Power Trip Episode 8 “Forgive Me”

User Rating: 10
Summary
Realm's "Power Trip" wraps up its first season in a way that uniquely suits itself and will satisfy its listeners, as the brilliant Tatiana Maslany's Jane moves towards improving herself and her life by fixing her own issues, and her "mess" -- doing so, person to person, from ex to friend to partner to mother, as she charts a better future for herself and those she loves. (Season finale)
10
Perfect
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“Forgiveness” is a very big word. It implies so much that we either take for granted or perhaps find we cannot move ourselves to do at all, particularly with some people whose actions we feel have gone beyond the pale. What constitutes as “forgivable” can vary with people; some things can be more “forgivable” for certain people than other things. For other people, however, despite reaching the “acceptance” phase, they still cannot forgive — there is no feeling left between them and the person who wants forgiveness. There is only an abject sense of betrayal that won’t wear off, even in the face of that conflict’s resolution; the bridge is burnt, clean through.

Tatiana Maslany’s Jane is trying to make amends with the people she’s wronged. She has wronged them; she knows she has wronged them. She’s finally come to terms with her “mess” and her — if you’ll forgive the pun — “super”-imposition over people. This is a very big step for any human to take, let alone Jane. We’ve known all along that Jane is not perfect — this show has never acted like she exists without faults, and nor has she — and now, just like any person who has done really wrong stuff, justified it to themselves, and has now realized just how wrong the actions taken were, she has to go to people — the way you do, say, when you’ve become sober after a long period of addiction — and apologize to them. Whether the people she apologizes to want to either resume a relationship with her or not is the main through-line — the resolving, if you will — of the finale of Power Trip: “Forgive Me”.

After the incredible emotional waves we as listeners rode in the previous, penultimate episode, “Hate Me”, it may surprise slightly that our final (for now) episode of the season has no… major conflicts. No world-shattering feelings (save, perhaps, love); no deep, emotionally-raw trauma; no unexpected turns for the worse. But if we look at the larger story, we see the episode isn’t a separate piece — it’s a part of the larger whole, to be taken as such. And, as such, it’s a fulfillment of Jane’s larger story — we’ve been buffeted by incredible turbulence, but now (for the moment) the plane is landing, gently. At this point, I have full trust in the writers — our pilots, in this situation.

Mary Hamilton and Cara Horner have clearly plotted this out with intricate care — starting with the reunion we maybe least expected first: Jane showing up at Bruce’s walk-up with an oat-milk latte and a request to explain herself to him. Bruce, in spite of everything that has happened, has been an incredibly decent guy — and he hasn’t needed to be; Hamilton and Horner could have depicted him as somebody “deserving” of being “commanded” because of male privilege and patriarchal systems of power. But they’ve decided to take the more-difficult route with this content; he’s been entirely conscientious, regardless of being male or not, regardless of whether or not Jane has been commanding him, and he very directly, and rightly, calls her out on this. Jane has been operating in the wrong with regards to him this whole time; he knows it, and she knows it.

He didn’t even need to let her back in to his apartment in order to get some form of explanation; he could’ve entirely ignored her, ghosted her, and that would have been his right after what had happened, what he’d been through, and how he’d felt about that. But he’s always been incredibly accommodating — Jane knew that from the first — and, hey, a free oat-milk latte is a free oat-milk latte, so Bruce lets her explain — if nothing else, for the latte. (Which he promptly burns himself on.)

Bruce is a fundamentally decent guy, and Brendan Hines plays him that way (and I think there may be an inherent truth of himself that the actor is bringing to the portrayal, here). He’s angry, but he never raises his voice about it; he doesn’t swing his anger about wildly, the way you’d expect, say, an angry masculine douche with deep-seated insecurities in himself might do when angry with a woman — that is, fundamentally, not who Bruce is. He’s the guy who helps out at charities; he’s the guy who cares deeply about his cousin’s own struggle with transplants; he’s the guy who knows something is up every time Jane “commands” him, but is too reserved, too polite, to say anything about it until pushed by events to do so. None of those gestures are “performative”, or for “clout” — he is that person, down to his soul. That’s why Jane wanted to be with him — to “have” him. And Jane finally admits there, here, both to him and to us.

