Lunchtable TV talk: Pure and simple every time… or not

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An article about television recommendations gave a show called Pure its blessing. All I remembered about the description was that a character starts having wildly inappropriate (sexual?) thoughts; possibly something about a brain tumor. I noted the title and forgot about it.

Imagine my surprise then when the time came to start to watching Pure, and I was greeted by Mennonites driving buggies and speaking their own language (I was not expecting a partly subtitled show when my viewing began). It’s a Canadian production, and feels like it – as most Canadian shows do. Same sort of production values, same Canadian extras as usual. I can’t explain what makes a Canadian show Canadian (beyond just the abundance of Canadian vowels and pronunciation). This was not the Pure I was expecting.

I can’t say, having watched two brief seasons of the Canadian Pure, that it’s worth recommending. It’s kind of a different story from what television usually offers, but it feels as though it has missed an opportunity to tell a deeper story. I noticed the same recently in another Canadian show, Mary Kills People, in which a doctor helps terminally ill patients to end their lives. The premise held considerable promise for being able to tackle a challenging topic, but only ever touched briefly on the meatier moral issue, focusing almost entirely on the “the law and the outlaws both have you in their clutches” aspect of illegal assisted suicide. Never mind that assisted suicide has been legal in Canada since 2016, and Mary didn’t even begin until 2017.

Where Pure seems to miss a turn is in having too little time to dig into characters and the path the community’s new pastor follows that leads him to becoming a police informant, as drug trafficking has taken hold in his community. The story unfolded in a too-rushed way that made motivations feel forced and didn’t let all of the actions make sense.

In years past, Banshee had a take on the Amish/Mennonite criminal connection/drug trafficking underworld and the “outcasts” from this world. Even though it was not the central theme of Banshee, it rivaled what Pure managed in two seasons that almost completely focused on the community. The second season seems a bit better paced, and no one can argue with the addition of Christopher Heyerdahl to anything. But overall, perhaps the problem is twofold: Canadians have not yet mastered a six-episode storytelling pace (Brits seem best able to do this); both Mary Kills and Pure suffer from this; secondly, the only time we’d get to see Mennonite (or Amish)-related stories (think back to 1985’s Witness, for example) is when outsiders are involved, which would only likely be an insidious infestation by a criminal element. It’s an insular world, after all.

Photo by Doug Kelley on Unsplash

 

 

 

 

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