V. Petra’s Voice
After Petra’s brother, Eric, becomes the focus of the murder investigation—he has a criminal record, for one; he was engaged to be married to Olivia, for another—she emerges, in fits and starts, as the series’ central focus, or at least the person whose perspective is closest to the viewer’s. Pinning color-coded index cards to the wall like a much calmer Carrie Mathison, sifting through the same discoveries (information on the Church of Eventualism, for instance, about which I write on page six) that we do, she becomes the central vector of the mystery’s solution. It’s an unexpected development in a story built on multiple points of view, and indeed the possibility that we’ll never know for sure who killed Olivia, or why. It also speaks to the level of difficulty at which Solomon and Soderbergh are working: Mosaic, for all its innovations, is still, in certain fundamental ways, a TV series, and the temptation to focus on a single protagonist creeps in at the margins.
The foremost signal that this is the case is Mosaic’s use of voiceover. Petra’s is not the only voice we hear, but unlike Olivia, worrying about what Eric will find when he scythes through her outer layers as she tosses and turns in bed, or Joel, unraveling as he begins to suspect he might have harmed his landlord in an unremembered, drunken rage, she’s not talking to herself—she’s talking to us. She quotes a line from a film on the nature of lying, wonders why Olivia was involved with so many questionable men, and, in a crucial moment near the end of her arc, comments on her own actions: She expresses surprise at an unplanned decision she makes, immediately after she makes it.
Ferrin’s steely performance is of a piece with everything else in Mosaic (though why such a no-nonsense woman would agree to talk to a correspondent from Homicide is beyond me): She is, of course, in it to exonerate her brother, but besides the fact that their father was imprisoned for a Ponzi scheme, there’s little in the series to suggest why they’re so close, or why she goes to the lengths she does, or why, in the end, she accepts something less than true justice. Petra is cipher and cryptographer at once, and I began to suspect that she was in it as much for the satisfaction of solving the puzzle as anything else—perhaps the most worrisome turn in the narrative, given that hers is the perspective that most closely mirrors our own. As I wrote earlier this month of Netflix’s Dark, one of the dangers of overcomplicated TV is that the labyrinth is all there is. Petra’s arc makes me think Solomon and Soderbergh got caught in much the same maze, so thoroughly emphasizing the unraveling of the mystery that the human quotient becomes an afterthought.