Progress and progressivism in ‘Transparent’ season three
Adam Ramos | Tuesday, October 4, 2016
“I totally appreciate your rejection of traditional romantic relationships from a socio-political standpoint, and I agree, but I just … But I just really really like you … a lot.” Ali Pfefferman (Gaby Hoffmann), the youngest of the Pfefferman clan, admits to her older lover Lesley (Cherry Jones), succinctly capturing the frictional and human elements of today’s progressivism in action.
Ah yes, the return of Amazon Video’s Emmy Award-winning golden child, “Transparent,” is upon us. Back for the third season, Jill Soloway’s dynamic drama-comedy exceeds expectations, tastefully building on what made the show’s past two seasons so uniquely brilliant.
For the non-Prime members, “Transparent” tells the story of the lovable, albeit hyper-dysfunctional, Pfefferman family. After patriarch Mort (Jeffrey Tambor) comes out as a transgender woman named Maura, his adult Jewish American family is forced to quickly adjust and end up uncovering their own identity issues in the process.
After two seasons of meticulously developing a diverse group of dynamic characters, “Transparent” pivots in its latest season. The plot-driving force of seasons past slows down, making way for intimate psychological investigations. Season three digs deep into the egos of the five main Pfefferman family members, as well as a handful of auxiliary characters, pushing limits and testing relationships. And while the dramatic, almost constant stream of psychoanalysis can get intense, playful respites via fun Pfefferman camaraderie help to lighten the load.
Whether it’s Maura delving into the implications of a sex-change operation, Josh (Jay Duplass) uncovering what it takes to be with an HIV-positive individual or Sarah (Amy Landecker) maneuvering both her sexual orientation and marital status as a parent of two, Transparent season three doesn’t shy away from hot topics. And although it can be exhausting at times to constantly keep up with each of the Pfefferman’s intricately provocative lives, the show maintains credibility thanks to each character’s believable genuineness — a testament to the superb acting.
Yet again, religion is a recurring theme in this season. Rabbi Raquel Fein (Kathryn Hahn) continues her prominent role within the Pfefferman universe, albeit apart from her ex, Josh. The final episode of the season even includes an impromptu cruise ship temple Seder dinner, consisting of wasabi, a drumstick and saltine crackers, among other makeshift substitutes.
Similarly, Christianity is investigated after an unfortunate-circumstance provides Josh an extended vacation at his illegitimate son Colton’s ultra-Christian foster home. Ultimately, the show’s steady juxtaposition of religious practice and ideals with the family’s characteristically immoral behavior presents an interesting dynamic — as well as much needed comic relief.
“Transparent” season three also succeeds in its beautiful cinematography. Wide panning shots of the beautiful California landscape weave in-between scenes, while light consistently takes on a thematic importance throughout the season.
An impressive soundtrack is another appeal of the lates season, including songs from The Velvet Underground, Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Alanis Morissette, Phox and Usher among others — poignantly reflecting the Pferfferman family’s eclectic personas.
While family dramas are nothing new to the television canon, “Transparent,” now in its third season, is anything but trite. The progressive messages are even integrated accessibly enough to entice more conservative viewership. And at only ten 25-minute episodes, it’s just enough to squeeze in before those dreaded midterms.