Lunchtable TV Talk: Hit & Miss (or why I changed my mind about Chloë Sevigny)

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Hit & Miss was the first time I heard Joy Division’s “Atmosphere” in what would be twice in two days (the second was in the stellar soundtrack to Stranger Things). Just incidental but positive.

I don’t know quite what led me to Hit & Miss. It’s a British show from 2012, so it’s not new, but I think it appeared on a recent list of “must-see” shows (which I routinely paw through looking for gems I may have overlooked in my obsessive TV viewing. Believe it or not, with the mushrooming of different platforms and their respective original programming, it’s easy for a lot of good and true-to-the-word “original” programming slip through the ever-widening cracks).

The protagonist, Mia, played by the versatile Chloë Sevigny, is a pre-op transgendered woman – and hitman/professional assassin. She’s at the top of her game in terms of successful hits when she gets word that her former girlfriend is ill with cancer and the surprising news that she has a son, Ryan. By the time Mia receives the letter and goes to her former girlfriend’s home, the woman has already died, leaving behind just her children. Mia, wanting to be there for her son and indeed for the rest of the children, takes on the entire family. The drama that ensues from here plays out over the course of six episodes is well worth watching.

Somehow, describing the plot in these bullet points makes it sound completely outlandish: any show would have more than enough story to grapple with just managing any single one of the traits/points listed. That is, a story about a transgendered woman could make a whole show. The story of a female assassin, another. The story of a former lover having to return to the past to rear a child he never knew about, another. But to combine all these and make it not just work but triumph is a real feat. Not everything about Hit & Miss was perfect, but its understated nature and careful, never-gratuitous handling of all of the difficult and sensitive subject matter nearly was. And at the core of that near-perfection was a solid, committed performance from its star, Sevigny.

Why I changed my mind: Chloë Sevigny

Sevigny was sort of an “it” girl – but a subversive one – in the 1990s, but she never embodied that overhyped concept (a concept that makes one biased immediately against someone who is overexposed in the early parts of their career). Someone like Sevigny, who has never been “mainstream” in a sense but has been prolific in her varied work, is someone I felt that bias against, both because of the overexposure/praise and because many of her sometimes daring choices seemed attention-grabbing (unsimulated oral sex in The Brown Bunny) more than professionally risky. Not to mention that many of the characters, despite being vulnerable, are almost never likeable. Often shady, scheming, not anyone you would want to be friends with or emulate. But that is Sevigny’s genius. She can make all of these negative character traits work and weave them into so many vastly different characters but at the same time make many of these characters fragile and vulnerable in ways that I have rarely seen any actor convey. Over time I have come to appreciate the growing depth of her work (I loved to hate her in Big Love; felt she added an interesting, honest, world-weary depth to the already brilliant Bloodline; was one of the few bright points in the most recent season of the increasingly bad American Horror Story). Frankly she grounded Hit & Miss, which could have been a colossal miss had it not been for her performance.

Photo (c) 2005 Cesar Bojorquez

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