As much as I am invested in the character of Eve (Kathryn Hahn), this week I found her storyline to be the least compelling of the bunch. Mrs. Fletcher S1E3 let some of the show’s other characters shine, most notably Eve’s writing teacher, Margo Fairchild (Jen Richards). What I was not expecting, and what I find interesting about Mrs. Fletcher so far, is that while Kathryn Hahn is the titular character and carries the show, it allows its others to shine as well. This goes both for the other main character, Brendan, but most interestingly its secondary characters as well. Last week, it was Roy Rafferty; this week, it is Margo and the other students in the writing class.
“Care Package” (written by Jeremy Beiler and directed by Liesl Tommy) finds Eve preparing for the upcoming Parents’ Weekend at BSU. She is wholesomely putting together a care package for Brendan, making chocolate chip cookies from scratch, but she can’t make it through the cooking time without a bit of porn and a masturbation session on the floor of the kitchen. I have to say, I am intrigued by Eve’s porn addiction, but this played as more of a gag then any real exploration of what the addiction is doing to her psyche. I would like to see the show really dig in to the effect this is having on her mental state and her life as a whole—and that is something we did get last week—so hopefully going forward I’ll get more of that.
Eve gets a surprise visit from her ex, Ted (Josh Hamilton), who has dropped by unexpectedly with a check for Brendan’s tuition. There is a reason he did not just put the check in the mail, though. He is really there to inform Eve that he and Brendan have decided that Ted, not Eve, will be the parent attending Parents’ Weekend. Eve is understandably furious at this, not only because Ted makes it clear that he and Brendan have been communicating (and as we’ve seen, Brendan is mostly ignoring Eve), but also because she feels—and rightly so—that she is the parent that should be there. After all that she has done raising Brendan as a single mom, the fact that Ted just breezes in and takes her spot (and, worse, that Brendan is choosing him over her) is too much for her to take.
This is the point where Eve starts to spiral out of control in this episode, and I can’t really blame her for being devastated and angry. But her immediate response—to leave a long, angry voicemail for Brendan trash-talking his father—is taking it too far. Even though she is justifiably angry, she is taking it out on her son to some extent, and that’s really unfair of her. Deep down she has to know how traumatic it must be for Brendan to have an absentee father. Though she is unaware of how lonely he is at school, she should understand that he would jump at a chance to spend some quality time with his dad (whether Ted deserves that time or not). For her to leave Brendan that voicemail, complete with screaming about how Ted cheated on her (and him), is pretty unconscionable.
Brendan is still desperately lonely at BSU, but he’s not doing himself any favors in that department. His neighbor, Sanjay (Cheech Manohar), invites him over for a dorm room party where they will be watching nature documentaries and drinking Beaujolais (and what I would have given for that to be an available option on the party scene during my college experience because it sounds awesome). But, as he did last week, Brendan thinks that Sanjay’s preferred activities are too “nerdy” for his tastes, and so even though he is lonely, he turns down the invite. Someone really needs to tell Brendan that beggars can’t be choosers.
Despite the rejection, Sanjay remains his usual positive self and isn’t offended (and to be fair, Brendan doesn’t openly mock him or anything like that). The contrast between the sullen, lonely Brendan and Sanjay, who is completely comfortable in his own skin and seems to be thriving at BSU, really demonstrates not only that Brendan is a fish out of water but that his inability to open himself up to new experiences and people (specifically other guys) is a huge impediment to his growth. Brendan is exactly the same guy he was in high school, and that is not a good thing.
We see this again in the school cafeteria, where Brendan doesn’t have anyone to sit with. He sees a group of lacrosse players sitting together and you can see it on his face. He’s thinking, “These are my people. These are the guys who are like me and will accept me as I am.” But in an interesting turn, when he sits down and tries to join in the conversation, the “jocks” he thought would be just like him are having a lively discussion about climate change.
I think it’s likely that Brendan has never thought critically about climate change for one single second of his life—his contribution to the conversation is that “climate change sucks, obviously.” It’s the type of real-world issue that he would have ignored because it didn’t affect him within the bubble of his sheltered, privileged high school experience. But in a college setting—where young adults are beginning to think critically about the world around them and are exposed to new people and ideas—Brendan is forced to confront things that he hasn’t thought about before and that make him uncomfortable. Instead of opening himself up to these things, he continues to reject them and even show disdain for them.
Nowhere is this more clear than when he attends the Autism Outreach meeting. It’s clear that he is there because he is interested in Chloe (Jasmine Cephas Jones) because Brendan’s entire world at this point is trying to be cool and chasing girls. I was hoping that Brendan would have some sort of breakthrough in the meeting and really dive into his feelings about his father and his brother, but instead he just repeats the R-slur several times even after being told not to. Last week, he refused to accept the term Latinx as the community’s preferred term; this week he is throwing around the R-word even though it has been made clear to him that it is not okay to say it and that it offends everyone in the group.
