The most formidable actors don’t have to say a word. You can read the entire plot of a film, or TV episode in their facial expressions alone. Their hand movements, their occasional twitches and their eyes tell it all. This is why Amy Landecker is one of the unsung heroes of Transparent. Of course, Jeffrey Tambor is incredible and deserving of all the Golden Globes, and Jill Soloway as creator does too. But the Season Two opener “Kina Hora,” rightfully highlights the brilliance of Landecker’s Sara Pfefferman. From the opening shots of her standing beside her wife-to-be, to the scene where she realizes her eyebrows are ebony (when she asked for mahogany), we know she’s not going through with this wedding—that she doesn’t even, actually, like Tammy anymore. And the fallout is gonna be a hot ass, beautiful mess.
Transparent’s essence is, in so many ways, about being the anti-convention. The Big Fat Expensive Wedding is the convention under attack in this premiere. Aunts you have to invite because they’ve been playing games with you on Facebook; friends of your fiancée, who you don’t even know; the awkwardness of the new family member, whose DNA test recently confirmed he’s one of y’all—all of this is dressed up in “white” and “love,” and paid for by people who either have or don’t have the money. And then there’s the fact that it’s not a marriage—not the marriage. When Sarah’s melting down in the bathroom and Rabbi Raquel informs her that she’s not actually, legally married yet, everyone seems sort of shocked. Ali’s reaction is especially priceless, and sums up the episode: “So, what is a wedding?” To which the great Rabbi Raquel responds, “It’s a ritual. It’s a pageant. It’s a very expensive play.”
This is a bold statement to make, as Transparent has become very much an emblem of the LGBTQ movement. So much of that movement has focused on marriage equality, and the beauty of love between all people. And here’s “Kina Hora,” reminding us that gay weddings are pageants as much as straight weddings are; and gay people can have botched weddings and almost-marriages too. That’s equality.
But the best part of this episode, for me, was the incredibly strange and seemingly random flashback to the ‘30s. When a great show makes you stop, and ask, “Wait—what’s happening here?” it means the writers and directors have taken a risk that may or may not pay off. As a fan of such risky business on TV (AKA The Leftovers), the switch to the Berlin 1933 party made me absolutely giddy. And the return to it in the end of the episode—after those Wes Anderson-ian shots of each family member in their hotel room—made me all the more excited for what will surely be another incredible season.
And while it’s true that the season is kicking off with some major clichés—a wedding! a baby!—we’ve got to be forgiving because we know these clichés will be undermined with some far more interesting developments in plot. It’s Transparent. And we’re here for the layers.
Damn, Maura’s sister is the worst: “Oh, you wanna see Mom? You let that woman get off this planet without knowing about this.”
Josh as a dad is just hilarious. He’s such a Bro-Dad. That’s a thing right? Bro-Dads? Dads who are too bro-like to be taken seriously as Dads, but at least they’re trying?
“I think chin up for you, sir.”
“Did he call me ‘sir’? We’re done.”
“He knocked her rabbi ass up?!”
Maura and Shelly making out at the end of the episode?! The body is not ready.
“Kina Hora” is a Jewish saying that warns against speaking out (or bragging) about your good fortune—lest it work against you in the end. When Sarah yelled out for joy, “I’m not married! I’m not married” in the bathroom, she should have said a kina hora afterwards. Her seemingly good fortune might be jinxed in the end by her publicly sharing this excitement.
Best Quote of the Episode: “She’s collecting us like lesbian pokémon.”
Shannon M. Houston is Assistant TV Editor & a film critic at Paste, and a writer for Salon and Heart&Soul. This New York-based freelancer probably has more babies than you, but that’s okay; you can still be friends. She welcomes almost all follows on Twitter.