If you’ve been watching Transparent since its inception, the Pfeffermans now feel like family. We watch them eat, we watch them fight, we watch them hurt each other and make up and it feels like we’re right there with them the whole time. If you’re of the younger generation watching, you probably feel like Maura and Shelly are your parents, which is why the moment in which we discovered the meaning behind episode two’s title was somewhat traumatizing. Seriously, Mom and Dad? Flicky-Flicky Thump-Thump? Hellllll no.
But if I can take it less personally, the scene was incredibly important. On the one hand, female orgasm on TV and film is still such a thing, that it’s always important to see it on screen. This is especially true for women of a certain age, who are rendered on so many other shows, completely sexless. In other words, go on ahead and get yours Shelly.
This scene also told us everything we needed to know about Shelly and Maura, and their short lived reunion. Maura was so not into it, to the point where there were moments when it felt like—although she was the one doing the flicking and thumping—she was being made to perform against her will. Jeffrey Tambor is amazing here, his facial expressions telling us how much Maura has checked out of this whole thing. It makes perfect sense that by the end of the episode, she’s hitting the club—although it’s clear that this isn’t her scene either. Maura may have come a long ways since the early days of season one, but she still hasn’t found her precise place in the world (as is the case for so many other characters on the show, Jewish themes of wandering as a spiritual experience abound).
But if the premiere belonged to Amy Landecker, Melora Hardin’s Tammy steals the show in episode two. Her completely appropriate and brilliant (though, unfortunately) drunken meltdown at Josh’s douchey industry pool party was everything it should have been. Sarah walked away from their wedding like it was nothing and, while the premiere challenged the convention of wedding ceremonies, this second installment is a powerful reminder that—pageantry or no—weddings are real, especially for the people who are in love. Sarah may feel like she dodged a bullet, but Tammy was in love and she’s crushed. Left at the altar (or, just after the altar), and her ex is at a damn pool party, eating their wedding cake with random people. She has every right to scream/growl “I am in pain.” And she nails it when she tells Sarah, “You think there are no fucking consequences, but I am a fucking consequence.” Amen, Tammy. Amen.
And for Sarah, the consequences keep on ‘a coming. In episode three, “New World Coming,” she’s faced with feelings of isolation everywhere she goes—dropping the kids off at school, and then semi-stalking them when they’re with Lem. There’s no way around it—she’s pretty pathetic right now. You know you’re at a low point when you’re screwing with the new girlfriend’s eyeshadow kit (loved that scene).
Unlike Sarah, Maura seems to be finding her space at Davina’s place. The scenes between the two of them and Shea are a nice reprieve from some of the heaviness of these episodes. These three seem like the only real friends left on the show. For example, we know that, while it’s cute for now, Ali and Syd are not going to work out—because it’s Ali. And it’s her first gay relationship. And just, no. Either way, that friendship is over. Of course, Maura’s newfound comfort is complicated by her being faced with a physical reminder of the fact that she was once a man, and a full-blown, card carrying member of the patriarchy. It is so important that Transparent present us with a nemesis Mort didn’t even know he had back at Berkeley. Cherry Jones is brilliant as Leslie and the scene where she meets with Ali and Maura is so uncomfortable. (“You blocked us… you took only men, and one woman with huge tits.”) And because Maura, regardless of her new self, still spent so much of her life as a well-respected, educated, privileged white man, she believes that “profoundly apologizing” to Leslie at that table is enough to make up for the damage done to the Berkeley Seven. She’s wrong. And it’s great to see how Leslie refuses to let the present Maura and the past Mort off the hook.
In addition to Leslie, I remain grateful for Kathryn Hahn’s Rabbi Raquel. She is the least messy person on the show, and we so need her voice, if only as a break from the sometimes maddening sound of those Pfeffermans. She reminds Joshie, our resident bro-Dad, that so much of what Cole is doing in coming to live with them is to impress his Dad. Adopted kids are always performing, trying to make sure their kept, she says (I’m sure she’s the only who’s read an actual book on adoption and its effects on children). She nails it, and of course Josh blows her off because he’s got this. He’s always got this. She knows he doesn’t, and that’s why we’re treated to that awkward, awful scene where Raquel tries to propose.
Luckily, it’s followed by one of the most beautifully-shot, rah-rah feminism, fuck yeah queer-as-hell scenes in all television. Ali and Syd go bowling with friends and the camera just lingers on every small and intimate detail that captures the evening. Young, beautiful (by traditional standards or not), seemingly free women just touching. And it’s all happening to the sounds of Ali reciting that Maxfield Parrish poem: “I always put my pussy in the middle of trees like a waterfall…”
Best Quotes of the Episode:
“He carried you out of the club like a wounded soldier.”—Davina
“My pussy’s a wounded soldier.”—Shea
“Does she have a pussy pussy?”—Maura
“Bianca’s always at a party, ‘cause you’re a party girl—aren’t ya baby?”—Can someone transcribe Tammy’s whole rant for me, please. You always need something like that handy.
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.