Novelty wears away

Swanberg wants to pack his Chicago with middle-class people whose problems range from the absence of love to discovering bonhomie in strange places

The third and final season of Easy hit the streaming site Netflix last month. Joe Swanberg, the creator, writer, and director, who has been associated with the series since the beginning, can now move on to other projects without thinking about the lives of his favourite Chicagoans.

I had written about the second season in this column last year, and, of course, I had showered lots of praises and love on the experimental nature of the show. Now that Swanberg is back with another set of stories, it slightly feels like the novelty has worn off. His penchant for depicting turbulent relationships is still there, but the awe-inspiring moments that take your breath away are few and far between. Even then, I don’t think there’s another series that’s as audacious, mirthful, and heartbreaking as Easy.

The face-to-face conversations that many characters have throughout the show are classics in a way that’ll make filmmakers in the future to sit down and take notes. Take the almost twenty-minute chat in a bar that Andi (Elizabeth Reaser) and Kyle (Michael Chernus) have regarding the empty spaces that are cropping up in their open marriage. They’ve been seeing other people and are emotionally investing in them, too, but things don’t always seem to go as planned. When Andi finds herself at the bottom of the rock due to a failed romantic trip with her friend, she suggests that they go back to being a husband and wife in the traditional sense.

Similarly, when Chase (Kiersey Clemons) says she’s not ready to be in a long-term relationship with one person, her girlfriend, Jo (Jacqueline Toboni), lets her go without putting up a fight. But upon seeing Jo move on so quickly, she realizes that she’s made a mistake.

She starts sending her mixed signals. She also directs her frustration toward Jo for going on a date with somebody else.

Relationships, in all its shapes and sizes, are messy, and, Swanberg surely knows how to put such details on the screen without losing focus on the smaller things. Jo and Kyle don’t outrightly blame their respective partners for the situation they are in. They just go with the flow and adapt to the rough weather that life throws at them.

If Joe offers her shoulder in a silent gesture, Kyle spells his needs and thoughts till Andi understands every word he says. One might call this phenomenon: different strokes for different folks.

Novelty wears away

The other interesting equation I found in Easy was between the brothers, Matt (Evan Jonigkeit) and Jeff (Dave Franco). These grown up men don’t reach out to each other. They consider it a sign of weakness. They clearly miss the laughs that they shared a few years ago. But that isn’t enough for them to pick up the phone and say, “Hello!” If you compare these brothers to Fleabag’s sisters – Claire (Sian Clifford) and Fleabag (Phoebe Waller-Bridge) – you’ll see that women are more comfortable in expressing their opinions and worries. Men, on the other hand, try to play it cool and connect with their siblings merely on a superficial level.

Though, signs of such artistic brilliance are a hallmark of Easy, I wasn’t excited while watching the episode related to a bunch of African American street vendors. It was certainly the weakest link in the chain.

In another episode, I didn’t quite enjoy the world of BDSM and surveillance. It just looks out of place for a series that’s centered on pushing the envelope in terms of storytelling and bringing the characters living on the sidelines to the center.

Swanberg wants to pack his Chicago with middle-class people whose problems range from the absence of love to discovering bonhomie in strange places. It doesn’t work thoroughly, and, the latest season is a bit of a letdown as the previous installments had set the bar pretty high. I’d still pick Easy over several other Netflix offerings, for there’s more to chew on here. And I mean it truly as a compliment.

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