the five stages of parental acceptance of a gay child, which Will delivers flawlessly. Even the bit with his shadow self in the background. Beautiful scene.

Transition to sequence in bed, where Nathan talks briefly to the picture of his late wife, and then it’s the conversation in the car, and it’s precisely the conversation that has to happen between father and daughter.

And then, the meeting with Vanessa. That could have gone better. “Don’t… Queer.” Rose is left alone to deal with rejection, uncertain once more.

2.02 Asking Out Alicia – In the middle of her anguish comes Kenny, all nervous energy and clumsiness and getting ready to ask Alicia out. He sees her,s he’s alone, and THEN… the girlfriends arrive, so he’s totally mumbling. Didn’t realize he had a thing for dimples. And two minutes later, he’s got a date. Except that Alicia had been wondering about him and Rose all this time. And he calls it. He shoots! He SCORES!

2.03 Having It Out – Okay, this is the Very Hard episode for me. It opens with a statistic, ‘average teen…. 26 homophobic slurs a day’… and you know, I’m in my early 40s, but that’s the way I remember it, too. Rose is sitting in class and listening to how casually her classmates work gay slurs into virtually every line of their conversations. Vanessa gives Rose that ‘toldya so’ look, and Rose gets upset and leaves for the bathroom. Tears. But surprise. A Pretty Girl tries to comfort her. Perhaps we’ll see more of her later. 😉

And then, the big pow wow between Nathan and Vanessa’s mother. This is the hardest scene in the whole series, for me. Theresa is not accepting the whole Vanessa-might-be-gay thing, and she’s determined to intervene. She tells Nathan to keep Rose away from Vanessa, and he inadvertently confirms her suspicions about Rose being lesbian, or as she puts it, ‘confused’. Her traditional Christian values won’t allow her to accept the possibility that her daughter might actually be in love with Rose. The actress, Wendy Glazier, delivers the whole scene perfectly. You can feel the chilly, stony denial. You believe she’s outraged that her daughter might be getting ‘confused’ herself from being exposed to Rose. No sympathy. No attempt to understand. Only cold denial. It’s a painful episode for me to watch. I’m writing about it with the film paused half way through the sequence. It gets me every time.

The next scene is with Rose at Vanessa’s front door. They argue. Rose reads her the riot act. Then she tells her she loves her. Vanessa can’t tell her parents she’s gay. Then Vanessa’s mother shows up and reads Rose the riot act. Rose runs home and tells her father, who confesses he may have outed her to Mrs. Lemay, and Rose loses it. Nathan feels defeated. This is, as I said, a very hard episode. Probably the hardest in the series to date. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

2.04 With Jacob and Vanessa – This rather heart-rending episode opens with Theresa talking to her husband, just coming in the door from work, and she’s clearly upset, so you know this is going to go badly. The parents are arguing downstairs, while Vanessa talks with her brother Jacob on the stairs around the corner. Vanessa makes a few painful revelations about herself, and then offers her younger brother some bitter advice about falling in love: “If you can help it… don’t. It sucks.”

2.05 Striking Out – Rose is out in the dark, figuratively and literally, thinking about losing Vanessa. After a longish, time-lapsed walk, she makes her way over to Kenny’s place, where she finds he’s not alone; Alicia is visiting, and Rose isn’t ready yet to talk about Vanessa or being gay in front of her. It makes for an awkward conversation, until she heads off to use the bathroom, leaving the young couple brooding in silence.

In the bathroom, she gets a call on her smartphone: Dad is trying to get hold of her. She’s still angry at him. She blames him for her situation with Vanessa’s Mom, and isn’t ready to deal with him yet. Then Nathan gets a call from Angela, who reminds him he’s late for their date. He comes to the conclusion that he’s really having a bad day.

