Talking is Healing
Episode 6 of The Girl from Plainville begins with the start of Michelle’s trial in 2017. The judge approves a motion for a bench trial and dismisses the jury.
In 2014, Michelle is in a psych ward to treat her eating disorders, feeling utterly alone.
Meanwhile, Conrad graduates high school. At his graduation party, he announces that he got his captain’s license, which shocks his parents.
Co brings up the idea of leaving his business to Conrad, but Conrad scoffs. He doesn’t want to live in Mattapoisett his whole life, which becomes a point of tension between them.
At the trial, Lynn testifies about Conrad’s demeanor when he was at Boston Children’s after his first suicide attempt. He promised he would never try anything like that again, and had prospects for his future. She also speaks of his attitude on the day of his death. “I know my son. And he didn’t want to die. Not that day.”
Michelle finishes her last day at the ward. She gets her phone back and sees a lot of messages from Conrad. When she finally responds to tell him about her hospital stay and recovery, he’s not receptive.
He accuses her of not caring about him. He berates himself for being miserable, shy, dumb, etc. When Michelle suggests he could talk to someone, he says there’s no point. He’ll always be a failure.
At the trial, Scott Gordon takes the stand. He says Michelle encouraged Conrad to commit suicide dozens of times. He also talks about Conrad’s video diary on his social anxiety and depression. The teenager believed he wasn’t normal.
When Rayburn shows a picture of Conrad in the car as evidence, Lynn walks out of the room.
After the trial, Lynn’s mom mentions Conrad’s video series to her. She muses that you just can’t know when a person is doing ok. They tell everyone they’re doing better; they act like they’re doing better. But you can’t know. This unsettles Lynn.
One day, Conrad tries to leave work early, and Co yells after him. When Co gets home, he finds Conrad playing video games. They get into a fight, and Co punches him hard to the face. Lynn later picks them both up. Conrad, with a black eye, insists it wasn’t his dad’s fault.
Natalie Gibson testifies next. She reads texts where Michelle pours her heart out about having no friends, no plans, no future.
She and Cassie both read texts where Michelle is being overly grateful to them for hanging out with her. They testify that Michelle told them Conrad was missing days before he actually disappeared. And then Natalie reads the most indicting message: “I fucking told him to get back in.”
After Co’s assault on Conrad, the teen meets with Michelle. She talks about how he’s above his parents, and he gets angry. He thinks she’s just like everyone else, just talking without listening.
Conrad holds that he’s different form everyone else. He dreams about killing himself, and next time, he’ll be dead. Then maybe everyone will listen. Before they part, he yells in Michelle’s face. If she tells anyone about this conversation, he’ll never talk to her again.
In the shower, Michelle intentionally cuts her leg with a razor. Conrad later texts an apology to her, saying he can’t take the pain anymore. He tells her goodbye.
She’s immediately concerned. She continues to call and text him, until he finally texts back hours later to casually say he fell asleep.
The episode ends with Lynn settling down to watch one of Conrad’s videos. She’s never been able to bring herself to watch them before.
She watches his video about social anxiety. Conrad brings up loving his parents, how he’s better off than most people–all while tears stream down Lynn’s space.
The Episode Review
This episode focuses remarkably and intensely on the complexities of mental health and how different people need different things.
Michelle and Conrad, despite all their talk of being the same, are vastly different people. Michelle is eloquent with her words. She can make people hear her. But whereas she needs more people to talk to her and treat her as if she is worth talking to, Conrad is sick of the noise. He’s just ready for people to listen, but he struggles to express himself even when they do.
The way the series handles parents’ relationships to their children’s mental health is also extremely nuanced. The Girl From Plainville is sensitive to the Roys’ difficulties, but also challenges their roles as Conrad’s guardians and what so many parents don’t understand about their children’s anxiety, depression, and suicidal thoughts. Even as the show dedicates itself to Michelle and Conrad, it makes room for Lynn’s raw pain–not blaming her, but using her as a representative for a tragically relatable struggle.
Most impressively, The Girl From Plainville creates emotionally complex, dynamic characters. It does not villainize them–not even Michelle. But neither does it let anyone off the hook–especially not Michelle.
|Expect A Full Season Write-Up When This Season Concludes!|