'Kidding' Season 2 Episode 9 is reminiscent of both 'San Junipero' and 'Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind'
On many occasions, in many ways, ‘Kidding’ has managed to address tragedies with such profound compassion, you are almost driven to tears. From death to divorce, to change, Dave Holstein’s tragicomedy has a way of touching hearts. And episode 9 of the second season of this Showtime series is perhaps the most heartfelt of all.
It addresses senility. Seb (Frank Langella) suffers from a stroke that leads to vascular dementia. In one moment, the usually gruff and sullen and stern Seb is transformed into a man who can’t perceive time, mixes memories, and is even unable to speak after a point. The scene where Seb begins to demonstrate these symptoms is almost scary.
He thinks Jeff (Jim Carrey) is still a young boy. He thinks he and his ex-wife are getting back together and going on a trip, he fails to perceive that they are not at home, but on the sets of Jeff’s kids show. He has a breakdown and goes catatonic. Jeff is left scared, helpless, and in tears.
The idea of one’s parents losing their mental faculties is enough to make anyone feel scared, and rightly so. How do you deal with the idea that they, who taught you everything, are no longer able to function without help; that they no longer perceive the world in a way most people do. Deirdre’s (Catherine Keener) reaction to Seb is equally heartbreaking. But that’s where the magic of ‘Kidding’ lies. The painful moment of tragedy is turned into something beautiful and even magical.
Charlie Brooker’s technophobic science fiction anthology series ‘Black Mirror’ can hardly ever be considered for examples of beauty and magic. Even with good writing, the show is eternally dark and full of despair. There is, however, one exception to that rule. Episode 4 of season 3, ‘San Junipero’, tells the story of two elderly women who visit a simulated reality where they (even the deceased) can live, inhabiting their younger selves' bodies in a time of their choice. It’s a love story that makes one hopeful and sad at the same time.
‘Kidding’, however, outdid it. As Jeff, Deirdre, and Will (Cole Allen) drop Seb off at a nursing facility, we see that the interior decor resembles a suburban American neighborhood from the ‘60s. As the trio watch, Seb tries and flirts with a woman at a fake bus stop. Viewers soon realize that the woman is none other than Louise (Annette O'Toole), Jeff and Deirdre’s mother, who has previously been known to also have lost her mental faculties.
They fight and flirt as they wait at the fake bus stop, sensing that they might actually know each other. Neither of them, however, seem to realize that they have spent a lifetime married together. This brings to mind yet another tragicomedy (that has elements of science fiction) that stars Jim Carrey: Charlie Kauffman’s critically acclaimed 2004 film ‘Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind’.
Of course, here too, the ‘Kidding’ touch is more than apparent. As the trio leave Seb and Louise together, a bus that looks very much like it belongs to the ‘60s stops inside the facility. Seb and Louise board it and zoom away into the fake sunset wallpaper.
Rarely, does one see magical realism used in such a beautiful manner. Rarely, does one see tragedies warming hearts so much that the tear ducts begin to leak, even as the face contorts into a smile. Rarely, does one get to see the magic of human emotions?
'Kidding' Season 2 airs on Sundays at 10 pm EST on Showtime.