The episode of The Curse (Showtime) “Pressure’s Looking Good So Far” opens up with a close-up of a pregnancy test being filled as the icy synths fill me with a sort of wonderment as the two lines appear. What I’m digging so far is we’re all in the dark on this titular affliction. I could see each episode posing new threats that might be the singular sentence.
Asher (Nathan Fielder) meets up with Monica (Tessa Mentus) and I couldn’t be more thrilled that we’re not giving Asher an easy out. Without video proof of the Gaming Control Board not protecting gambling addicts, the story cannot run and with it already being two weeks, it’s now or never for him, which means going into the belly of the beast. Did you know casinos have no windows on purpose and it’s legal?
At Whistling River Casino, we once again see the true colors of Asher in radiant ‘circadian light’ when former co-worker Bill (David DaLao) shows my guy the fruits of his labor for the House in a few new forms of subconscious devices to get people to gamble more. Asher is the unconscionable one and though the exotic neon glow of money being lost by the second lights him beautifully, all I see is a big shit stain on the screen.
Though not a gambler myself, I fucking love the allure of a casino. It’s a breeding ground for sin and a playground for the id, bathed in neon, gold, and marble. Time has no fucking place in a casino, which is why it’s so fucking sexy. Asher’s mind seems to still be here. I feel it’s a smart move on Fielder and Safdie to make this a microcosm in their world. The casino is its own habitat, so even if we don’t visit it much, a few more times outside of this episode would be entirely welcomed by me.
Because his boss Wandall’s not in, Asher has no choice but to return at a later time. Meanwhile, Whitney (Emma Stone) meets up with the Governor of the San Pedro Pueblo, James Toledo (Gary Farmer). He’s very proud of the patches of Pueblo land still available. I feel that Whitney really wants to feel the plight of the Pueblo, but she’s just fucking struggling as if it’s a silent spiritual war of her own. Oh, it’s all in Emma’s acting.
Whitney invites the Tewa gentleman to her Tiwa friend’s art gallery opening. The mistake seems earnest enough and she is trying. Yes, this is for major cultural clout and her way of handling these matters toes the line of appropriation. Rest assured, she’s also knocked down a few pegs when her artist friend Cara Durand (Nizhonniya Austin) can see through the bullshit. Whitney is no artist. She is stealing a look from a famed artist.
The beautiful juxtaposition is later on at Cara’s opening, “dinner for ten”, which includes MLB bobbleheads. Yes, she didn’t make them. Yes, they are in fact stolen. Yes, this was to prove a larger point about Major League Baseball, re-contextualizing. Yes, there’s a toy tee-pee where Cara sits, carves turkey with a deli slicer, and screams whether you eat it or not. I’m sure it all means something to her, no matter how silly or pretentious is may mean to some. What do the houses mean to Whitney? Not a goddamn thing.
The outsides are not inspired and birds keep fucking flying into them. The insides have art that isn’t theirs but rather Cara’s to sell the look and investment. Everything about the structures seems more wasteful than the purpose they’re supposed to serve. A fucking change needs to happen… one that does not include appropriating her ‘friend’ nor the governor of the San Pedro Pueblo for clout.
Not all hope is lost, however, when Whitney reveals to Asher about her being pregnant.
Dougie (Benny Safdie) himself has an interesting C Plot. He’s out on a date with one of the crew, Laura (Adrianne Chalepah). He’s a smoothie, even when revealing some grisly details about his wife’s death with him at the wheel with a BAC slightly over the limit. Benny keeps me riveted to Dougie. He seems genuine, but his tactics aren’t the most becoming of him, so when he offers to drive Laura home, the pit in my stomach is very present. That is why I was pleasantly shocked when he blew a red while driving, immediately prompting him to pull over and walk… to the casino. Where else is he going to go but back in Asher’s designed ‘trap’?
Though finally getting his meeting with former boss Wandall (Marcus LaVoi), his attempts at getting some work there fall flat, causing the awkwardness to kick into high gear when he basically has to weaponize his wife’s pregnancy as a means to getting to his old computer to show him a stupid viral clip before making a literal mess of the situation for distraction. Though not a visceral motor wreck, the scene gives you a few seconds heads up before what happens happens. They want you to visualize what will happen and not want it to happen before it does. I think that’s a really sweet move.
Another sweet move is when Whitney has her house checked for leaks. As smoke fills the house, we’re informed the “pressure’s looking good so far.” The visualization of the cloudiness in their own home leads to an even stormier ending.
Whitney does catch up to Cara to congratulate her but she cannot seem to reach her… or anybody in that building. The acting is great in saying nothing but putting it all out there. she’s not welcomed and the uneasiness in her face says it all. At the gynos, where they’re getting the results for their baby. They’re in high spirits, but something’s amiss and it’s very quickly revealed that Whitney’s had a previous abortion. Asher is floored. The acting is also great for saying nil in the moment, letting his face do all the talking.
However, they fucking sing as a duet when it’s revealed that what Whitney has is an ectopic pregnancy, and the sooner they act on it, the better. It’s something I feel I shouldn’t be watching, especially through the camera lens so invasive, yet intimate. It’s being shot from the outside, and though it feels invasive, the regular glass naturally reflects the beautiful nature as we zero in on the cursed black spot on her sonogram.
Could this be the curse? Whitney’s suddenly inspired to do a mosaic house, Pueblo style. Is this her gift? Inspiration. I could see this as a series where everything shitty that happens for Ash happens great for Whit. Six weeks. They’ve given us a time window for the season, which I love in series these days.
Directed by brothers David and Nathan Zellner with a script from Carrie Kemper, Fielder, and Safdie, the uneasiness doesn’t relent and shows that you can raise the stakes by removing from the equation. As for the chemistry between Nathan and Emma, I’m not hating it. They’re not a perfect couple, much less paragons of society. They have money, the one thing that makes people feel invincible. What they lack is soul. I believe both are fighting for whatever remnant of that hope is in them, together but alone, and in order for them to maybe (or never) get their balance restored, be hectored by the universe a bit. I’m still here for it, especially with Whitney’s new loss a maybe an auroral beginning.