Chloe is patient with him, trying to use this as a teachable moment and telling him that using the term “normal” is also considered ableist. She informs him that the correct terminology is not “normal” but “neurotypical,” but Brendan just doesn’t absorb it and continues to use offensive language. He isn’t doing this maliciously; he’s just refusing to take in the knowledge that the way he is using language is wrong and offensive to everyone in the group. Brendan’s continued displays of self-absorption and his refusal to make any significant changes in his behavior are, sadly, fairly typical of many people. Instead of acknowledging their mistakes and allowing themselves to be educated, they just call people “snowflakes” and carry on the same way that they always have. I keep hoping that Brendan will turn a corner when it comes to his behavior, but this week showed us yet again that he is still the same jerk he has been since the beginning.
It seems like Chloe will continue to be patient with Brendan, though she turns him down when he asks if she wants to hang out because she hasn’t “decided what this is yet.” It is possible that she is attracted to him but can’t square that with who Brendan has shown himself to be. It’s also possible that she, for some inexplicable reason, sees some potential in him and would rather just be friends and try to teach him to be a better person. Either way, I think Brendan’s only chance at redemption and growth will come through Chloe, and I really hope he doesn’t screw it up (though he inevitably will).
Eve’s writing class decides that the classroom location, which is quite bleak, is not conducive to baring one’s soul, and so Margo decides to move class to a bar. The fact that Julian (Owen Teague) is underage is conveniently sidestepped by the fact that the bar is owned by one of the students, Barry (John Pais), who doesn’t take any issue with serving a 19-year-old. In the bar environment, with alcohol as lubricant, the students are more comfortable opening up.
Curtis (Ifádansi Rashad) tells the group about how he ended up as a radiologist because his mother always wanted him to be a doctor, but that he feels like that is not a choice that he made for himself. At this point, Margo shares with the group that she had a troubled relationship with her father, who was not accepting of her when she came out to him. Barry assumes that she means coming out as a lesbian, but she tells him that she was referring to her transition. Barry takes the role of the typical cis person who, when he finds out that she is trans, immediately asks if she had reassignment surgery.
To my surprise and delight, it is Curtis, not Margo, who informs Barry that that is not an appropriate response. The choice to have a cis man tell another cis man that asking about a trans person’s genitals is offensive and inappropriate—as opposed to forcing the trans person to do the emotional labor of educating him—is one I was pleased to see. I was also pleased to see that Mrs. Fletcher cast Jen Richards, a trans woman, to play the role of a trans woman, as opposed to so many other shows and films that cast cis people in trans roles.
Barry is apologetic and says he doesn’t “know the rules about these things,” and it is a great representation of a teachable moment. Cis people (especially those of Barry’s age) are often not informed enough to know what is considered offensive, but what I love about this scene is that Margo isn’t forced to be the teacher here. It also stands in contrast to the way Brendan reacted when he was informed that the R-word is offensive. They are both equally uncomfortable having said something offensive, but Barry actually seems repentant where Brendan didn’t actually care (or only cared to the extent that it made him look bad in Chloe’s eyes).
One of the best things about this episode is the flirtation between Margo and Curtis. Margo reveals to Eve later on in the evening that she has a crush on Curtis, and by the end of the episode the two are slow dancing together at the bar. In a show that is filled with dysfunctional relationships and deeply problematic approaches to sex, Curtis and Margo are a beacon of hope. I desperately want this to work out for them because someone on Mrs. Fletcher needs to be in a healthy relationship and it’s sure as hell not going to be Eve or Brendan.
I have been waiting for the moment when Julian finds out that Eve is Brendan’s mother, and it happened this week. During a smoke break outside the bar, Julian tells Eve that the reason he is not away at college is because he didn’t have a good high school experience and he’s trying to get over that and regroup before he takes the next steps. Unbeknownst to Eve, the source of Julian’s trauma (or part of it, at least) is her own son. While Julian does her the kindness of not telling her that her son was his high-school bully, I think the fact that he knows is part of the reason that he throws himself even deeper into the flirtation with her.
This relationship continues to make me deeply uncomfortable, and S1E3 takes it even further. They are both very drunk by the end of the night, but that’s really no excuse for Eve to indulge Julian in the flirting (and flirt back). “Care Package” shows her spiraling out of control after her run-in with Ted and the news about Parents’ Weekend, and she allows herself to indulge in her urge to cut loose, drinking and dancing and flirting with a boy who is far too young for her. Luckily, by the end of the night Julian’s underage drinking catches up with him and, before anything truly gross can happen between them, he needs to be driven home by Eve and ends up vomiting by the side of the road. In this moment, Eve sees him as what he is—a kid who is too young to be drinking (and far too young for her). She ends up at home, alone, eating the cookies that were supposed to be for Brendan and masturbating in the kitchen—which is a bit of a perverse bookend, but it works well.
What Mrs. Fletcher has done incredibly well thus far is explore the importance of the language we use to describe marginalized communities. In S1E1, it discussed misogynistic language. In S1E2, it touched on the Latinx communities preferred terminology. Here in S1E3, it tackles the usage of ableist slurs and the issues that people in the trans community face when they share their gender identity. These are all important topics that we need to be talking about, so it is refreshing to see that Mrs. Fletcher is actively addressing these issues.
Join me next week for a look at the fourth episode of Mrs. Fletcher, “Parents’ Weekend.”