I considered starting this whole blogging venture talking about American Gods or The Handmaid's Tale, really show off my highbrow taste, maybe I'd discuss Okkupert so you'd know I'm worldly or I Love Dick so I could put my feminist chops to work. But it was my birthday weekend and all I wanted to do was binge something sexy and soapy, so hello E! original series The Arrangement.
Dear The Arrangement,
A lot of people only see you as that show about Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes, which is exactly why I tuned in, but now I think you might be something more. I could possibly see something long term for us. I admit, it wasn't love at first sight. I watched your first two episodes last month and gave up on you. But, it's true what they say, 'some relationships are all about timing.' Does anyone say that? Well they should because I gave you a second chance this weekend and you were exactly the slice of cake this birthday gal needed. Sure, at first, it was as slow burn for me, but then you picked up midseason and it was a salacious ride to your final two soaptacular episodes.
Why did I find the second half of your season more satisfying? Look you were nervous on our first few dates, there was pressure and so much to do. You had to establish the world, the characters, the tone, and style. This is why pilot episodes (like first dates) are so often the worst episodes of a series, bogged down with exposition and unsure of what they will become. For this reason, I am patient with new shows and willing to give them the second chance I rarely offer a bad Tinder date.
Back to our romance and what made it blossom midseason. To start, Lexa Doig gets more screen time! Not that I need to tell you this but, Doig plays Deann Anderson, Producer for mega star Kyle West (Josh Henderson) and wife to Terrence (Michael Vartan) the guru leader of The Institute of the Higher Mind. Doig, as Deann, is a force on the show, and, okay sure, I may be biased because she has a lesbian subplot and makes overtly feminist statements, but mostly I love her because she is active. Deann gets shit done! An active character is a character I care about because it is a character that wants something. I also feel like my love for you grew midseason because you began to deliver on your premise; I finally got to see the creepy world of The Institute (admittedly you could have upped the creep factor, I mean from what I could tell The Institute of the Higher Mind is a lot like a freshman acting class, but you get a free turquoise moleskine).
Then as if you were taking a note from Marc Laidlaw's now infamous tweet, the murders began. Although I found Detective Gaffey to be a ridiculous and infuriating character, a woman willing to trade her career for a romp in the sheets with Kyle, I recognize that your writers needed a device to wedge between Kyle and Terrence. I wish the device had been more directly linked to the Kyle/Megan relationship, but it served its purpose. The real driving action of the back half of season one is the unfolding of Megan Morrison's past. As you know, Megan, played beautifully by Christine Evangelista, is the struggling actress picked from obscurity and offered an "arrangement" to date and marry Kyle West in exchange for fame and fortune. Megan's past, while disturbing, is less interesting than what happens to her after her past is revealed. Finally, we move beyond the benign self-help classes of The Institute and into the cult-like world we were promised (although again it feels a little more Hotel Bel-Air than Heaven's Gate). Still, Deann's take down of Colton was badassery the likes of Alexis Colby. And Megan's transformation and final determination at the end of season one was exactly what I needed to tune in for season two.
I believe we have a future in season two, because Megan is finally doing something! Remember when I said 'an active character is a character I care about because it is a character that wants something.' Despite Christine Evangelista's dynamite performance, I had a hard time caring about Megan because she was mostly moving through this world in reaction to circumstances rather than actively pursuing a goal. Well, now she has one and I can't wait to see what Jonathan Abrahams and the rest of your writers do with it.
You want to know what I really love about you? You don't pretend to be what you're not. You're totally on brand for E! in all the best ways. While many viewers may come, as I did, for celebrity intrigue and hopes of brainwashing and backstabbing, they'll be surprised to find stand out performances from Doig and Evangelista and enough good storytelling to stay on the couch and binge that next episode. So I guess what I'm say is, while I'm not looking for anything serious, this was fun and we should do it again sometime.