What a beautiful, sad story.
From a very young age, people in the Continent learn there is a better place called the Offshore, and their one chance to get a ticket to live there is the Process. Whatever indoctrination they receive, it is so heavy that almost none of them question the system, in fact, the majority think it is fair. If they pass, they leave everything behind and never go back. They will never talk to loved ones again, because now they are the 3% and that’s the natural order of things. It’s a very closed mindset, and that’s what keeps this model of society alive. So what could possibly break through it? What could make a woman with a perfect life want to let go of it and head back to the terrible place she came from? The answer, ladies and gentlemen, is the love for the child she left behind.
The Other Side
We flashback to five years ago and find out what happened to Julia, Ezequiel’s wife. It’s the year 99 of the Process, Ezequiel’s first as the boss. Julia is an employee in the Process, too. They are as happy as a couple can be. Julia is just lovely. When Ezequiel is nervous about the opening speech, she drags him to the bathroom and calms him by wetting his head with water and softly saying words of encouragement. He adds some of those words to his speech later.
Julia is an interviewer, and the writers take the chance to show more of the Process from the perspective of the employees. When she eliminates a girl right after the girl says she has a daughter, it becomes obvious that Augusto, the boy we met two episodes ago, is Julia’s son. Her unfair call to eliminate the candidate doesn’t go unnoticed, though, as another Process worker questions what was the criteria there. I thought that was interesting. In theory, those who run the Process are concerned about keeping it fair, but Ezequiel’s methods, at least today, are cruel and unfair. Like I said before, no wonder he is under review.
My Son or Nothing
Apart from that small incident, Ezequiel’s first year as the boss is a hit. But that doesn’t stop him from demoting Julia from active worker to his secretary in the following year. He tries to paint it in a nice way, as if she was going to be his right hand, but she doesn’t buy it. Good for her.
Ironically, that job gets Julia closer to her son when she learns, through live footage from the Continent, that the neighbor she left her son with has been killed by the Offshore police, collateral damage in the fight against the Cause. Her son appears for a quick moment on the footage, and that’s enough to bury Julia the elite woman and bring forth Julia the mom. There is a beautiful, beautiful shot in which Julia’s tear falls on Augusto’s image, near his own eye.
After watching the video, she gets so worked up she loses her patience with an eliminated candidate and beats her. Her erratic behavior calls Ezequiel’s and everybody’s attentions. Ezequiel tries to talk to her, but she won’t open up. The more she thinks about her son, the more she distances herself from her husband and from the values of Offshore.
It’s the year 101 and now Julia is not there to watch Ezequiel’s opening speech anymore. She is depressed, but still determined to find her kid. She rewatches the footage several times, demanding the computer to give her some intel on the location of the events. But it won’t. Ezequiel discovers she is obsessed with the video and confronts her. She speaks the truth and what follows is the best scene of the series thus far.
Ezequiel is awful. Awful! At first, he is jealous and insecure that she had a kid with another man. Then he is just cruel, acting concerned but in reality trying to destroy whatever hope she has of meeting her kid. Love and justice are her guides, rules and order are his. It’s a delicious contrast they have, Ezequiel and Julia, he so blinded by the rules of the society he worships, she so determined to follow her heart no matter what rules she has to break, a contrast entangled in a marriage that was doomed from the second Julia saw the image of her son.
A little while after their discussion, Julia finally discovers the address of her late, former neighbor. Mel Fronckowiak is terrific displaying Julia’s joy over finding the piece of information she needed to go after her son. But when Julia is trying to leave the building, Ezequiel captures her and sends her to the Recovery and Treatment Center, a place where, I presume, they brainwash you to love Offshore above all else.
Julia falls into a state of total desolation, surrounded by water and literally isolated from her son. She only has two options now: stay alive and have the memories of her son taken away from her, or die loving the kid she wishes she had never let behind. And because a world without her son is not a world she wants to live in, she lets water have her.
The Man Behind the Curtain
I was extremely moved by Julia’s story. It was beautiful, heavy, poignant. It was a dystopian story told from the perspective of the privileged ones, and it worked like a charm. Part of me wanted the episode to end on that sad, empty beach, but it continued to show Ezequiel’s reaction.
As expected, his wife’s suicide devastated him and sent him on a guilt trip. He proceeded to meet Augusto himself, which made me hate him even more, because, see, Ezequiel, would it have hurt to let Julia do the same? Augusto is not very receptive at first. Ezequiel offers him Julia’s ring, which contains everything there is to know about her. That would’ve been a lovely offer if it wasn’t for Ezequiel’s condition: “Be approved on the Process and I’ll give it to you.”
Dude. I mean, dude.
What does this say about Ezequiel? When we saw him with Augusto two episodes ago, he treated the kid with a lot of love. So he is either taking care of Julia’s son because he now sees things the same way she did, or he still backs the Process and believes he can make amends by preparing Augusto to undertake it. The first scenario would make for an interesting redemption arc, the second tells us he is a delusional man, but a formidable villain to root against. I’m hoping for the latter.
Bits and Pieces
- I’m sorry I ever said Ezequiel’s self-drowning ritual was an easy character trait. It’s a great one.
- The rings the offshorians use not only function as coms, they also store everything about them.
- The only development in present time is that Aline now knows Ezequiel received a visit from Augusto. She won’t tell anyone if he hands his job over to her. I liked Aline at first, but I wish she were a better defined character by now. That blackmailing came out of nowhere.
- My boyfriend, who is an acting coach, has asked me to say that Brazil has better acting on its dramas and that he blames the acting coaches of 3% for not getting the best out of the cast.
- Having that said, Mel Fronckowiak knocked it out of the park. Five minutes into the episode, I already loved Julia, and I stayed with her until the bitter end.
- I kind of wish Julia wasn’t dead, that she would reappear faking to be brainwashed only to join the Cause. Of course, this episode is more powerful the way it is.
Special Quotes Section: Ezequiel, an Awful Human Being
Ezequiel: “How is that [you having a kid] not in your file?”
Julia: “He is all alone, Ezequiel.”
Ezequiel: “In a few years, he will apply to the Process. If he passes, you will meet again.”
Julia: “What if he doesn’t?”
Ezequiel: “Then he doesn’t deserve to be missed at all. Because he is one of them, not one of us.”
Julia: “I want to see my son.”
Ezequiel: “And who says he wants to see you?”
Ezequiel: “You are not thinking straight.”
Julia: “We are not thinking straight. Can’t you see that all of this is a big mistake?”
This was a dystopian story done right. Four out of four bottles of wine.