Lunchtable TV talk: Another hit – Jett

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In my effusive praise of Mr Inbetween, in which I listed a number of contemporary TV shows with murder-for-hire themes, I failed to mention one of my most recent indulgences: Jett.

I thought of it again suddenly as I was writing about women characters and their often much more transformative journeys as compared to the men with whom they share the screen. In particular, I reflected on some of the more fearless moves women characters have made, and how some of the coldest, most calculating women characters betray almost no emotion, despite how women are framed as being the more emotionally fragile of the sexes. And then I remembered: Jett, something/someone in the no-man’s-land of questionable and violent actions. Jett (Carla Gugino), is a fresh-from-prison, world-class thief who gets pulled back into this underworld, and repeatedly has to insist that she is “not a hit man” and that she does not kill people. Yet the danger in which she finds herself ensnared leaves her always on the edge of making that choice. She doesn’t always succeed in keeping her hands clean.

While not overtly about a hit man, or hiring people to kill for money, Jett does exist in the criminal universe in which a strategic hit isn’t far from possible. And despite her best efforts, she’s always adjacent to this action. Jett as a character isn’t moralizing and does not appear to agonize over very much, but there are moments when she comes to lines she doesn’t want to cross, and it’s fascinating to see how the character manages these dilemmas.

Photo by Javardh on Unsplash

 

Lunchtable TV talk: The reluctant hit – Mr Inbetween, Barry, Killing Eve & Mary Kills People

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My ambivalent relationship with televisual entertainment has led me into a patternof overdose, give up cold turkey, and then find some middle-ground, rationing my TV intake. In recent months, however, we’ve all mostly been stuck at home (not that this is anything new for me), I’ve fallen back into my multi-tasking, tv-viewing patterns of yesteryear.

These patterns aren’t terrible, but at some point I’m taking such an overload of information in, I don’t always absorb finer details of what I am watching. The constant stream makes me forget where I saw or heard something – which streaming platform, which character said what, what show was it? Unless I make notes while watching, which I don’t normally do because I am busily doing something else simultaneously, I can’t remember where anything came from and am already on to the next thing, diving into the endless flow of available content.

I preface my brief discussion on the unusual Australian dark comedy, Mr Inbetween, in this way because I want to explain that most things I watch do not affect me deeply. I don’t find myself reflecting on them a lot after watching them. But a couple of weeks after bingeing the two seasons of Mr Inbetween, I am still thinking about it.

When I stumbled on it, I didn’t know what it was – and didn’t know what to expect. Was it meant to be funny, serious? Turns out it was very much… both of these things. Other articles have pointed out the abundance of “hitman”-related shows currently in production – from the offbeat Barry to the histrionic and, frankly, annoying Killing Eve.

“There are two immediate touch points elsewhere on your dial in Barry and Killing Eve, but Mr Inbetween is neither of those. The ethical axis in HBO’s Barry finds its equilibrium too easily, and in Barry an anti-hero too much in need of redemption, while Killing Eve spirals into its own emotional cyclone too quickly, playing fast and hard notes in a way that is thrilling but also dizzying.”

Shows like Fargo also have their share of hit-for-hire ‘workers’. And just this week I discovered a Canadian show called Mary Kills People, which I knew was about a doctor illegally helping terminally ill patients to die with assisted suicide. On the surface, Mary isn’t about hitmen, but its content turned out to be cat-and-mouse attempts to outsmart the police, morally ambiguous “hitman” allusions and a main character who is completely neglectful of her children. The poignance and humanity of euthanasia is almost entirely missing here (you’d be better off watching Louis Theroux‘s Altered States… and its coverage of people who choose death).

This, though, is yet another reason why Mr Inbetween is so extraordinary. Presenting extended moments of subdued comedy mixed deftly with matter-of-fact but emotionally wrenching moments (in particular, a season two moment in which the lead, Ray, assists in a suicide – quite a contrast to Ray’s detached approach to killing people professionally). The “inbetween” is what happens all the rest of the time (“Save for the moments that most people would do anything to avoid, life is pretty slow and uninteresting and undramatic and uninspiring.” –Jonathan Safran Foer, Here I Am).