Flowers Season 1, Episode 4 (2016)
Written & Directed by Will Sharpe
Maurice has his publishing contract terminated meaning the Grubbs Family books are finished. This sends him spiraling into an even deeper depression. Deborah feels immense guilt over sleeping with Barry, the builder. The two refuse to communicate. Barry also feels guilt and confesses what happened to Maurice who honestly is too caught up in his internal struggle and depression. Amy has her first date with Abigail and after an awkward start things suddenly go entirely right, that is until Donald shows up with a camera. Maurice and Deborah accept a dinner invite from Barbara and Steve, who have mended their marriage. This ends up being a breaking point where Maurice can’t take pretending things are fine any longer and Deborah joins him in breaking.
Shun continues to be a point of hope in the midst of the Flowers family’s morose existence. He tries to boost Maurice’s spirits by revealing he’s made a side publishing deal with the Carols to produce his manga “Super Flowers,” based on his host family (including Shun as a magical fox sidekick). Maurice turns on Shun and acts as if he’s been working a deal behind Maurice’s back. Later, Shun tries to console Donald who is feeling lovelorn after realizing Amy and Abigail are together. Once again, the Japanese man is verbally beaten by a member of the Flowers family and is left more confused than ever. Shun is played by series creator Will Sharpe and is a beautiful counterpoint to Maurice. This episode ends with Shun appearing to have a plan to fix everything, but I can’t help but think someone as positive as this character is doomed.
The primary set piece of this episode is the dinner with Barbara and Steve. A recurring motif since Nana’s death is that her actress pops up in the background, in this instance wearing a waiter’s uniform, working as the constant guilt Maurice feels about lying to Deborah in regards to Nana’s death. That tension plus Maurice’s mental health issues turn dinner into a genuinely funny and tense situation. Barbara and Steve admit that part of their reconciliation is that they are going to experiment with an open marriage. We can read between the lines and see this is mainly due to Steve having shacked up with someone else during their separation. Barbara feigns enthusiasm over the idea paralleling Deborah. Deborah starts talking about her and Maurice’s open arrangement which escalates into accusations that Maurice is having sex with Shun.
Amy and Abigail share a walk through the woods that involves Amy telling the story of Penny, a pagan woman who defied her tribe’s rites of marriage and sex. The scene is beautifully shot with intercutting to an artificially grainy recreation of the story, an aesthetic that is used frequently with Amy. When we are in her head, we see things in this distorted crumbling manner. The two women have a wonderful time until Donald shows up with a Polaroid camera to “catch them.”
The final scene of the episode is a distillation of this odd, sad comedy that makes Flowers so unlike anything else. The four Flowers family members have a confrontation in the kitchen that results in Donald outing his sister to Deborah. Deborah is immediately hurt when she finds out Amy went to Maurice first. Maurice salts the wound by telling Deborah that she is an impossible person to communicate with. We finally see Deborah have that moment of mental explosion, releasing her anger after trying to shine it on the whole time. Maurice tries to turn the forced outing of Amy into a positive experience but ultimately fails. His sensitivity with his daughter makes Maurice such an interesting character. You can feel Deborah’s deep frustrations because she has done what she believes is expected of her in the roles of wife and mother, yet finds herself in such a mess. She’s supported Maurice through his mood swings and slow mental decay, and now the situation presents her as a villain. I haven’t seen many comedy-dramas that do such an excellent job of portraying the messy reality of familial dysfunction. Nothing feels exaggerated, rather all too painfully real.