When we return to Kenny’s, he’s having a difficult discussion with Alicia about his involvement in Rose’s problems, and he’s trying hard not to give away her secret, but it’s putting him in a bad place with his girlfriend, who still thinks there’s something going on between them. Then the young lovers… well, watch it for yourself. Rose interrupts them, and then nathan calls to figure out where she is, and he and Kenny have a good exchange, followed by Rose complaining about Vanessa and her mother, which neatly segues to…

…Vanessa at dinner with her parents, her mother trying to justify her position. She’s a domineering woman who is used to getting her way, even when she’s wrong, which, of course, she never is. She is determined to heal the rifts she sees forming, even when she is the one responsible for the rifts. It would be irritating if it weren’t so human, so true to life. This is what it’s like to be a good person on the wrong side of a disagreement. Of course you can’t concede to the opposing position, no matter what modern philosophy suggests. She’s a devout Christian, but her Christianity doesn’t extend as far as it needs to go for her to encompass this situation. She’s struggling to contain the situation, as if it can be. Perhaps she knows it’s futile, but she has no other recourse. She’s convinced that the situation calls for stern parenting, and she won’t have it otherwise. Vanessa is trapped, with no support from anyone at the table.

Side note: I saw a familiar name in the credits, and their work on the episode was good.

2.06 Working it Out – The tea ritual. Kenny has kept his promise and walked Rose home, but doesn’t stay. Rose is still not ready to face Nathan alone. She tries to duck the conversation, but he plays the family rules card, and Rose explains that she doesn’t hate him, but that she’s devastated at the loss of Vanessa, and needs to go to bed.

In school the next day, there’s a recital being given; a rather tepid reading of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. Vanessa and Rose are carefully not looking at each other. Then the teacher inadvertently leads a class discussion about modern reasons for estrangement between young lovers, which gets Rose and Vanessa glancing across the room when the other isn’t looking. The teacher is waiting for someone to suggest sexual orientation as a possible cause for romantic conflict in the family, but no one, including the girls, is daring to step forward. Saved by the bell. Rose lingers a bit, looking at a play poster entitled Semi-normal, which apparently offers a discount on tickets for couples. Her English teacher asks her if there’s a problem, and she tells him ‘No’.

Meanwhile, out on the big bad streets of Toronto (Queen and Bay?), Nathan is talking with his co-worker, who picks up on the fact that Nathan is a little unhappy with something other than work. Then he runs into his friend Johnny, and they wander off to talk a bit. In the restaurant/bar, Nathan admits to outing his daughter, and Johnny tries to convince him that he was bound to screw up, because he doesn’t have all the answers for a change. Then Nathan remembers something and heads off to find Rose. She isn’t happy to see him, but she goes along with him to wherever he has in mind for ice cream.

At the bus stop, Alicia sees Vanessa with her laptop, sitting on the grass. She decides to go over and talk with her, and they end up talking about Kenny, Rose, and then, at Vanessa’s nudging, Ryan Brown, a boy she knows from church, whom she is being set up with by her parents. They’re cute about it, but Vanessa can’t answer Alicia about Rose, and Alicia’s streetcar arrives, so they part, question unanswered.

Finally, Rose and Nathan leave the ice cream parlour, to ‘coincidentally’ run into Johnny, who isn’t playing his part very convincingly. Nathan is grinning so painfully, he looks like a skeleton’s rictus, and Rose looks fit to burst when Johnny ‘non-chalantly’ suggests they join him at the PFLAG Sharing Meeting, ‘just around the corner’. It’s a perfect comedic-of-errors sequence, but it ends well, with Rose agreeing to go along and ‘get some perspective’, despite her misgivings.

This was one of the longest episodes I recall seeing, and for my money, one of the most well-reounded. I like how Jason and Will wrote this one together, playing to Will’s strengths as a comedian. It also didn’t feel forced or overlong, which is always a danger when taking one of these webisode series and giving them room to breathe, or as the case may be, enough rope to hang themselves with. That wasn’t the case here, though it could easily have gone south. Great work with a tricky topic.

