Elements of the show still worked (particularly anything involving the profane, emotionally labile Deb, played by the great Jennifer Carpenter), but the over-all plot had echoes of “fridging,” an Internet term for brutalizing a female character in order to create growth in a male one. (The idiom originated with a Green Lantern comic in which the superhero’s girlfriend was stuffed into a refrigerator.)
“Where ‘Mad Men’ is cool, ‘The Hour’ is warm … and it’s hugely gratifying to watch a drama that doesn’t sideline women when capital-H history is happening. Bel is part of history, because she’s deciding how history is being depicted. It’s heady stuff, and it’s sexy in all the right ways.”
— Nancy Franklin, The New Yorker, Sept. 12 (full article not online)
If only. I read this review of the recently-concluded miniseries when I was halfway through watching it, and “Yes!” I said. “That’s exactly it! Why I dislike Mad Men, why I like the feminist bent of The Hour, and why I find the newer series to be so much more gratifying” — perfect word, Nancy, I thought then — “all in one short half-paragraph.”
And I was so excited by The Hour. Bel Rowley especially, played by Romola Garai, fulfilled all my Dana Whitaker-sized adoration for a woman news producer calmly calling the shots and making the tough decisions. (Those were the early days, before Aaron Sorkin’s massive inability to write consistently intelligent women and/or romances really surfaced.)
I assume that Franklin reviewed The Hour before she saw the last episode, maybe the last couple of episodes. Like the original State of Play, the conclusion ruined several hours worth of otherwise careful storytelling. And I’m not even talking about the ill-advised spy subplot that took over The Hour’s finale. (Though I do like that someone can apparently confess to an employee to being a Soviet sleeper agent in the hallway, and then go home for dinner per usual. What Cold War paranoia?)
Putting the spies aside, the end of The Hour pretty much completely sidelines Bel, except to check in on how she’s handling that whole Sleeping with the Married Coworker thing. Feminism yay?