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TV Wednesday - Olive Kitteridge - Episode 3

For April 2019, I will be watching Olive Kitteridge, directed by Lisa Cholodenko, whose work I have always admired if not loved.


This episode took me aback in so many ways. Olive and Henry are driving home from a dinner with friends when Olive has to relieve herself in a major way and urges Henry to pull over to a hospital. (I love how Olive’s gluttony is something that is brought up but never explicitly commented on in this series.) The attending nurse urges Olive to get a check up since she suspects that Olive may be having an allergic reaction to shellfish. While she is waiting for her checkup, Henry comes in to wait for her, and he predictably socializes with the young attending nurse. All of a sudden, two masked men barge in with guns and take them hostage. Olive follows shortly after, and in a tense, dramatic and surprisingly funny scene, the couple lay into each other, attacking each other’s weaknesses.

This is perhaps the flashiest scene in the series so far, but it is so well-staged, with the two never in the same frame and the camera cutting not just between the arguing couple but to the frantic, panicked gunman who barely has a hold on the situation and certainly doesn’t have what it takes to quell an old couple who have known each other for years. The two speak harsh truths about each other that we have witnessed firsthand - Olive’s callousness and tendency to treat those who are close to her so harshly and Henry’s overwhelming need to be liked and respected, especially by younger, impressionable woman. Then all of a sudden, after a particularly nasty outburst from Olive about how she would have left Henry if the love of her life hadn’t died, they start laughing. I don’t know if this was in the book, but this moment was so brilliant. There is a belief that we say what we truly feel about people under situations of great pressure. This moment punctures that myth and shows how this outburst was influenced by fear, anger and helplessness and that you can’t hold someone completely accountable for what they say in situations like this.

Yet, Olive and Henry never have time to fully process the emotions of this traumatic time. Henry suffers a stroke, and Olive starts to crumble as she sees her husband deteriorate. With more time, they would have reconciled and understood each other, but they do not get this time, and this is clearly when Olive starts to crumble and start to resemble the woman who seems to be contemplating suicide in the first episode of this series. What we see now is a reckoning, as if everything has come together in a massive fit of karma. We see her son lash out at her for her callousness, and it’s totally understandable from both sides. This show continues to show great empathy for all its characters, even as it does not condone many of their actions.

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