There is a reality to the playing, here, at all times, even in the unreality — even as Bruce grapples with Jane having a magic kidney that has overrode his own will, the dialogue between Bruce and Jane here comes across like two people, talking. Maslany and Hines have never overplayed their characters in this show, and don’t now, even when you might expect the emotions between the two characters to burst forth in some sort of angry torrent — that’s not this kind of story. Kailynn West’s direction keeps the scene measured, generally calm — so that, when Bruce finally finishes his latte after Jane has explained what’s happened to him, and Bruce has told her directly just how violated he’s been by her “commands”, and Jane finally holds out one last forlorn hope that maybe they could still keep in contact… you know exactly how it’s going to go. The resolution has come, and Bruce thanks her for the latte, but they’re done. It’s completely understandable, and he was being incredibly polite just hearing her out after everything that had happened.

Tellingly, Jane doesn’t use any “command” this entire episode; she seems to refrain as part of her effort to not “command” people, and to instead try to rebuild bridges with them, if she can, on her own, not avoiding her own problems. (Bruce flat-out says she’s burnt his bridge with him — an irony, considering the two actors playing this ex-couple, in that regard — but then Jane wasn’t trying to repair a bridge with him at all; merely trying to apologize to him for every single time she “commanded” and manipulated and overrode his own will.)

And Jane, to her credit, despite, yes, her reluctance, accepts that. It’s part of the process; when you make amends, you can’t expect a relationship to be repaired automatically. You can’t expect “forgiveness” right out of the gate. This is a very emotionally-intelligent place to take the story, and I applaud Hamilton and Horner for going the difficult, but right, route with this.

I’m reminded of something the writer and activist Jaclyn Friedman said in an interview about different paradigms of storytelling; in particular, “male” and “female” storytelling. Whereas “male” storytelling is deemed the “traditional” form of rising action, climax, and falling action, “female” storytelling can take many more forms: rising action, climax, and then no falling action but a plateau; starting on the height of the climax and then rising and falling multiples times; or, indeed, no traditional “ending” at all — sometimes a round, open, full-circular paradigm of fulfillment, which need not even conform to the “male” storytelling paradigm in order to be seen as successful. Not all great storytelling “fits” the “traditional” form molded by men — that’s the point. Cracking the mold can get you something great.

Now, for the “Power Hour” group. Jane has surely been dreading this, as well, but, again, knows she has to do it. She goes into the building where they meet and… awkwardly sits, out of sight, trying to avoid confrontation. Exactly what I’d do in that situation, right down to unknowingly broadcasting my presence outside the doorway (the tip of her cane is poking past the open door frame; my own bulky wheelchair wouldn’t be half as subtle as Jane was, there). We get a sense of what “Power Hour” meetings must be like without Jane — and Jane, within herself, realizes how much she misses that belonging, of being with people like her. She has been slow to trust; she has been slow to open up, and she’s seen herself as being more of a loner, someone who functions best without any other people around, than anything else. But she’s discovered over the course of the season just how much she loves being around people — around these people. Power or not.

There’s a warmth to this scene I really appreciate — despite Jane’s own awkwardness, the group has never been anything other than welcoming. Jane’s uncertainty about being there is overridden by her need to apologize — not to atone, but to explain and ask forgiveness — and it’s to the good, that her uncertainty is overridden, because the group understands, after a moment, and is happy to have her back. The major issues she needs to resolve are with two specific people in the group — Christian, whom she said incredibly cruel things to the last time she saw him (but who still made certain the group knew she was in the hospital when she called him in the ambulance), and Leah, with whom there seems to be a deeper understanding going on than just forgiveness.

