Well, I can’t say I’m disappointed that the series is coming to an end. We had a number of great episodes in a row, but for the penultimate one, Try Try, we’re back to heavy handed messages about the hostility of men in the world. Didn’t we have that lesson in season one already? Did we need it again? Or was this story intended as just a repeat of this season’s empathy-lacking stories, Meet in the Middle and The Who of You? Whichever way you cut it, it felt like another of those groaners that must be how teenagers feel when you’re yelling at them for the umpteenth time that day. It’s not a warm fuzzy feeling and it just makes you want to quit trying! That’s a shame because I really thought Peele was onto something.
In a nutshell, Topher Grace plays Bill Murray in Groundhog Day trying to woo Kylie Bunbury’s version of Andy McDowell. Except that’s not their names in the story; it’s Marc and Claudia… or is that Mark? And no mention is ever made of the comedy version of this story. Instead, for the second episode this season, we have a man who has no empathy for his fellow human beings, as he tortures Claudia because for some reason he thinks he’s perfect for her. Here’s the thing: I get it. I mean, I get why he’s doing it, not that I get why he would target Claudia. He’s basically imprisoned in the same day potentially for eternity, reliving the same day over and over again. In Groundhog Day, Murray goes pretty dark too, committing suicide in a number of violent ways; I remember the toaster in the bathtub pretty clearly. Perhaps offscreen he would have gone through a period of doing all the things he’d ever fantasized of doing because if he’s just going to relive the same day over and over again, why not? Sate all the hungers of the 7 deadly sins… by tomorrow, the slate is wiped clean. I mean, my fear would be that the minute I murdered someone, the time loop would be broken and I’d have to live with that. No thanks; I’ll just keep looping I guess! The only benefit is that you get to keep the memories so you know what works and what doesn’t but whether that’s really a benefit is open to debate. Sure this gives the imprisoned man a benefit over his fellow human beings because he can become so intelligent that if he ever escapes his prison, he’ll have way more knowledge than most but on the other hand, it might seriously damage the person’s psyche to know they raped and murdered and overate and did all those horrible things that they did just to experience it. Mind you, the mere repeat of a day over and over again would probably jar the psyche anyway so maybe it doesn’t matter that much! (If our reality is caught in a time loop and this is all a simulation, perhaps the fact that we repeat an entire lifetime is what makes it manageable. We can’t remember it all!)
The problem with the story is the same as the rationale for why Mark does what he does. Mark, who fakes the spelling of his name just to further impress Claudia, might want to consider moving on to find a different woman to hit on. Maybe there’s an actual perfect Andy McDowell out there for him and when she falls for him, like Murray, he might be released from the time loop. Maybe his problem is that he fixates on one woman, instead of finding out who else is out there for him. And as crazy as it sounds, what makes it worse is that Mark never even mentions Groundhog Day. You might think there’s no reason to, but we’re lead to believe that The Twilight Zone exists all around us; it’s part of our real world and any of us could find ourselves touched by its influence. That means the writers have got to be cognizant of the world we live in and no one doesn’t know what Groundhog Day is about, even if they haven’t seen it. It’s become part of our cultural zeitgeist, particularly post-Covid; people have referred to it when describing how every day for the last year was much the same as the previous, each citing Groundhog Day to illustrate their meaning. While this was written before the Covid lockdown happened last year, I’m just using that to help explain that the movie is a known thing. No one will ever say Covid was like Try, Try. Groundhog Day is a milestone movie whether you like it or not. Edge of Tomorrow, The Map of Tiny Perfect Things… they all came later, but Groundhog Day did it best and is most widely known; not mentioning it was a mistake. Mark could have just made a comment to indicate he could relate the events to something, thus giving us a clue that he might be in an early stage of the process we watch Murray live through but instead, he acts the fool and seems totally unaware of the cultural significance of this movie; almost as ignorant as he is of people in general. As a result, he loses the interest of a woman who is clearly showing the early stages of liking him before he freaks her out in the room of no escape. Again, all men are created idiots or bad, if we go by this show. And that gets tired really quickly.
If the writers are trying to make a point about how stupid we men are, maybe they can explain the filming of the episode to me. At the very least, don’t get a simple thing wrong. When Mark scares Claudia while she’s dictating into her phone, it vanishes. Yes, she could have pocketed it in that split second, but then the recording would still be going because there was no way for her to stop it and pocket it in so brief a second between the camera changing angles. Furthermore, according to Peele, Claudia will go on to live each day in sequence, but that implies a multiverse and each version of Mark that created a different outcome for Claudia does exist in some timeline. That was worth investigating as well. Perhaps there’s a reality where he finally succeeded in winning over his Andy McDowell. But there are a ton of realities where Mark remained a selfish man, lacking in empathy and perhaps writing episodes of a TV show where he beat people over the head to tell them how stupid they are.
This is another situation where the only positives I took from the episode are superficial ones. Kylie Bunbury is strikingly attractive and the reference to Dingle’s moving company makes an appearance again. Will the last episode make sense of that? I’m not holding my breath. I’m ready to cancel my watching of this series. We had 4 genuinely solid stories in a row but out of 20 (I’ll revise this after seeing the last one), that’s only 20% of the stories. Mark comments on cancel culture as if reminding the audience that it’s a thing. A stupid thing, but a thing nonetheless. Perhaps when I stop watching this series, I’ll feel like it’s a worthy thing to including in my lexicon. I’m just so bummed that it really felt we were on a roll of good stories, and we’re left with this one. I guess they should have Try, Try’d one more time with the script to actually get something worth watching. ML
The Twilight Zone has always been a superb anthology for main characters who face consequences for their blatant disregards for others, with A Kind Of Stopwatch as a comedically good example. It may not be a theme that withstands the test of time in the case of Try, Try. But Topher Grace makes Mark memorable enough in a cautionary sense, as the kind of man that women need to avoid, with the added TZ sci-fi/supernatural plot to enhance the subject.
The pace at which Mark’s villainy comes to light for Claudia and the audience, like a spider drawing a fly into the web, clearly indicates a predatory nature. But we’re left with the question of how and why Mark became such a bad person to begin with. He could have used his powers for good and in some way found true love. Maybe even with Claudia. But in the wisdom of how an absolute power can corrupt absolutely, Mark ultimately traps himself which is openly very sad. We can still see the triumph for Claudia, played most admirably by Kylie Bunbury, as one of the most positive messages for women. So even if Try, Try is not the best that it could be, as a down-to-basics reminder for how good can always find a way to defeat evil, some may at least enjoy it for that much. Thanks, ML, for your review.
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I like your quote: “If our reality is caught in a time loop and this is all a simulation, perhaps the fact that we repeat an entire lifetime is what makes it manageable. We can’t remember it all!” which indeed makes us all realize how SF’s time loop dramas have become all the more thought-provoking since Groundhog Day.
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