After five years and three attempts at telling the story, the Graves's family secrets have finally been revealed with the release of Falling Apart's season one finale, "The Captive". There's so much material in the three and a half hour long epic to cover that I can only review the first half of the season before I bore too many of Fall-Hards (Falling Apart fans). So, I'll start right away into what is being called the "next logical evolution of cinema."
episode 1: An Introduction to Quantum Filmmaking
Morgan Hamilton-Lee has already been established as the trailblazing filmmaker of his generation with the Hamilton-Lee-ian Subversion Movement but what the web series does is expand upon that foundation to look deeper into what film is and what those elements separated from entertainment value means.
As I said before in my previous review of the pilot episode, it was unlike any incarnation of the Falling Apart Cinematic Universe (FACU) that has come before. However, after watching the rest of the season it now makes sense why it was higher quality then the rest of the season.
Quantum Filmmaking is the method used to understand and appreciate film at its most basic level. The first four episodes are representative of such aesthetics. The first episode is a pretty linear story with very few Hamilton-Lee-ian flares to it, leading to the mixed to cold reception from his fan base. However, if the first episode is seen as metaphor for the 1st dimension then it becomes much clearer. The 1st dimension is simply points on a line and that's how the first episode comes across. Characters are properly set up, they have motivations, there's enough intrigue to want to know what happens next. Very standard stuff but is essential to unraveling Hamilton-Lee's web of intricate enigmas.
Episode 2: The Depth of Flatness
Episode two is even more of a slog to get through and could be the most boring episode of the season. Or tied with episode five. It is all surface level information with no explanation or hint at what will come next or for what reason and this is the exact intent. The second episode is a metaphor for the 2nd dimension which in simple terms is just an infinite flat surface. Episode two is so flat because it can't be anything else. It is a building block for what comes next. Episode three, which could be said to be the best episode or incarnation of the FACU thus far.
Episode 3: Spacial Relativity and the dark woods
If episode one and two represent the first and second dimension then the third episode obviously represents the third dimension. The final confrontation in episode three involves eight of the key cast members. (Coincidentally eight episodes make up the season. Sneaky.) The scene leading up the confrontation is Lexi talking to Cooper outside of the family home, ready to tell her of the affair with Cooper's brother/ lover, Riley. However, the scene jump-cuts to a darkly wooded area where T-Rod, Gage, and Serenity initiate their one year plan of throwing a knife at the family patriarch, Marshal, and then kidnap/ murder Cooper. Moments after the arrival of the gang, Lexi and Cooper teleport to the wooded area as well. Soon after, Casey, Marshall, and Riley teleport when summoned by T-Rod's incantation chant of "Marshall".
What the Graves family don't know is that some of the inhabitants of the dark woods are rendered frozen through some mysterious hex. Casey, Gage, Serenity, Lexi, and Cooper stand powerless as Marshall is attacked. Otherwise, someone would call the cops or aid in the fight. However, this isn't an option due forces beyond their control or reason. Gage does fight the hex by taking a step forward but is too late to save T-Rod who is shot dead by Marshall's teleporting gun. The darkly wooded area then is revealed to be the outside of the Graves' house but breaks the logic of spatial relativity, leading us to believe that the darkly wooded area is an extra dimensional location that the characters are able to enter when negative energy appears. Possibly a nod to Twin Peaks, another transgressive show that features a similar extra-dimensional location in the Black Lodge.
A clue that the Dark Woods is extra-dimensional and are not known to anyone outside the two families is that nobody calls the police after the murder of T-Rod. Instead his body is buried in the Dark Woods/ front yard so that nobody will find out about the power of the Dark Woods and everyone just goes back home. Episode three manipulates the x,y, and z axis to the point of dabbling with fantasy but ultimately succeeds in drawing our attention to the standard use of three dimensional space that we've taken for granted. It's as much an exploration of space as much as it is an exploration of how much our mind can take before giving trying to understand.
Episode 4: The Big picture is no picture
The same theme continues of dimensional representation as the fourth episode represents the bending of time since the entire episode is in flashback. One year before the events of the show. To show that the episode is a flashback, the choice was made to have the episode entirely in black and white. A move that develops more as the episode continues.
Marshall and the original T-Rod are shown to be part of a special division of the police that investigate people who aren't committing crimes but just acting odd. While the two detectives are on stake out for a weird husband, they also happen to be outside of Gage's family home. The stake out leads to them accidentally lighting the house on fire through some bizarre and improbably events but is beside the point of the scene. As the two detective's dialogue progresses, the image noticeably gets darker.
At first I thought my monitor was dimming for some reason but it was in the episode itself. Finally the image got so dark I couldn't see anything beside an outline of the actor move. Astounding! The episode is roughly 30% unseen and at the same time beautiful. How can infinite blackness be beautiful? That exact question is the point. It makes is think. Is it a subtle nod to Black Lives Matter? Or a subtle nod to Blue Lives Matter being surrounded by suffocating blackness? The social commentary is not something to be ignored. Unless, that is the intention.
This goes back the very concept of what Quantum Filmmaking is supposed to accomplish. With one element of a film gone, we are forced to focus on another. By breaking down a film by its elements it makes the viewer recall all and any movie that has both elements of picture and audio present at the same time. We have taken these elements for granted without noticing them. Hamilton-Lee seeks to undo that. Hamilton-Lee has flirted with moves like this before by not having characters on screen during a scene but instead showing empty space. However, the point is made here with a thunderous proclamation of "look at this! Oh, fooled you. There's nothing and everything" in this episode with its lack of visibility. Something so controversial, yet so brave.
The episode ends with a confrontation of Marshall and T-Rod Sr. Again, like poetry that rhymes, the fight between the two is in the Dark Woods, which is also linked outside the police station as well. The fight results in T-Rod Sr. getting shot, while Marshall does nothing to save him and leaves him for dead instead of calling for help. The location of the Dark Woods makes sense in camouflaging the sound of the gun shot, otherwise police would hear the gun shot, find T-Rod's body and have some sort of investigation. Luckily for Marshall, the Dark Woods hides his crime. Only problem is that T-Rod Jr. finds him through a type of psychic link to his father and hears his dying words "Marshall killed me". Thus, putting the story into motion that has pretty much already ended since T-Rod Jr. has died in the previous episode.
The recurring presence of the Dark Woods is mysterious and Hamilton-Lee takes care not to delve too deep into the show's more fantastical elements, otherwise getting bogged down in logistics and constrictive rules of the world. Hamilton-Lee is going into uncharted territory. He has never so blatantly gone into the fantasy element before the web series but is paying off in a big way. His show has almost 1,000 views on YouTube and recently was picked up by Amazon Prime for distribution. Thankfully, big streaming sites like Amazon are jumping on the Hamilton-Lee train and giving the exposure that he desperately deserves.
So much is set up but by the end of the season and also nothing has been set up. What do I mean by that? Tune in next week to find out.