It’s really lovely to see the connection between Jane and Christian bubble back up into that gentle effervescence that had originally characterized their friendship; it’s not quite resumed that level yet, but the two of them are now on a more honest, equal footing, and Jane, being now more accepting of the group as a whole (just as they’re now more accepting of her), takes the opportunity to keep gently nudging Christian further on in his romance with Mateo. The sound design by Tom Maggs and Rory O’Shea, with sound editing by Corey Barton, once again does a really marvelous, low-key job integrating the “shimmer-and-sparkle” for Christian’s power of invisibility in with the dialogue, with neither overpowering the other, as Jane makes him more and more happily embarrassed to talk about Mateo — it only adds to the joy that these two already-fast-friends are finally reconnecting. The actor who plays Christian’s vocal performance is so winning in this scene, with Maslany egging him on and Kailynn West’s direction playing it so lightly and brightly, I dare you not to be at the very least smiling in glee as the scene ends with Christian laughing joyfully, having disappeared from view with Jane’s arms around him in a big, emotional hug.

The scene between Jane and Leah, on the other hand, plays in a somewhat different manner — building in a way that makes you hopeful for something that might come next; something that’s been hinted at on-and-off through the entire back half of the season. It was, I felt, something of the basis for what I centered my review of “Hate Me” around: Love — in this case, what might be the potential burgeoning romance between Leah and Jane. After Jane reveals her kidney is now functioning again, thanks to to whatever Leah did that Jane “trusted” her on, Leah reveals: Her power, it seems, is more than just making plants grow — it’s making anything grow, including kidneys.

Leah does politely ask her to keep it on the down-low, which is understandable, but what Leah’s done is more than just sprouting a kidney — it’s giving Jane a chance at life, at bodily autonomy again, after having been deathly afraid of being reduced to sponge baths in a hospital room for the rest of her life. Obviously, Jane is still reliant on her cane to get around — a kidney from Leah can’t fix everything — but this is an incredible gift for a disabled person to get. The magic doesn’t fix the disability, because it’s not that kind of magic, just the immediate problem — it’s an imperfect gift, but life, as with magic in this story, is imperfect; that’s the beauty of it. It’s the sort of realistic (again, yes, even including the magic) depiction of living with a disability I’ve waited most of my life to see, and I love that it’s respectful — but not worshipful. I don’t want to be seen as “better-than-human” because of my disability; I just want to be seen. And I feel seen here, with Jane. How often do you get to see a lovely interabled romance play out in fiction, like this?

Realm‘s Power Trip is must-listen streaming.

Mind you, I don’t mean to call things between Jane and Leah for certain too early, as they’ve only set up one date, in a very nice location, and we don’t quite get to see the date play out, but we see Jane setting up for the date, and she’s hopeful, finally, so I’ve decided to be hopeful for them, too. What I’m slightly uncertain about is whether Leah has caused the magic kidney to regrow or for Jane’s original kidney to regrow, but that’s not important to the immediate story — perhaps, later on, if they decide to continue; it’s just, admittedly, beside the point for this episode.

Finally, at the end of this primrose path of a story, we see Jane in a garden — well, more an open floral picnic area than anything else. And, to gently knit the remaining threads of this season together, like a soft scarf, we get a really lovely, short phone conversation between Jane and her mother, in which a lot of detail is compacted — which books Jane bought to bring with her to read; Jane telling her mother where she is and who she’s waiting for; Jane’s mother, at long last, ,encouraging her, her goals, and her relationships. In the midst of all this, Maggs, O’Shea, and Barton are clearly having fun with the level of detail they can put into the sounds — the background noise of traffic, the flump and rustle as Jane balances her phone on one shoulder as she’s setting out her picnic blanket, that distinctive “phone call” voice filter applied to Lisa Loeb’s voice. The sound design and editing are as gentle and low-key as the scene itself, which means every word spoken comes through beautifully — and that’s not nothing, for someone with a hearing impairment, like myself. But also, finally, a willingness to accept help, and to accept love, from her mother. There’s an openness there that there hadn’t been before — and I really hope this is the start (although, technically, it had started in the previous episode) of a healthier relationship between them. Loeb plays it like an authentically proud mother, and Maslany as Jane just sounds so grateful to have that in her life — and to be able to sit in a place both she and Leah will be able to enjoy, sparkling water and books set up. Just waiting for her to show.

