The third episode of Satacracy 88 is up at itsallinyourhands.com, and in it we begin to get a much larger sense of the world in which Angela (Diahnna Nicole Baxter) lives. If you have not seen it or voted, see it, vote, then come back here for the commentary.
The episode begins with one of Soderbergh's best devices: a visual on which the sound from the next scene intrudes. As Angela runs, bloody from committing murder, we hear Martin's gurgles before we cut to him. The death of Martin, Angela's boyfriend we hardly knew, is violent, stylish (that perfect drop of blood), surprisingly technically proficient (Nikki Koumas, in charge of special effects and make-up, is, after all, on a shoestring budget), and not entirely without humor. The alarm clock goes off only moments after Angela has stabbed him in the neck, and he ironically dies to an upbeat song by Khalil Anthony (one that finds it proper relevance as it joins the image of Angela running). To make matters worse, his cell phone is also going off with a call from "S. Carter." As we will learn in the course of the episode Sandy Carter has every reason to think Martin is dying at just that moment; the bastard is calling just to be mean.
Michael Jaynes controls the episode, both on the narrative level (he is clearly the top dog) and as an actor. A subtle riff on Gary Oldman's car-dealer-as-super villain character in The Fifth Element, Sandy Carter immediately gives the impression of a old-school shit-kicking southerner who has risen the ranks; he has gotten rid of a lot of the accent, and now wears a suit, but he still sports that Colonel Sanders goatee and at heart he is still the jackass old-boy Confederate flag waving bouncer he was in his youth. Here the race theme I spoke of last time reasserts itself without going to far, but remember that Susan (Cassie Pappas), the epitome of the beautiful white blonde, calls Angela "sister" when they meet in this episode.
The details are again lovely. Brad focuses in on Angela's painted toes more than once (it is the opening shot), recalling Tarantino's fascination with the feet of his leading female assassin in Kill Bill. (Cassie Pappas carefully doing her nails in the background emphasizes this by reversal: we are supposed to notice a woman doing her nails -- it is THE sign of indifference -- but toenail polish usually goes unremarked). "The Left Hand of Ariel Zim", an inspired title, has the same pulpy feel of Kill Bill's "The Lonely Grave of Paula Schultz."
The giant chip the workers take out of the neck of Martin, like the electric disappearing knife, is quite nice -- the only reason it is so big is that Brad, like J.J. Abrams on Lost, wants his sci-fi to be the sci-fi of the 1970s; it is only a matter of time before we get those fun old computers with the reels of tape. Brad uses blurs to great effect in this episode, to communicate disorientation, and he gets a great shot of Angela at the end, held by the throat and doing something to the electric lights as Carter glowers above her in top-notch B-villain form.
And my favorite bit: when Susan goes for the knife that disappears, she bites her pinkie fingernail. It is a gesture that is halfway between the frustration of a little girl and that "I wasn't doing that I was doing this the whole time" act (like people who suddenly decide they are going to not try and make the light at the crosswalk and attempt to make their return to the sidewalk look like something other than indecision).
In a month, the story continues.