It’s been a recent trend for creators to build their television shows around characters who could are not exactly the most honourable or clean cut of protagonists. With characters like chemistry teacher turned drug lord Walter White, serial killing vigilante Dexter Morgan or family man and ruthless mobster Tony Soprano, it’s safe to say viewers can’t get enough of these morally complex types of characters. However, these kinds of characters are also almost entirely male, with very few female examples fitting into this fascinating character mould.
This brings me to the subject of today’s review, the Netflix psychological drama Gypsy, a series that attempts to create a morally complex female lead to rival the popular male counterparts, but instead, results in a very well made but unfortunately mediocre viewing experience.
Jean Holloway is a successful therapist, loving wife and doting mother. However, she longs for more excitement in her life and is bored of having to listen to her patient’s issues on a daily basis. In an effort to improve her life and ostensibly help her patients, Jean begins to insert herself into the lives of those close to them, gaining their trust while often subtly manipulating them, leading her down a dangerous path that soon threatens to destroy her career and her life.
The premise of this series when it begins gives the impression that you’re going to be in for a fascinating tale of obsession, manipulation, deceit and passion, with the notion of a therapist overstepping their professional boundaries to manipulate people sounding like a great pitch for a TV show. However, when you actually get into Gypsy, you find that it treads along the type of water you would find in a bad soap opera or a cheesy erotic novel.
Jean Holloway could have been an interesting character, and the show does drop some interesting nuggets about her back story that could have made for some interesting plot developments, such as her subtle manipulation of those close to some of her patients, such as befriending the daughter of a perpetually worried mother, in the hopes that the mother will finally stop coddling her, or her embarking on a relationship with the former lover of a patient.
One such plot line that could have been brilliant if executed properly is the recurring threat that an old patient of Jeans is being released from a mental hospital, with it being strongly suggested that this particular patient might have been obsessed with Jean, or that Jean was obsessed with her. However, what should have been a fascinating climax to the series ultimately culminated in a rather short scene in the final episode which feels incredibly anticlimactic.
While the premise suggests she is a deeply complex character, instead, the character of Jean Holloway comes off as a rather boring boring and uninteresting one, with the flat writing and characterisation ruining the potential for this character to at least be interesting, with her coming off as someone whose only doing the dubious things she does throughout the series largely out of a sense of boredom, even when she does try to do good, as in one plot line involving a young addict.
Naomi Watts in the lead role of Jean Holloway does her best with the tepid material she has to work with, but as much as I admire her work, she has given far better performances, with her delivery sometimes feeling rather unnatural or unconvincing. The main issue though was, that despite Watt’s best efforts, I just couldn’t bring myself to find any kind empathy of sympathy for the character, with the often ropey dialogue and the often unsympathetic way the character is written not offering much help.
The supporting cast is also written in a fashion that doesn’t do much to make them interesting and in some case not very likeable.
Billy Crudup does his best in the rather bland role of Jean’s husband Michael, with Crudup saddled with a boring and cliched subplot in which he wrestles with his desire to have an affair with his assistant. Crudup is a fine actor and he really tries his best with what he’s given, successfully managing to create a rare sympathetic character in this series, with Michael clearly being a loving and caring man who puts his families needs above his own.
If anything, Crudup’s sympathetic performance only goes to show how truly unsympathetic and selfish his onscreen wife is, with one telling scene being a monologue in which he expresses love and dedication to his wife, intercut with her having an affair behind his back.
Sophie Cookson probably gives the most interesting (if only slightly performance of the series as Sydney the ex-girlfriend of one of Jean’s patients and the newest object of her obsession. Cookson gives a decent and somewhat believable performance as kind of sultry temptress who is able to manipulate every man (or woman) who desire her. Although, as with most of the cast, Cookson’s best efforts to make the character more engaging are thwarted by the rather 2 dimensional way she is written, which renders her extremely unlikeable and unsympathetic, although at least in this instance it seems intentional.
Gypsy is a show that the more I think about it, the worse it seems to get. I initially watched this series in the week it was released which was over a month ago, and I found it at the time to be a rather cheesy but strangely addictive watch. However, as I’ve worked on this review and looked back on it, I come to realise that Gypsy is just not very good.
It’s not the worst TV show of the year, far from it (you can give that award to Love Island) but it’s rather bland and plotting, the sometimes cringe inducing dialogue, and it’s wasting of an otherwise talented cast, leave it severely lacking in things to praise about it.
Gypsy is a not a downright awful show, it’s just a very mediocre show that severely wasted it’s very real potential to at least be a good one.
Check this one out, but only if you’re curious or if you really like Naomi Watts, otherwise, I’d think about skipping it.
Graeme Robertson | [rating=2]
Drama, Thriller | USA, 2017 | 15 | Streaming Now | Netflix | Creator:Lisa Rubin | Naomi Watts, Billy Crudup, Sophie Cookson,