'Brave New World' Continues to Pump Up the Pace in Episode 3 (RECAP)
[Spoiler Alert: This recap contains spoilers from Brave New World Season 1 Episode 3, "Everybody Happy Now!"]
Can we appreciate for a moment how refreshing it is to have a streaming show with episodes under 45-minutes? It's such a rarity these days in the age of 60-minute-plus "epics" with their plodding plotlines and overstretched material. Perhaps it's because Brave New World was initially intended for the USA Network, so it was written with commercial space taken into account. Regardless, it's a welcome surprise to watch a new TV show and not constantly be checking the clock during the last 20 minutes.
Again, Brave New World isn't without its faults. So far, it's teetering that line between CW cheesiness and HBO classiness, like it's not quite sure what it wants to be. Sexy futuristic soap-opera? Deep dystopian drama? Or knockabout comedy romp? Sometimes it feels like it has loftier expectations than what its scripting allows; it never quite gets beneath the surface. But I commend the show for its efficient pacing and ability to get down to business. There is no wasted motion here, no long-winded interludes or narrative stalling. And it never relies on the crutch of moody atmospherics in place of story development. This episode, in particular, speeds the plot along at a rapid pace.
The major development here is the bringing together of the show's three central characters, Bernard (Harry Lloyd), Lenina (Jessica Brown Findlay), and John (Alden Ehrenreich). Rather than tease this union for half a season, this episode throws us right into it. Against the wishes of the savage rebels, John decides to help the outsiders, hiding Bernard and Lenina at his house. There is thrilling chaotic energy to these scenes as blood continues to erupt from Bernard's bullet wound, while John's mother, Linda (a sensational Demi Moore), tries to operate with a pair of pliers. Meanwhile, a delirious Lenina stands off to the side, giggling at the outrageous TV commercials (Findlay continues to delight in this role).
There's a tremendous cabin-in-the-woods horror vibe to the episode—the house in the middle of nowhere, the flickering lights, the impending threat from the outside, the country road car chase, etc. Madysun (Lara Peake) plays the role of the monstrous intruder, stomping around the house and demanding to know where John is stashing the "foreigners." Peake is really good here as a menacing force, in her tattered and dirty wedding dress looking like a murderous Miss Havisham, the bloody, vengeful bride on the hunt. Sadly, she is not long for this show, as Linda impales her through the stomach with what looks like a hot poker. Still, this three-episode run was an excellent showing for Peake, a young actress with a bright future.
From an up-and-comer to an industry veteran, Demi Moore finally gets a chance to shine this episode too. With her blonde wig and untamed look, Moore is almost unrecognizable as the reclusive Linda. The Ghost star works overtime in getting across Linda's desperation and the feral madness that comes with years of abandonment. You see, Linda, just like Lenina, is a Beta Plus from New London; however, she was left to fend for herself in the Savage Lands many years ago. That's why she risks her life to save Bernard—enlisting the help of her on-and-off lover, Pope (Richard Brake), who lives in a trailer across the way. As an Alpha Plus, Bernard is her ticket back home, able to get her and John through the barrier that separates worlds.
John isn't exactly packing his bags in excitement of moving to New London. He might not agree with the rebels' actions, but he isn't a supporter of the outsiders either. Why would he be? They've made fools of his people, stole their land, abused, and insulted them. He protected Bernard and Lenina because he has compassion, but it doesn't mean he relates to their plight. "You don't know why this is happening, do you?" John asks Lenina regarding the rebel uprising. "It's their conditioning," she says, utterly oblivious of how the real world works. She's similarly perplexed by John's range of conflicting emotions, as well as her own tears. "This can't be how you people feel," she cries. "Welcome to the real world," snipes John, a pretty on-the-nose groaner of a line, but it makes the point clear.
This disconnect between the two worlds is why John finds it so hard to believe Linda when she says that New London is their real home. "I'm a Beta Plus; your father was an Alpha Plus," she tells him. But all John sees when he looks at his mother is a drunk who lies. Bernard doesn't believe Linda, either, after all, how can she be a New Londoner when she is a "mother," a dirty word in the modern world. However, Lenina believes, perhaps recognizing a fellow Beta Plus when she looks in her eyes. Linda breaks some home truths to Lenina about soma dependency and motherhood. "I used to think being a mother was the worst thing a person could be," she explains. "It's not... being abandoned is worse."
Not abandoning others was obviously a lesson Linda passed down to John, probably why he chose to save Bernard and Lenina, and why he ultimately goes back to help them through the barrier. His decision whether or not to join them on the other side, however, is forced. As the rebels close in, Linda shoves herself and John through the barrier—a sort of shoddy-looking glowing blue force field in the middle of the woods. Before you know it, the four of them are on a rocket ship back to New London. Though, of course, this is no happy ending.
As Linda gazes out of her cabin window, soaking in the beauty of the New London skyline, a droplet of blood floats into the air from a wound in her side. She was shot during the rebel attack. And the hit is fatal, which means we say goodbye to Demi Moore and the character of Linda, just as she was getting interesting. I know that Linda dies in Aldous Huxley's novel too, so this wasn't entirely unexpected. Still, it would have been nice to have at least an episode or two of Linda in New London. But, again, it does to show the fast pace of Brave New World, things happen, and they happen quickly and without warning.
Back in New London, Bernard patches himself up good as new and restocks his soma capsule. He's ready to return to business as usual. Lenina is less willing to move on. "What do we do now?" she asks. "What we've always done," says Bernard, who is growing into a wonderfully wormy little character. There is some goodness in Bernard, but he's also irritatingly obtuse. And Lloyd is brilliant at playing these whiny and slightly demented, spoilt man-children (that's why he was perfect as Viserys Targaryen in Game of Thrones). The part in this episode when he tries hijacking John's car is a prime example, as he slams the steering wheel like an angry teenager on his first driving lesson. His later exclamation of "I drove the autocar!" is also fabulous.
I'm not as sold on John's character just yet. Ehrenreich is doing what he can with the role, and he has a couple of decent lines here ("You've always been like a terrible, really sh***y father to me."). But I don't yet have a true sense of his character. Perhaps that is the point. The savages are not meant to be as easily definable as the outsiders, who are conditioned into specific characteristics from birth. Or that could just be a convenient excuse for lack of characterization. But we'll see how John develops now that he's in New London, as his presence is bound to cause cracks in their neat little society. And, in case you didn't get that, the literal crack in the glass that cuts Mustafa Mond's (Nina Sosanya) finger is some of the more blatant symbolism you're ever likely to see.
Brave New World, Now Streaming, Peacock