Jan 28, 2017

Channel Surfing: Z:: The Beginning of Everything - "Just Humans"

Christina Ricci
Welcome to a new column called Channel Surfing, in which I sporadically look at current TV shows and talk about them. These are not ones that I care to write weekly recaps for and are instead reflections either on the episode, the series, or particular moments. This will hopefully help to share personal opinions as well as discover entertainment on the outer pantheon that I feel is well worth checking out, or in some cases, shows that are weird enough to talk about, but should never be seen.
There are few writers throughout the 20th century with a personal history as fascinating as their writing as that of F. Scott Fitzgerald. Best known for "The Great Gatsby," he was an author who chronicled the Jazz Age with a whimsical prose that was only matched by his glamorous life and his ability to make even the most fictional of his work seem autobiographical. He was an optimist who hoped for the best of the upcoming era. Alongside him was another famous face, and one whom Amazon has chosen to make a series around: Miss Zelda Fitgerald, or as the show's title calls her: "Z."
Z: The Beginning of Everything does seem to come on the heels of Netflix's take on Queen Elizabeth with The Crown, making it seem a little bit suspicious. Still, with Christina Ricci playing Zelda, the show has a certain quality already built in to the half hour series which premiere last Friday. In fact, the first episode does a swift job of detailing Zelda's personal life before ending with the introduction of the man she would be forever associated with: F. Scott Fitzgerald. What can be gathered from the first frame is that she is a free spirit who likes to enjoy the finer things in life. Who could blame her? The Roaring 20's were known for this excessive nature. If The Crown was about British royalty, then Z is about the redefined American royalty that is created through celebrity and class.
One of the series' only real flaws - which isn't a big one - is that each episode feels like a fragmented piece of a movie. While this feels like it was done in the first episode to give the audience what they expected, the later episodes start to feel like they are merely act breaks that suggest that this is an hour long series broken up for easier digestion. There's nothing wrong with this conceptually, though it keeps things from ever truly getting full momentum beyond Ricci's solid performance in the early days of her romance with the many men who would lead to Fitzgerald, played here with charisma by David Hoflin. 
On the bright side, there's a lot to enjoy about the chemistry between the young lovers. They have their lives ahead of them - and Fitzgerald plenty of iconic writing. It's the type of story that makes for its own American dream. With that said, the series never feels like it gets deeper into the emotional core of its characters, instead choosing to juxtapose their lives into a fun but breezy romantic drama. There is nothing wrong with this, though it only adds the series to Amazon's recent run of underwhelming but fun period dramas alongside Good Girls Revolt. Z does just fine in delivering a story sure to keep Fitzgerald fans happy; but falls short of those expecting the brilliance of Transparent or The Man in the High Castle.
There's plenty to like about Z, but it's far from the best thing that Amazon has released. Maybe the show will get better as Zelda and Fitzgerald fall further in love and get to the root of why we love them. If not, it will be a fun second tier show that gives Ricci a fine vehicle with a solid performance. It may not have much going for it, but it does seem smart that a show about living fast is only a half hour. It never has a chance to become dull. Instead, it allows fans of period pieces to wallow in the details and hopefully find awe in a world where writers were kings and lived the high life. It's something that doesn't exist as much anymore, but still is its own fantasy for millions out there. It's why Z, in spite of everything, still works. 

No comments:

Post a Comment