[For Transparent “Kina Hora” or any other recaps on Fetchland, assume the presence of possible spoilers.]
Kina Hora Transparent returns with Sarah and Tammy’s big white wedding; Maura and Ali are visited by ghosts from the past; Josh and Rabbi Raquel can’t hide their big news.
If you are unfamiliar with season one of Transparent you must stop reading this right now, log onto amazon.com and watch it. Do not pass Go and do not collect $200. It’s truly great TV and not just for breaking new ground on gender identity and related issues. Transparent is one of those rarities that feels like art; an amalgam of inventive writing, vivid characterizations, and it’s also bust-a-gut funny. The world established in season one unwraps an incredibly specific family package with unique challenges but also feels like every family that ever existed because it’s such an exquisite gift – their conversations and experiences are really happening somewhere out there right now. It’s every day in Los Angeles on this show, with no angels or devils here – just real people we already know and love.
Quick refresher on who’s who:
Jeffrey Tambor as Maura Pfefferman (born Morton Pfefferman), who in season one finally opens up to her family about always identifying as a woman.
Amy Landecker as Sarah Pfefferman, the oldest child of Maura, married with two children. In season one she leaves her husband for Tammy (Melora Hardin), a woman she fell in love with in college.
Jay Duplass as Joshua “Josh” Pfefferman, Maura’s middle child. A successful music producer who has troubled relationships with women throughout season one until meeting true love, Rabbi Raquel.
Gaby Hoffmann as Alexandra “Ali” Pfefferman, the youngest of Maura’s kids and perpetually unemployed. She spends season one relishing her immaturity and living a life of full-blown hedonism.
Judith Light as Shelly Pfefferman, Maura’s ex-wife and the mother of Sarah, Josh, and Ali. She’s been aware of Maura’s feelings as a woman inside a man’s body for years.
Season two opens with “Kina Hora” AKA the evil eye at a Pfefferman family photo session for Sarah and Tammy’s wedding. Their clueless photographer drops an anti semitic comment and then refers to Maura as “sir”. It’s a concise scene but still reveals the whole world of season two with a mere snowglobe shake of a moment in the family… and it even looks like a snowglobe with all those white-wearing family members fluttering about in various stages of wedding angst. Dramatic and amusing dynamics cross the screen in a magically choreographed dance. Each interaction plays out a microcosm of the season’s macro themes: Jewish identity, family history and evolution, gender identity, and unity. It’s a fun tableau and classic brilliant Soloway*, delving into deep issues even as we laugh our asses off at how real it feels.
Right after the awkward Pfefferman family photo Josh is clearly over the moon because his lady love, Rabbi Raquel, just found out she’s pregnant. Of course, being Josh, he blows the joy into bits when he makes the critical error of telling Ali. It’s not a mistake because Ali’s so terrible or anything. In fact she’s changed quite a bit since season one when she was a veritable wreck. Now Ali’s the fount of Pfefferman communication and a well of empathic comfort to all. This plays out to the hilt at the wedding and reception. In fact, she even connects us, the audience, with their family’s past, channeling all the way back to 1933 Berlin Pfefferman family history. Ali doesn’t understand or even see this growth in herself. We know this when she tells Josh she’s, “just a guest at the wedding” even though it’s evident she’s much more; telling everyone where to sit, greeting guests, and keeping the kids at bay. Of course, Ali also passes along the news of Rabbi Raquel’s pregnancy too. She tells Sarah, the saddest bride in the West, who’s got so much black eye makeup it appears she’s gone goth. But this works thematically because of Sarah’s swirling sack of misery inside. Another mistake Ali made in all of her connective and empathic ways was inviting Maura’s estranged sister, Bri to the wedding. She’s “a filing cabinet with a hairdo” who’s on record as anti-gay, though currently attending a lesbian wedding, with a judgy, puckered face and nothing nice to say.
Maura wears Ray Bans framed in delicate lavender and stands strong under Bri’s watchful gaze. There’s a perfect moment when she poses for Bri to “get a good look at her” and Maura holds herself with unbridled dignity. It’s a proud moment and we’re happy for Maura, even if Bri can’t be. Unfortunately, this wedding isn’t about happy, though. Although gorgeous on the surface and teaming with celebrity cameos, few attendees are happy. The bride Sarah least of all. Her point of view on the ceremony feels like those moments when you first realize you’re getting sick. Woozy, Unreal. Nothing makes sense. The world is spinning. Then a hilarious moment when Sarah sees a banner plane fly above, “We buy ugly houses.com,” and it turns into a horror show in her mind, screaming, flailing, death, etc. But that was all in her head and then it’s reception time. At that point a dazed Sarah passes along the news of Rabbi Raquel’s pregnancy to Shelly who runs with it and makes an announcement during the biggest part of the celebration – the chair lifting dance of joy. This, of course, arouses the curious ire of Raquel who thought they were keeping the baby a secret until the pregnancy had a bit more time behind it, common practice for the newly pregnant. She and Josh had agreed on this.
Then poor sad bride Sarah wakes out of her daze and weeps in the bathroom out back. She didn’t want to marry Tammy. She hates Tammy. Etcetera. Ali comforts her and the always-flustered Josh brings Rabbi Raquel in to help. Turns out Raquel provides true answers and assistance. When Sarah bemoans that she doesn’t want to be married Raquel tells her she hasn’t turned in the marriage license paperwork yet so they’re not yet officially stamped married. The wedding itself, Raquel explains, is just a ritual, a pageant, expensive theater and nothing more. Sarah is saved. Still sad… but saved. Tammy embraces her on the dance floor and it’s clear on Sarah’s face that she’s just not that into this whole deal.
Before Bri leaves the reception Maura tells her sister she wants to go visit their Mom and receives a tirade of venom from Bri about sparing their mother the trouble of facing her son, now daughter. Maura finds comfort in Shelly’s arms about it later as Josh tries to apologize to Rabbi Raquel, Sarah breaks the news to Tammy, and Ali channels the ghost of her transgender ancestor from Berlin 1933. They’re all in hotel rooms right next to each other but at the same time also seem to exist in worlds separated by a million miles. All the characters are in white and the rooms are white washed too. The sole source of color in the entire final panning shot of “Kina Hora” is at the very end when we see the transgender Pfefferman ancestor in a deck chair behind Ali, decked out in a gorgeous red dress.
Thus season two is off to the races with the Pfeffermans thrown back into conflict. They struggle with the world around them and each other but more than any other entity these characters battle internally. When it all comes down to it there aren’t truly injurious external enemies in Pfefferman lives. Sure, at times it seems they’re surrounded by ignorant a-holes but such small minds are easily ignored. The real dangers lie deep inside the Pfefferman psyche because these deeply embedded demons must be faced. But we can be certain this family will sure as hell try to avoid them at every narrative turn, making them all the more a glorious blend of fun and poignance to watch.
* Jill Soloway, the brilliant creator, writer, exec producer, and director of Transparent.