2.07 Out with PFLAG, Part I – This episode is prefaced by the notice that the stories of two of the people speaking at PFLAG are in fact based closely on real life stories submitted by fans. The names have been changed, as well as some of the details, but the basic stories are true. I won’t share those stories here, but they’re quite moving. We also get to learn that the Girl In the Bathroom is Claire, and she too is a lesbian, and happy to see rose there. It’s a strong episode, and it ends with a boy who doesn’t want to talk, but has clearly recently taken a beating. The make-up is quite convincing. Nice work, Sarah Dewar.

2.08 Out with PFLAG, Part II – This story also contains a couple or true stories, ‘slightly edited’, as submitted by audience members. The episode opens with Claire making her way across the room to speak with Rose, who is deliberately trying to be invisible. They have a spirited conversation about coming out to their parents, and then return to the circle for more sharing. A mother and son tell their stories about what it was like for him to deal with being out in high school, and the aftermath, and then David tells his story about the first time he danced with a boy he liked in school, and puts it all in perspective. Then it’s Rose’s turn, and she let’s Nathan take the lead, but finally confesses that she just wishes everything could go back to the way they were.

Bus ride home, and then she says she’ll go to another meeting, and heads for bed. Fade to black. Beautiful music to close a beautiful episode.

2.09 Chatting with Claire – Rose is in a coffee shop with her laptop, and inadvertently has a light-hearted but slightly awkward Facebook chat with Claire, whom she has just accepted as a friend. They discuss Vanessa briefly, but then they get on the topic of her Facebook ‘Interested In’ status, which she has checked as ‘Men’. She confesses she’s only just come out to herself, but after they sign off, she unchecks the ‘Men’ box, though she doesn’t quite manage to check ‘Women’. Maybe next time, Rose.

A charming and clever episode, and a nice divertissement from the heaviosity of the previous few episodes, so nice, and nicely timed. With the longer episodes requiring a lot of attention (and Kleenex), it was time for something light.

Then she contacts her boy Kenny and makes plans to go see where Claire works.

2.10 The Museum Outing – Kenny is pure comedy gold in this episode, as Rose fumbles her first chance to greet Claire in her period garb at the museum. When Kenny sees what’s really going on, he steps up and carries the ball for Rose, and Claire goes off to get permission to be their tour guide. With that in hand, they head off to montage land, with Claire showing and explaining everything in the museum, making beverages (honeyed tea? I’m not sure), demonstrating stereoscopes and wagon wheels and generally being incredibly charming. They play croquet, with Claire helping Rose get a feel for things, and Kenny watches as they interact and are very comfortable with each other. Very sweet.

Nathan is waiting for his date to arrive, and checks his phone for the time, which he has thoughtfully given himself the message that it’s early, jackass. Cute. Angela arrives, they get through the apologies and the explanations, and then get talking about her ex and his husband and how that has affected her kids and especially her mother, who is not so accepting. Then they switch topics. They wind up talking about going to the movies, and then manage to get in some kind observations about one another. Then Nathan manages to get in a few comments that, put together, sound like a wonder invitation for Angela to consider.

Then we’re back at the museum, Rose and Kenny talking a little bit about Claire and the museum, when Claire and another of their classmates, who also works in the museum, exit the museum, and they wind up in a spirited dual conversation that forces you to go back and replay the scene a couple of times to get all of the dialogue. It’s a cute sequence, and it ends with Rose complimenting Claire’s smell, which gets everyone’s attention. Then they discuss playing euchre, and are thankfully saved from a painful explanation when Nathan pulls up and gets to see Rose give Claire a warm hug goodbye. Enjoy that smell, Rose. That was fun.

2.11 Out with Doubts – This episode promises course language and a homophobic incident. Could be a heavy one, gang. Rose is at the coffee shop again, and almost literally bumps into Vanessa, who is there with the very awkward Ryan. The girls have a brief, slightly achy exchange, and then Vanessa sees Rose’s new friend Claire across the room and, careful to conceal her hurt, heads over to get coffee, leaving Rose in a muddle. The scene picks up in school with a montage of Rose and Vanessa looking meaningfully at one another, and Claire making faces and being silly at the classroom door, which reminds Vanessa that Rose has moved on without her, a thought that clearly doesn’t sit well with her.

