Innocence and Panic
Episode 1 of Scenes from a Marriage begins with a couple sitting on a sofa, discussing marriage and what it means to them.
Mira and Jonathan are our couple in question, and they have a 4 year old called Ava. (Slightly meta here, Oscar Isaac, who’s in Ex Machina, creates a robot called Ava. This feels like a meta inclusion, especially given the opening parts of this episode shows Mira, referred to as Jess, walking through a movie set to film this show.)
Anyway, the pair continue to discuss their relationship to a therapist, including how they met originally. Mira isn’t exactly thrilled to tell the story, so Jonathan takes over.
They met in Colombia during English Lit and eventually turned from roommates into lovers. With Jonathan moving away from his Jewish background and Mira’s dark past of bad relationships, the pair gravitated toward one another.
Mira and Jonathan have been together for 10 years but their next question – about whether their marriage has been a success – throws them both off-guard. It’s not helped by Mira receiving a text that completely throws her. As the interview continues, the subject of monogamy – and exclusivity to each other – is brought up too.
20 minutes into the episode we skip across to a later time-line as Jonathan and Mira sit and eat dinner with Kate and Peter.
Dinner turns into drama as Kate and Mira start talking upstairs. As they do, this soon turns into kissing, right off the back of drinks and a chat about their lives. This doesn’t go down well with Mira though, who finds herself struggling with the fact she’s just cheated on her husband.
Peter and Kate eventually do leave, with Jonathan nd Mira discussing their own relationship and what could have gone wrong to lead to their demise. After brushing their teeth together, Mira delivers the big news – she’s pregnant! The reaction is subdued; flatlined and very clearly read from a script. It definitely doesn’t feel natural.
Anyway, this reaction leads to talking methodically about how to sort the house out, before Jonathan joins Mira for her scan. She’s not feeling too well though and when he vacates the room – partly on Mira’s request – the girl bursts into tears. It’s clear this marriage is far from perfect.
The Episode Review
You know when you watch some shows and can just tell it was all acted exactly as it was written on the script with no improv? That’s Scenes from a Marriage.
HBO’s latest show has absolutely no moments of levity and instead leans heavily into its melodrama. The few moments that feel natural comes from overlapping dialogue, and even then the show struggles to really find its own identity.
The married couple feel stiff and awkward, with barely any chemistry together. Whether intentional or not, this makes the long, drawn-out scenes difficult to watch and the fact this show takes itself so seriously makes it a tough one to stick with over the long-haul.
It’s apparent though that this is the couple we’re following across the entire show. With that in mind, it’ll be interesting to see what the drop-off will be like among the mainstream audience. This is the sort of series that feels designed specifically for critics, if that makes sense. It’s well-produced, pretty well acted and feels very artistic. Is it actually an enjoyable watch though?
Scenes From A Marriage seems like more of a niche show, and while there’s nothing wrong with that, the show struggles to conjure the same sort of charisma, charm or wit something like Big Little Lies has when it comes to discussing marriage. Will this show improve over the weeks? We’ll have to wait and see!