A few days ago I asked friends on Facebook to recommend things for me to watch to review on here, and if the rest of the list is like the television show I just watched, I am going to be excited for what I’ll be viewing the next couple of weeks. My friend Lynnette was one of the first to suggest something and she recommended The Slap, a miniseries that aired on NBC earlier this year. The show is an American version of the Australian show of the same name that was produced back in 2011 and both are based off the same book, also titled The Slap, which was written in 2008. The show is divided into eight episodes and follows eight different individuals connected through the main event that happened in the first episode.
The show begins with a man by the name of Hector. He is about to turn 40 and his entire family is invited to his house, along with friends of the family, the baby sitter, and her best friend. While at the party, everyone starts drinking and having a good time, and all of the young kids gather to play baseball. When an unruly child, Hugo, gets upset after striking out, he begins swinging a bat erratically and doesn’t want his turn to be over. Harry comes over to take the bat away “to protect his son (Rocco)”, who is also playing. After Harry takes the bat from Hugo, Hugo kicks him several times in the shin and Harry slaps the boy in the face. Everyone gets into a frenzy because of what happens and the next seven episodes revolve around the aftermath of the slap.
Personally, I loved the set up of the show. While the primarily plot focuses on all of the characters dealing with the repercussions of the slap, each episode delves into the lives of the eight different characters featured in their respective episodes. Nearly everyone has some type of demon and inner turmoil that they are dealing with, and it is interesting to see how much those elements tie into the main plot of the show and what extraneous things influence the psyches of the characters. On top of that, the pending possibility of a trial, brings to light a lot of dark things.
Two of my favorite episodes were “Anouk” and “Ritchie”. The episode “Anouk” features the character trying to figure out her relationships with her lover and her mother. Both individuals in her life are somewhat opposite of one another, because her lover seems somewhat more clingy and idealistic, whereas her mother seems more aloof and rational. In the short episode all of the characters go on a journey to discover what they mean to one another, and when Anouk discovers why her mother has been distant (even more so than usual), the revelation and subsequent scene between her mother and her is emotional and provides great dimension to the show. Although it doesn’t focus heavily on the slap issue (because she is only a friend of the family), it still is one of the best of the eight. Another great episode is the exciting conclusion of the series with the final episode, “Ritchie”. This episode does not focus as heavily on the character it is named after, but a great deal of information is provided about him, and while some of the news did not come as a surprise (the way he portrayed the character and the way his character was written was predictable), other stuff was still startling to learn. Without spoiling the ending or any surprises, the element I loved was that it showed how people can become so obsessed with a certain objective that they will stop at nothing to achieve victory, and they do not care who they have to hurt to reach it.
Not all of the episodes were quite as enticing as these two episodes. While every episode did successfully move along the story line revolving around the slap, there were a few that fell short in making the audience discover more about the character focused on that episode. Both “Manolis” and “Aisha” fell into this category. Those two episodes had touching moments, and the latter continued on elements from the “Hector” episode, but neither quite encompassed the life and tribulations of their respective characters as much as the other episodes. With a story, not every character is meant to be sympathetic or relatable, but compared to the lives discussed in the six other episodes, these two stuck out as episodes more concerned on pushing the slap story arc further along.
Another issue that I, and other critics noticed, was how stereotypical each of the characters were. Plenty of storytelling elements have been copied, revamped, or innovated over the years, because the same stories are bound to be repeated again, but the series did not seem to try escaping stereotypes. If you can think of a stereotype of a character, it is more than likely featured on this show. Angry, masculine male: check. Infidelity: check. Wild child seeking attention in all of the wrong places: check. Matriarch of the family not liking her son’s wife: check. Not having read the story the show is based on, I am not certain whether this was a flaw of the source material or the screen adaptation, but luckily most of the performers in the show brought life to each of the characters that they play and didn’t leave them to be one dimensional.
Who doesn’t love a good ensemble show? It is quite easy to accomplish when each of the episodes is focused on a different character, but part of the greatness of the ensemble of this show arose from none of the characters outshining anyone else. On some shows there are actors or actresses that demand the screen and draw all of the focus, but most of the people on this show were at the same consistent level as one another. A few characters may have been a bit dimmer and not as highlighted as the others, but they still were close to the same caliber as the others. As well, I love seeing individuals showing their versatility, and that is one of the reasons I love Zachary Quinto on this show. He has gone from villain to gay best friend to serial killer to a baby crazed father, and now takes on a brutish, overly masculine father. He flows easily into all of these different roles that he plays. When it comes to the acting/characters of the youngest families members, I was not huge on how little the children were focused on. It makes sense that Hugo, the teens and the adults are the primary focus, but the rest of the children on the show could have provided another side of the story by how the incident affected them. Of course, their lack of perspective could represent how it did not really affect them as much as it did for the adults.
It is interesting to see how much each different individual was affected by the situation, but it also shows how obsessed and how ridiculous that obsession is. I think The Slap is a quick watch that is a lot more emotional than it appears it would be for an eight episode run time. Despite using too many stereotypes, the show does make a great comment on society and how selfish people can be in pursuit of proving that their say is better than others. I give this show an 8 out of 10, one for each episode (just kidding, I just thought the show was that good and the eight is a happy coincidence). Underneath the selfishness and stereotypes, the great performances of the actors does draw the viewer in and will keep them entertained until the very end.