I often read other reviews of movies and TV shows before I write my own. And one point that keeps popping up in various takes on Gypsy is that it’s a good show once you move past the first “portentous” episode. Me, being the critical rebel I am, thought the first chapter of this new Netflix series was intriguing and important to establish a background story for, and an explanation of, the main character – a middle-aged therapist named Dr. Jean Holloway (Naomi Watts.) For example, there’s a scene where she has a conversation in bed with her husband about the early stages of their relationship. It’s alluded to that Holloway was a little dangerous and wild. “I broke up with you every day,” she remarks. “It was a rollercoaster” was her husband’s response. She then states, “I just miss that feeling. I feel like I haven’t done anything fun in a while.”
There’s also two other revealing scenes. In one, she’s speaking to a colleague about infidelity and states something to the effect of “I’d never try to cure someone with monogamy.” And then there’s a particularly revealing scene where she goes through some old clothes in her closet – lingerie, club wear, and a box that contains a box of cigarettes – providing hints to her former life before settling down.
All of this is important as the episode methodically reveals what her game is. She’s grown bored with her married suburban life, misses her younger days, and develops intimate relationships with the people in her patients’ lives. She starts with the 20-something ex-girlfriend (Sidney) of one of her heartbroken young male patients (Sam.) Posing as a journalist name Diane, she stalks her way into Sidney’s life and discovers she dumped her patient because he was “this sweet guy, dependent, clingy, I was just so fucking bored.” Jean obviously sees herself in the younger Sidney and manipulates her way into her bed.
And it isn’t that Jean doesn’t love her domesticated life with her husband, she just wants icing on that cake, a notion that makes many people uncomfortable. In fact, reviewer Ken Tucker at Yahoo! TV wrote that early negative reviews of Gypsy may be due to the first-world-problems nature of Jean’s unhappiness or, rather, it may be too hard to accept in the age of Trump that well-to-do people can have problems like the rest of us. Watch carefully – in addition to their marital situation, their 8 year-old daughter may have gender identity issues.
From what I’ve read, there are tons of feminist layers here but I’ll leave that type of analysis to more talented writers and those more knowledgeable on the subject than I am. And I’m sure there are many reasons to dislike this show. But show creator Lisa Rubin has said she thought it would be interesting for a series to feature a fortysomething woman portrayed as both desirable and desired, “because the world is full of these women, and yet we so rarely see them on television.” This is refreshing because my wife and I have aged into that demographic and that alone is one reason to watch for us. More interesting, though, is how Jean juggles her dual life.
Psychological and sexy drama may suffer from too little of both.