Last year I watched a sitcom that, by the end, proved to make for a compelling character drama. Now here we are with the review of season two of what has become a full fledge dramatic comedy. What started as a silly look into the lives of the absurdly romantically deficient, at some point stumbled upon a thread of truth about love and relationships.
Let’s get it out of the way at the top this week, Wallflowers Season 2 is one of the very best shows I’ve seen this year. This time around I’m not even sure if I have any nit picks, this is the quality that every creator should aspire to. Let me also make a note to my future self here to be sure I nominate Patch Darragh for his portrayal of ‘Byrce’ in my end of the year awards. Having now seen three actors in the role, all successful, Patch is the one that took the character to the next level.
Now the show really excels in two areas in particular: writing and editing.
Obviously I watch an awful lot of shows, and while many can hide their lack of a television sized production budget, there is often the feeling that something is missing, something is ever so slightly off. Wallflowers is a case of ‘wow this feels like television.’ A lot of credit has to go to the director, Kieran Turner, for visualizing and executing the shots needed, and then editor Danny Bresnik for putting it all together. Kieran cited their working relationship as the primary reason for the shows success in editing. It is the best type of collaboration, when there is no fear of a bad idea, or giving and receiving criticism.
The subject of editing is a tough one for me as it’s kind of a ‘I know it when I see it’ type thing. For most web series creators I would suggest watching tons and tons of hours of the type of content you are trying to emulate, then making note of just about every editing decision, from pacing, to shot selection, to sequence. Editing is a rhythm, like music (which also helps – and which was a real stand out in this show), and there are styles that you should be going for. We, as creators, need not always try and reinvent the wheel.
Back to the writing.
It’s funny to think back to season one, and look at the caricatures these fully developed characters evolved from. Bryce has gone from completely insufferable to complex, hard shelled and scared of getting hurt. Jane has gone from completely insufferable to playful, decisive and strangely pleasant most of the time. You get the idea.
The real heart of the show is the dynamic between Bryce and Daisy and their romantic exploits. These characters and the scenarios they found themselves in opened up a lot of discussion between Kieran and myself on relationships and how we perceive them.
All of these characters are searching for something, and I think that’s a feeling a lot of us can identify with. As members of a support group for the romantically challenged they all seem to be searching for that something in others. For the most part it comes off as a little tragic. We see Daisy in a months long pursuit of a man who she only communicates with via text. It’s not just that everyone seems to know that this wont work out well for her, it’s that she lets it over take her life – nearly destroying her relationship with her best friend Byrce.
We see the same thing with Martin, a man with so much to give it’s creepy. He is seriously tough to watch, handing out family heirlooms to the babies of pregnant coworkers. It’s sad but there is truth to it. His co-worker is seemingly the only woman he has real contact with, the only one who seems to understand him, yet their relationship is founded on her husband’s absenteeism. The audience knows that every step forward he takes with her will lead to his getting hurt more.
For these characters there is something inside that is not quite working. It’s a personal shortcoming that they are trying to find someone to fill but which can only be filled by themselves.
Bryce is the one who seemingly bucks the trend. His relationship with the musician has real potential yet he seems to try and sabotage it as often as he embraces it. It’s all a defense mechanism for him. Interestingly we see Bryce start to make changes to his life that might be for the better and these happen before he seems to fully commit to working at a relationship.
What I really liked about these relationships is that they were far too complex and nuanced for me to adequately describe here, and as a result they all rang very true to me. It’s easy to look at the characters from season one and laugh at them, but look a little deeper, as we do here is season two, and you just might find they aren’t all that different from you. How often do we do something our friends and our own brains tell us is stupid with the exact results you’d expect? How many of us have had the chance to give someone deserving a shot, yet we were too scared of getting hurt?
While we spend most of our lives in the presence of others life is ultimately a very solitary existence for most of us. Still we are deeply social creatures, reliant on friends and lovers to help us find a little meaning, a purpose for getting up everyday. I think this is the truth that ‘Wallflowers’ touches on. These people who spend a lot of their free time together are all so alone. While they talk about all the ways they can try and manipulate people into their lives at the end of the day they need to be happy with who they are on their own before they have any chance with someone else.
Wallflowers, season one and two can be found at http://www.stage17.tv/series/wallflowers