By Jack Holmes
Netflix’s Easy The start of the month saw Luke Cage’s face plastered on just about every surface Netflix could get their hands on. Rightly so as well, Marvel have managed to find a niche market with their adult superheroes that have been virtually untouched by other studios. Existing in the eye of that marketing storm, however, means that you likely missed another little gem that Netflix is targeting at, which is yet another relatively new territory for TV. Easy consists of eight half an hour stories, set around Chicago, all focusing on the modern world of sex and both romantic, and platonic relationships. It’s a topic that’s been covered to an extent before, but its place on Netflix unshackles it from being a producer led nightmare, more interested in showing a pair of tits than creating a genuinely thought stimulating piece of TV.
Director Joe Swanberg, known for his ‘micro-budget’ films, and exploration of human interaction through film and TV, feels as though he’s found his ticket into the mainstream with Easy. Netflix has made multiple moves in the sex and relationship genre, with Aziz Ansari’s ‘Master of None’ being released in 2015. His show managed to focus on key points but was frequently forced to twist them to fit around the lead characters of the series, yet even then often had glowing moments of clarity where it was able to fully explore an aspect of modern human interaction, it’s episode on first dates for example.
Easy is free of the restrictions that ‘Masters of None’ and other shows like it have faced due to its structure of 30 minute, completely self-sustaining episodes. You can watch almost all of Easy’s episodes in any order, minus its third and final episodes which do form to make a larger story, although even then are focused on different characters and therefore have completely different messages, focuses and tones. Each episode tends to take on an area of public debate, such as the first episode discussing the difficulties of communication in a marriage, represented through their struggling sex life and busy day to day responsibilities. The shows topics have often been visited in some way through numerous sitcoms to feature length films, to the help pages of Cosmo. Take the show’s second episode, charmingly titled “The Vegan Cinderella” which follows a girl wanting to change to feel more appealing to her new girlfriend. Easy takes on this story like it’s actual situations rather than a stereotypical re-enactment of the key plot points of a story. The scenes of the two of them getting acquainted the morning after they meet are entirely believable, thanks to well-written dialogue and character building and even some clever camerawork that gives the conversations and performances a grounded feel.
The casting of huge stars is going to be the main source of viewers for Easy. Featuring Orlando Bloom, Emily Ratajkowski, Dave Franco and dozens more, the show offers huge actors a chance to really sink their teeth into the psychology of a character where each episode is treated as a short insight into a period of their life, whatever happens after the camera stops revealing is up for debate, you’ve been warned. Michael Cernus and Elizabeth Reaser’s episode ‘The Fucking Study’ for example often says more about the characters through their facial expressions than it ever does with their actual dialogue perfectly exploring the difficulties of communication in a long-term marriage.
There are occasionally issues with representation in the show, which is a little surprising considering Swanberg virtually never shy’s away from controversial topics such as threesomes, sexual age gaps, and lesbian sex scenes, the latter of which, in all honesty, is probably one of Netflix’s staple show themes at this point. One particular scene in the show’s fourth episode ‘Controlada’, is currently at the centre of a debate as to whether the show supports rape culture, with a particular sex scene involving a woman eventually giving into an attempted rape. As strong as this content was, however, the show investigates these issues and events realistically, and therefore inspires a conversation amongst its viewers. The idea that the show should be in some way punished for its depiction of an action that it in no way deems appropriate or anything less than monstrous is likely inspired by this month’s comments by Donald Trump “grabbing pussy” which he defended as “locker room talk”, creating a push of the demonization of sexual discussion. Still, with a show like Easy that takes on topics society already has issues with discussing, it’s important that Easy makes sure it exhibits its exact opinions on matters, and then allows viewers to make up their own minds in response.
The short episode lengths are both one of the shows strongest aspects, as well as the cause of most of its drawbacks. The fun of being constantly introduced to new characters throughout your series binge gives the show a constantly fresh feel, one minute you’re with a lesbian couple early in their 20’s still working out the logistics of dating, the next you’re with a struggling lonely cartoonist deciding where to draw the line between his public and private love lives. This can occasionally lead to issues with the way Easy attempts to summarise each of its storylines. While focusing on interesting and largely unexplored areas of modern sexuality and relationships, Easy frequently finds itself taking on a little too much. Episodes that become increasingly complex as their episode continues, are often concluded in a way that feels a little rushed. This would feel like more of a blow if we were expecting these characters to return, however, and with Easy constantly moving forwards, by the time you’ve realised just how odd and unsatisfactory the climaxes of episodes are, you’re being introduced to a new and intriguing set of individuals.
Easy, for all of its flaws, is still one of the freshest and most original shows that we’ve seen try to take on the complicated world of relationships. Netflix has once again pushed the boundaries of TV and in Easy’s case, has managed to start a conversation both within its shows situations, with characters having realistic debates on issues that we don’t talk nearly enough about, as well as between its viewers who develop their own viewpoints through the events they see. So far there’s no official confirmation for a season 2, but with the shows incredibly open structure, we wouldn’t be surprised if Swanberg was given another season to explore the human condition.