Some showrunners are content to utilize Leonard Cohens Hallelujah for soundtrack shorthand, Joel Fields and Joe Weisberg prefer slightly deeper cuts from the Canadian singer-spiritualist.
The duo potently utilized Who By Fire, using its ties to the Hebrew Unetaneh Tokef prayer, at the climax of the fourth season of The Americans. They go back to Cohen again with a song that I wont spoil featured pivotally within their new FX limited series THE INDIVIDUAL, that will air exclusively on Hulu.
Its easy to understand why Fields and Weisberg react to Cohen (or why their music supervisor thinks their shows and Cohens songs certainly are a good match). Like Cohen, Fields and Weisberg are engaged within their own blending of the profane and the sacred, utilizing the trappings of pulpy genres as a delivery mechanism for richer, more haunted storytelling that you may not be capable of geting people to take part in minus the hook.
With The Americans, needless to say, Fields and Weisberg made a spy drama having an undercurrent of 80s nostalgia, but its the portrait of 1 of the very most complicated marriages in television history which makes the show special. Or possibly why is it special is that it did both things with equal success.
Running 10 episodes, most under a half-hour, THE INDIVIDUAL may be a harder sell. Its a serial killer show with comedy icon Steve Carell at its center. Its also a patient-and-shrink exercise in popular psychology. But buried on an even you certainly wont see anybody devote a trailer, its an extremely Jewish exploration of faith and regret (thats probably redundant). The odd part is that lots of people tuning set for the serial killer stuff will undoubtedly be disappointed, and the armchair psychiatry stuff doesnt always work. But, driven in large part with what is possibly Carells finest dramatic performance up to now, theres a nuanced series here beyond the juicy pitch its In Treatment meets Hannibal meets Black Snake Moan which has caused it to linger in my own mind long after completing it.
Carell plays Alan Strauss, a renowned therapist and author who wakes up chained to the ground within an anonymous basement that has been probably decorated three decades earlier. As well as the dingy carpeting, wood-paneled walls and a high-up block-glass window, the basement is furnished with a bed, a bedpan and a plastic urinal of the type in-home caregivers might use. Patricio Farrells production design is, by intention, expertly banal and its own interesting to view how series directors Chris Long, Kevin Bray and Gwyneth Horder-Payton utilize the claustrophobic space.
Alan has been abducted by the former patient he knew as Gene, but who works out to really be Sam Fortner (Domhnall Gleeson), a restaurant health inspector whose treatment had reached a dead-end after initial candor about an abusive father. Section of why their sessions fell flat is that Sam hadnt had the opportunity to start about his real problem, namely his side gig being an apparently prolific serial killer. Sam really wants to battle his compulsions to strangle individuals who irritate him After all, who amongst us? but he lacks the required coping tools and he hopes an unorthodox, but exclusive, relationship with Alan will help.
Rapidly, a ritual is made: Sam returns each night with food from the different restaurant that meets his exacting standards Vietnamese! Greek! Indian! They discuss Sams dark desires over what is apparently the best possible food ever shared between an abductor and his victim. That leaves Alan with lots of time for self-examination, and Alan has plenty to self-examine. His wife (Laura Niemi), a Reform cantor, recently died, and Alan is wracked with guilt and anger about his estrangement from his son Ezra (Andrew Leeds), whose conversation to Orthodox Judaism prompted the household schism. Unorthodox, indeed.
Following the frequently painful caricaturing that occurred in Apple TV+s The Shrink NEARBY, its a relief to report that whenever it involves its method of the intersection of Judaism and psychiatry, THE INDIVIDUAL is really a more spiritually invested thing. Alan is incredibly secular and hes driven by his irritation at his sons relatively new and relatively isolating beliefs, but whatever truth there’s in his version of facts, theres the built-in irony that originates from a guy who demands introspection from others failing woefully to demand exactly the same of himself. Judaism and the field of psychiatry share similar roots and perspectives on the seek out meaning, and THE INDIVIDUAL goes at that directly and ambitiously, touching on modern philosophy and the Holocaust in a manner that I came across initially worrisome and impressively considered. Its an intro course to a more impressive subject, but at the very least its an honors intro course with smart people involved.
There will be part of me that wishes a tale with this degree of Jewish specificity may have cast a Jewish main character, but theres no sense of Carell affecting performatively Jewish traits. Its only a serious-minded performance into which hes in a position to slip little doses of humor. He gets better and better because the season progresses, particularly when flashbacks along with other devices allow him to talk about moving scenes with Leeds and Niemi, and also a solid David Alan Grier and excellent Linda Emond in roles I wont reveal. For what could basically be considered a single-set play, just two actors in a basement, THE INDIVIDUAL builds and gets value from the excellent ensemble.
Gleeson is properly skin-crawling, though I never determined just how much of the uncomfortable oddness of his styling Wig or not just a wig? Eyeliner or no eyeliner? was intentional and what thematic weight it could carry if it were. Im also uncertain the series ever settles on what literally were likely to take everything linked to Sam and his homicidal pastime. To my mind, Sam doesnt employ a believable killer process or m.o., nor may be the shows composition of his psychological profile almost splitting the difference between nature and nurture very subtle. Sam references Ed Kemper for example of a serial killer with a have to unburden himself, and the type generally feels as though somebody inspired by film or television treatments rather than a genuine person.
The obsession with food is really a nice touch, one which viewers are left to unpack by themselves or else merely to accept as a way of finding empathy for a potentially vicious character. Plus, its a justification for the two protagonists to sit opposite one another without overt antagonism. Since Alans own self-examination and unease includes stories of unnerving meals along with his now-kosher-keeping family, a few of the echoes are clear. And sometimes, to paper over points of narrative thinness, the priority here just appears to be briskness this and In Treatment suggest viewers wouldnt desire to spend more when compared to a half-hour at the same time in TV therapy rather than depth.
I dont mind. Its already putting pressure on viewers to invest this much amount of time in the tacky prison of Sams basement. Whatever shading hour-long episodes may provide, the chance of fatigue or the probability of quibbling will be great. Easier to just allow little waves of intensity carry you in one conversation to another, alongside Alans evolving efforts at healing and inevitable contemplations of escape.
I spent the initial three episodes of THE INDIVIDUAL entertained, but waiting to see where in fact the refinement would come. I QUICKLY spent another handful of episodes interested, but worried the excursion into Jewishness and the Holocaust may be an overreach, before buying in entirely for some episodes. And when the finale wasnt entirely convincing, it quit me pondering in productive ways. Fields and Weisbergs The Americans follow-up isnt on that level or at that scope, but its five hours of good TV, worth consideration.