Read Part One of Stephen Porzio’s Gypsy review here.
Gypsy began very promisingly. Its first two episodes – directed by Sam Taylor-Johnson – with their lush lighting and shots through windows and mirrors, evoked the steamy 90s cinema of Adrian Lyne. Meanwhile, its plot centering around psychoanalytics and the juxtaposition between the behaviour society expects from oneself and hidden repressed desires left the show feeling smarter than one’s average TV drama. Couple these things with an ace-cast comprising of the always great Naomi Watts, Billy Crudup and rising star Lucy Boynton and it looked like Netflix had hit a home run.
However, having now watched Gypsy in full – its clear the network didn’t quite stick the landing. The series – revolving around a therapist played by Watts who forms strange bonds to those close to her patients – hit some speed bumps in its back half.
Part of these problems are down to Netflix’s style of producing television. Although they have been at the forefront of some of the best series in recent years – House of Cards, Narcos, Stranger Things, OITNB – they often drag out shows for longer then need be (Bloodline should have only been one season, the Marvel shows should only be eight episodes each). Gypsy could have been a lot tighter with a shorter season. Instead, it was padded out with sub-plots – Lucy Boynton’s scheming drug dealer, Blythe Danner as Watts’ mother – that ultimately just fizzled out either too easily or with no resolution.
Adding to this is the central plot regarding Watts’ Jean and her flirtation with Sidney (Sophie Cookson), a sensual but reckless young woman and the ex-girlfriend of one of her patients. While in the opening episodes the two share a palpable chemistry, a combination of the King Kong’s star wide expressive eyes and Cookson’s sultriness. However, it’s seven episodes before the two fully act upon their feelings. Despite how good the actresses are, they aren’t able to counter the eroticism inevitably feeling dragged out and limp.
Still, the series looked great – particularly in episode seven (mainly consisting of conversations between people on the cusp of commiting adultery) where the main characters are drenched in light red hues. Plus, at its best, Gypsy portrayed the potential ennui of married life in a way that felt tangible. A lot of this is down to the work of Crudup as Michael, Jean’s passive husband. The closer he inched to having an affair with his assistant (Melanie Liburd) – the result of quietly repressing the fact that his wife was being unfaithful to him – the more gripping the series became.
In my mid-season review, I wrote that I hoped Sidney would become less of an object of desire and more of a fully realised character. This did not happen. She serves as the emblem of Gypsy. Alluring, sensual, enjoyable to watch – something with hints of depth – but with ultimately little below surface-level. Enjoy as a vehicle for Naomi Watts’ talent or as some popcorn entertainment but nothing more.
Stephen Porzio (twitter@porzfolio)