[For Transparent “New World Coming” or any other recaps on Fetchland, assume the presence of possible spoilers.]
New World ComingJosh and Raquel welcome Colton to their home; Maura takes Ali to UCLA; Sarah has a run-in with Len and Barb.
The episode “New World Coming” isn’t just about what happens when a transgender character changes their clothes and hairstyle while the world watches. It’s about the world inside too. Maura sheds her old “Morty” self and still has to deal with being recognized as Morty and dealing with the consequences of living with Morty’s past as she creates a new future for herself. So, on one level it’s an episode about new beginnings but with every fresh start there’s also an accompaniment ending. That brings us to Sarah, of course as she starts over solo once again and struggles with her own brand of backlash.
The episode opens as Maura literally wakes up in a new world after her night out at the club. She slept over at her friend, Davina’s house. Their gorgeous friend Shea joins them in the kitchen talking about her pussy got ravaged she got the night before – it’s a “wounded soldier,” she says. Maura perks up that Shea, who also used to be a man has a “real pussy” so she asks about it. Shea tells her about how she’s fully transitioned and has a “pussy pussy” now that cost her 15K, an intriguing thought to Maura.
Next we see Sarah-in-sunglasses drop off the kids at school where she wonders about gossip mongers including Barb, (Tig Notaro) one of Tammy’s other ex wives, who’s also a school parent. Sarah attempts to bond with her but Barb gives her the brutal brush off with the added dagger, “I’m sorry if my boundary is your trigger,” so she’s not the least bit empathetic. In the next scene Josh takes Colton to his former high school and they bond like bros. They banter about sexy-in-school hijinx, knowing girls biblically, and all that other totally normal father/son school registration day stuff. While they register Colton in the school office Josh reminisces about some real characters from the former administration, including a rigid disciplinarian, Mr. Irons who marched the halls like the Iron Giant, slamming a paddle into his palm. Turns out all they need is Colton’s legal guardian signatures on his paperwork and he’s good to go.
At a parallel school scenario, Maura takes Ali to UCLA where she taught political science when she was Morty. Here they encounter Leslie Mackinaw, a feminist poet and critic who’s now head of the UCLA Gender Studies Department. Leslie remembers Maura as Morty from when they were both students at Berkeley – but about as fondly as Josh remembers Mr. irons. At Berkeley Morty was part of an editorial board for the school’s political paper. The board blocked all women from becoming board members, Leslie included. She and her “sisters” applied ten years in a row and faced rejection every year until they began burning effigies of the bastard board members. In all those years the only woman the board ever admitted had to endure constantly ogled ginormous breasts. All this information about when she was Morty now in hand, Maura apologizes to Leslie but it’s clearly moot at this point. Meanwhile, across the table, Ali grows smitten with Leslie, who’s one of those charismatic older peeps; magnetic to younger folk – Bill Clinton with a vagina.
Then Sarah trespasses on her former home with Len even though it’s not her day. She lets herself into the house claiming she just needs to get her yoga mat. Barb happens to be in the backyard with Len watching their kids play together. This, along with some snarky tone action, alienates Sarah so she heads into the house “to grab her yoga mat” but in the process spies Melanie’s bag of stuff in Len’s bedroom. Melanie is Len’s new girlfriend and apparently a big fan of eyeshadow. Sarah finds a ginormous palette of shadows in every imaginable color among Melanie’s stuff. After gazing at it she slams the palette shut a bit too abruptly. This mistake that creates a giant mess on the floor and also ruins the palette. To cover her tracks Sarah covers the huge smudge stain on the rug with Melanie’s bag and puts the palette in her own bag before skedaddling out of the house.
Meanwhile Maura visits her transgender support group. One of the other trans women talks about how many times when men are disrespectful or thoughtless to trans women it’s because they’re in the closet, transphobic, or homophobic. Maura reinforces this idea sharing about when she was Morty and hurt Leslie as well as all the other female applicants to the editorial board of the paper. It’s a revelation for her that hiding the Maura part of herself contributed to her unknowingly hurting those who represented that hidden part – women like Leslie. This is a running theme in Transparent and, really, life itself. When a person is hurtful it’s usually because they’re hurting and often also completely oblivious to both sides of the whole painful scenario.
After Maura’s poignant scene we see Josh and Rabbi Raquel in their kitchen where she makes it clear she wants to get engaged soon with their baby on the way and a temple full of people who see her blossoming belly and no ring on the finger. Right after this Josh discusses how to propose with the band and producers at the studio where his band Fussy Puss sings a song called New World Coming. At the end of their convo Josh lights up with just how he’s gonna do it, obviously excited, but doesn’t share the idea – it’s that good. Speaking of good, Ali is out with Syd again for a night of fun and bowling. She reads some of Leslie Mackinaw’s poetry only to find out she’s damn good. The bowling lesbians already know Leslie’s work and Ali reads some particularly titillating passages as surrounding women nibble, lick, and fondle each other at every turn of the alley. But then it’s Sarah who gets off in the next scene. She’s picturing Mr. Irons from high school that we learned about earlier. In Sarah’s imagination he’s smacking her naughty bum and she’s excited to the point of ecstatic bliss. After she orgasms Sarah looks glum, slumped down in a hard-back chair alone in her drab and dark apartment. It seems that fantasy came and went just as quickly as she did.
Josh comes home from work that night to find a nervous Raquel in a pretty dress on her knees proposing marriage. He gets mad. She doesn’t trust him. He had this. Right away Raquel realizes her mistake. Josh’s greatest fear is that he’ll be considered unreliable yet here she is proving she thinks just that of him. She tries to apologize but the breech is a canyon between them. Something just broke. It’s unclear if they’ll come back together. On the other hand, in the final scene Ali and Syd are headed down the opposite road; naked and whispering in bed all smoochy and wrapped around each other in the pale lamplight.
“New World Coming” breaks into refreshing territory with each Pfefferman changing direction into a new place that feels surprising and yet also inevitable. Maura starts to see her struggles aren’t just with a judgmental outside world but also within herself. They say it’s an inside job for a reason, after all. Speaking of which, Sarah’s unconscious seems to be telling her she needs to reign it in a bit and perhaps consider a more disciplined approach to life now that she’s solo. Meanwhile there’s trouble in partnership paradise as we see a fissure develop between Josh and his beloved Raquel. Of course she doesn’t trust him, look what he did in just the very last episode, breaking their pact to wait before telling anyone about the baby. Yet when Josh says, “You don’t trust me,” our hearts break along with his. He was so full of hope and who doesn’t adore amazing Raquel? But without trust they’re doomed. Heartbreaking for sweet always-the-little-boy Joshy. And then there’s Ai. We saw this coming with the hairdo, of course. Not too many straight women sport the Foghorn Leghorn look by choice, after all. But with her just-reunited best friend, Syd? It’s either a lifelong love in the making or tragedy right around the bend for this particular New World Coming – no middle ground here.