Last week, when the first three episodes of The Girl From Plainville dropped on Hulu, my main concern was that, regardless of how well-acted the show may be or how tragic the true life story might be, there really wasn’t much left to be said about Michelle Carter and Conrad “Coco” Roy.
Having watch the fourth and latest episode last night, I have to say that I think my concerns were justified. I mean, don’t get me wrong. The fourth episode was fairly well-directed. It was definitely well-acted. There was a scene where Elle Fanning and Colton Ryan start singing Can’t Stop This Feeling that I’m sure will be a favorite amongst many viewers. But, in the end, it’s hard to see why eight hours are going to be required to tell this story. There was really nothing in the fourth episode that couldn’t have been communicated in a two-minute montage.
The fourth episode continued the show’s distracting habit of jumping back and forth in time. The main problem with this is that, unless Colton Ryan is in the scene, it’s often difficult to keep track of whether we’re seeing the past or the show’s “present.” There’s not much different between past Michelle and present Michelle. For that matter, Coco’s parents appear to have been just as miserable in the past as they were in the present. There was a scene where Coco’s father and his grandfather got into an argument about whether or not they should sell Coco’s truck and it took me a few minutes to understand that the scene was supposed to be taking place in 2014 and not 2012. To be honest, there’s really no reason for the show’s jumbled timeline, other than the fact that it’s currently what all the Emmy-winning miniseries are doing. But since we all already know how the story began and how the story is going to end, we don’t really get much out of the show’s mix of flashbacks and flashforwards.
The show seem to be trying to generate some suspense over whether Michelle will actually go on trial over her part in Coco’s death but again, what’s the point? We all know that she went on trial. The publicity of the trial is the whole reason why most people are going to be watching this show in the first place. In fact, all of the legal maneuvering is probably the least interesting part of the story. So far, both the prosecutor and Michelle’s attorney are coming across as being one-note characters. That may be a reflection of reality because real-life lawyers are rarely as interesting as their television counterparts but that still doesn’t make for compelling viewing.
What does make for compelling viewing is the show’s suggestion that this was all because of Glee. Michelle’s obsession with Finn and Rachel, in particular, seems to have been her main motivation for pursuing a relationship with Coco in the first place. And, of course, Finn died when his actor died so perhaps Coco had to die as well. (On the bright side, at least Michelle wasn’t obsessed with Puck and Quinn.) While the rest of the world is trying to understand why Coco killed himself and why Michelle apparently ordered him to get back in the truck, Michelle is imagining herself in an episode of Glee. As I mentioned earlier, the Can’t Fight This Feeling scene was probably the episode’s highlight, if just because it revealed how fragile Michelle’s concept of reality truly was.
If the fourth episode of The Dropout was where that show justified its existence, the fourth episode of The Girl From Plainville feels like it has more in common with the fourth episode of Pam & Tommy. The Girl From Plainville works as a showcase for Elle Fanning and, occasionally, Colton Ryan but the show itself still hasn’t quite convinced me that it needs to exist.