Will she show? Jane hopes so — and I think we hope so, too. For maybe the first time in her life, Jane is not expecting the worst. The ending comes so softly and subtly that I was slightly surprised it was the ending, but it makes sense — it makes perfect sense for Power Trip. Life doesn’t come as you expect it, or as you want it or “command” it to be — life surprises you. Life doesn’t wrap things in a neat, nice bow, and Jane doesn’t need to be wrapped in a neat, nice bow — we’ve certainly known that the whole time. She’s cleaning up her “mess”, fixing things with people; she’s in the process of resolution, and it’s important, if we leave her there, that we’re leaving her showing her own progress in that — it’s a rebuilding of her life. It’s like that moment at the end of a film where you think something will happen — and then the film lets you imagine what that might be, because the film knows you’re smart enough and trusts you enough to open that up to you, the viewer. For the moment (as this may just be a season 1), this is the note Power Trip leaves us on. — it’s a note of positivity, and maybe it’s the positivity we all need in our lives.

It’s a really sweet, open ending. It feels like both an ending and a beginning, at the same time — and I think that’s how it was meant. I’d love to see if this gets a second season where we continue the story of Jane, her continued self-improvement and clean-up of her “mess”, perhaps more success with her writing, and her relationship with the “Power Hour” group and with Leah, but if this turns out, for reasons creative or otherwise, to be the one and only season of Power Trip, maybe it’s good to leave it here, to the listener, to imagine thing further. I’ve loved the writing, and I don’t know that any fan could top what Hamilton and Horner have done, themselves, but to “let go”, to let that creativity begin to sparkle, as Jane has, seems to be the best inducement for any fan to do their own great work. An open spiral notebook, in which a story can continue however you wish it. I would love an official continuation, but this note, if this is the one it’s left on, is just as beautiful and right of an ending, I think.

I hope this show inspires people to try something of their own, as perhaps a jumping-off point, or inspires them to try something, anything new, in their own lives. This ending feels like such a gentle push — a sort of whispered encouragement — for the listener to take that first step into actualizing their creative garden of the mind.

It puts me, personally, in mind of the final line from Walt Whitman’s “Song of Myself” from Leaves of Grass, which the poet ends the way I think the writers have, for the moment, ended Power Trip, for the listener — and how it leaves off for Tatiana Maslany’s Jane, hopefully, to Leah:

“I stop some where, waiting for you”

If you don’t have a Realm Unlimited subscription, even though every episode is now available for free at this point, you are missing out — not only on an ad-free experience, but also on exclusive bonus content including interviews with the Realm production team and with writer Mary Hamilton. Your direct support helps them make more awesome content like this show a bit quicker and easier to make for them; every subscription counts, I’m sure. Personally, I’m subscribed; if you’ve been following along with me all through this wonderful show, I think you really ought to be, too. I honestly think Realm is worth it.

Before I break off, I want to thank everyone involved in making this show, from the producers to the director to the writers to the cast whose names I wish I was able to connect to the characters — I know Tatiana Maslany, Brendan Hines, and Lisa Loeb’s characters, but I was unable to find which actors in the cast played other characters, and I really wanted to be able to praise you each by name, and I’m sorry I couldn’t. You did absolutely wonderful jobs. I can only imagine how difficult audio-only work is for some actors and actresses, but you all pulled it off, beautifully. The sound design, the sound editing, the music, everything, has been some of the best audio I’ve heard this year — not to mention the excellent plot. I’ve absolutely adored listening to, experiencing, thinking about, reading about, and writing about this tremendous little summer series — because it’s a summer series I think everybody should seek out to enjoy. It’s a model for excellence. (I really mean that.) Thank you so much, Realm.

Power Trip is available on Realm.fm, or wherever you listen to podcasts.

I’ll be back in the next week or so to try and sum up further the excellence of Power Trip Season 1, discuss exclusive Realm Unlimited content — and, perhaps, a bit more.

This has been the review for Power Trip Episode 8.

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