Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Being Erica Season 2: Paging Dr. Tom!


DISCLAIMER: The following contains spoilers. Read at your own risk.


Being Erica has become one of the few shows on TV (along with Doctor Who and Lost) that I actually try and keep up with. I started watching the show online this summer (mostly driven by curiosity after someone commenting on a National Post article called it "the best show this season on either side of the border") and quickly became engrossed by its intriguing characters, excellent plot, and well-developed story arcs.



The show stars Erin Karpluk as Erica Strange, whose life had hit rock bottom when we first met her in Season One. An allergic reaction from hazelnut-flavoured coffee (a ridiculous device the show thankfully jettisoned early on) led her to meet Dr. Tom (Michael Riley, who was also on Alice in Wonderland, a show I wish I had paid more attention to). Dr. Tom recognized Erica's distress and offered to be her therapist, with a twist: he sends her back in time to deal with her regrets.

Does it always work? No. and that's what makes it interesting. However, thanks to her new therapist, Erica has found herself a Junior Editor with River Rock Publishing and patched things up with several old friends (and enemies), so she can't be that bad off. Right?

Season One ended with the excellent episode "Leo", in which Erica asked Dr. Tom to send her back in time to face her biggest regret -- her brother Leo's death. Dr. Tom warned her that she couldn't bring Leo back from the dead -- for Erica, the temptation was too much to bear, and for Dr. Tom, it was the last straw.

Erica also made up with her on-off boyfriend Ethan (Tyron Leitso). The morning after, however, Erica woke up, opened a door in her apartment and, to her bewilderment, stepped into a white-walled office with a theme best described as Urban Antarctica.


In that office was a mysterious woman that seemed to know more about Erica than she was letting on. Naturally, Erica wanted to know who she was...


"I'm Naadiah. Your new therapist."

And just like that, the show changed.



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"Being Dr. Tom", the season premiere, picked up exactly where "Leo" left off and could very well be one of the best episodes so far (and for a show of this caliber, that's saying a lot).

It's hard to estimate when my jaw first hit the floor, but I think the scene where Erica returns to her apartment and Naadiah follows her would be a good place to start. Ever since Season One ended, I've had the suspicion that Naadiah is a step up on the "therapist ladder" (if something like that exists) from Tom, and the nonchalance she showed at entering the apartment of one of her patients seemed to justify my thoughts.

Naadiah had a significant part to play in the episode, which, as the title suggests, largely focused on Dr. Tom's character. It was hinted in interviews leading up to the premiere that Season Two would expand its focus to include those around Erica, and "Being Dr. Tom" certainly delivers. It's a dark episode (coming as it does after the emotional "Leo") but has moments of genuine humour to balance out (Erica having to mix a Harvey Wallbanger from memory was one of the funnier moments). The episode's ending also hinted at further expansion of the Being Erica universe; in particular, the notion that Drs. Naadiah and Tom may not be the only therapists out there...

If "Being Dr. Tom" was any indication, this second season looks to be of equal or even higher quality than the first -- the writers aren't afraid to take the show in new and surprising directions, and I look forward to all the questions the premiere raised being answered in the weeks to come.

HITS:




  • The "Previously on..." sequence this episode had the difficult job of summarizing an entire season's worth of episodes in about a minute -- and it passed with flying colours.
  • Although Michael Riley as Dr. Tom was the real star of the show, Joanna Vannicola made Dr. Naadiah far more emotional -- and funnier -- than we ever could have guessed. I hope she makes another appearance, and soon.
  • There are some interesting things going on at River Rock this season -- in particular, Erica being put in charge of a book that her friend Brent (Morgan Kelly) desperately wanted to edit looks to have major repercussions later on. As well, David Fox, returning in his role as the aggressive self-help author Frank Galvin, will provide some much-needed comedy in this season's darker moments.
  • The scenes with Erica working at the Coyote Ugly-type bar were a little bewildering at first -- I, too, was asking Dr. Tom's question "So why are you working here?" -- but it's always fun to watch a character that occasionally verges on being judgmental have character lapses like this.
  • The ending was fantastic, although the vanilla syrup scene seemed a little hackneyed; regardless, the revelation that followed more than made up for it.

MISSES:

  • Is it just me, or did Erica's boss Julianne (Reagan Pasternak) seem icier than usual -- was it because of her much more jubilant appearance later on in the episode? (Let's face it, if you had two scenes that dramatically different in one episode, you'd probably be sullen too.) And since when has she called anyone a "River-Rockian"?
  • It wasn't made entirely clear what Erica's emotions were after doing some online research about Dr. Tom after the last rooftop scene, I found -- after watching the episode again, I understand what the audience was intended to feel, but at the time it didn't seem clear enough to me.
  • Ethan needs more character conflict, stat. While I can understand the need for him to be a rock in the sea of confusion surrounding Erica, Dr. Naadiah could fill those shoes just as well, I reckon. Bringing back his ex-wife Claire doesn't seem like a possibility (although you never know), so I hope the show's writers have something else up their sleeve.

And there's episode one! Keep your eyes peeled for my recap of episode two, "Battle Royale", coming soon.

Until next time,

Paul

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