Then we find Nathan and his co-worker, whose name I still haven’t gotten down (I suck), in what sounds to me like the most wibble-tastic meeting from hell with a client who can’t manage to keep from swearing as he tells a story about one of his co-workers, who has some Photoshop skills that the client is blown away by. As a graphic designer, I can tell you, I feel Nathan’s pain here. But it gets worse. The client tells the rest of the story, which makes it clear that not only is he an asshole, but he’s a homophobic asshole, which presents Nathan with a definite problem that he doesn’t quite know how to deal with. Doubtless one of the thoughts that goes through his mind is whether he can afford to walk out on his client or not. I know I would be sorely tempted to do so. Anyway, his partner in crime walks in, and now it’s twice as awkward, because this guy is an asshole too.

Thankfully, we get to leave the meeting long before poor Nathan does. We return to school, where Rose witnesses Kenny asking Alicia to the semi-formal, down on one knee, the git. Comedy gold, that boy. Then Claire suggests they go together as a couple, and Rose very nearly drops the ball completely. Claire recovers pretty well, but Rose admits she’s not quite ready for a public unveiling of her new love interest. Claire leaves her to go to class, and we segue to Rose jogging through a park, where two girls flag her down to talk to her about Claire. They’re clearly upset about the possibility that the girls in first gym class have to change with a lesbian in the room, which puts Rose in the awkward position of trying to figure out what she should say. They don’t think they’re homophobic, but they don’t see the hypocrisy of what they’re saying. It is understandable from their standpoint. They think they’re alright with her being gay, but they clearly have some unspoken impression that Claire might be leering at them, like some sort of pervert that needs to be ostracized for everyone else’s sake. It’s a sad statement on our times, but we still haven’t gotten comfortable enough with LGBT sexuality to get passed the idea that they aren’t sexual predators.

When Rose gets home, Nathan needs a hug, which she offers uncertainly, and they wind up discussing Claire and homophobia, though Rose at first tries to make as if it’s not an issue for her. They discuss Rose’s feelings for Claire, and her conflicting feelings and concern for Vanessa. Nathan tries to advise her, but he makes it pretty clear that it’s going to be up to her to decide how to handle things. He still hasn’t admitted that he’s dating Angela. Rose still hasn’t come out publicly. We’re left wondering what will happen next, with a tiny teaser showing Rose leaning forward with Claire across from her, and then the invite to see the pre-release at the El Mocambo on the 6th. Sorely tempted to be there.

And that brings us up to date. One episode left in the season, and then we get to see if and when season three gets made.

SUMMARY
This has been a season of ups and downs, and some of the uglier issues of homophobia are brought to the front of the class for examination. It’s still not a perfect world for LGBTs, even in seemingly more enlightened places like Toronto and Vancouver and, presumably, Montreal. Here in Hamilton, I can only tell you that most folks are pretty quiet about their gender identities, and there is plenty, and I mean plenty of homophobia, in both its obvious raging asshole variety and in the subtler, less pronounced but just as poisonous forms. I think one of the reasons I’ve followed this series the way I have is because I’ve wanted to see if there isn’t an answer in the midst of all this struggle, and the truth is, there doesn’t seem to be one. You get older, and you get tired of hiding, and you start to make the changes you might not have been prepared to make when you were younger, whether that was two years ago, two decades ago, or two weeks ago. We all come into our own when it’s time.

At least, we do if and when we learn to accept and love ourselves.

So, no easy answers, but so far, the show is doing a good job of asking the questions. We’ll see where it ends up next month.

To Jason, Will, Kate, Lindsey, Corey, Caitlynne, Laura, Kelly-Marie, Darryl, Wendy, Jacob, and the pretty Girl on the Subway, thank you.

© 2012 Lee Edward McIlmoyle

Don't be shy. Tell me what you really think, now.

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