Mrs. Davis returns with “A Great Place To Drink To Control Your Drink” – which deprioritizes the central characters in order to spin a yard with surprising emotional complexity.
The majority of episode five is dedicated to the story of the TV commercial that ended the last episode. After a brief stop in to see Jay (Andy McQueen) and smooth over their disagreement, Simone (Betty Gilpin) and Wiley (Jake McDorman) seek out Dr. Arthur Schrödinger (Ben Chaplin) to fill in the gaps about Clara (Mathilde Ollivier) and how she’s connected to the red headed woman who attacked Simone at the beach. Naturally for a show that’s all about parental issues, the mystery redhead is revealed to be Clara’s mother, Mathilda (Katja Herbers).
What follows is an episode consisting of Schrödinger’s story, featuring mostly new characters, occasionally punctuated by hyperbolic reactions, interjections, and some light flirting by our leads.
Considering the episode clocks in at roughly an hour, the sidelining of Simone and Wiley should be a big ask for the audience, but in reality, it’s hard not to react to Nadra Widatalla and Jason Ning‘s teleplay in the same way as Wiley and Simone. The revelation that Clara was merely an actress in an epic Super Bowl commercial is almost immediately disproven by Schrödinger; instead we learn that Matilda is a member of a religious order called Sister of the Coin, who job is to protect the Grail (just like the commercial initially led us to believe the Knights of the Templar did).
It’s also evident very early on that Mathilda is a bad mom. Not only is her calling her priority, but she’s manipulative of Clara to suit her own narcissistic goals. This is clear when – in an effort to ensure the Grail is seen by 1% of the population (as decreed by the “Articles of Care”), as well as appease “the Asset” – Mathilda proposes that she write, direct, and star in the most expensive Super Bowl commercial ever made.
Clocking in at $18M and requiring massive multi-year planning, including forcing poor Father Hans Ziegler (Tom Wlaschiha) to become a priest at the Vatican in order to secure the funds, the TV spot is a huge endeavour. When Mathilda’s younger, more comely daughter is deemed more appropriate to be its star, the mirroring to Simone’s own upbringing in her parents’ magic act couldn’t be clearer, though the abuse that Mathilda heaps on Clara is both physical (enduring take after take), as well as mental (lying about a fatal illness to provoke Clara into a better performance).
What’s ironic, then, is how none of it pays off. In truth Mrs. Davis comedic fashion, we learn that Mathilda never even got approval to submit the TV spot (she was only communicating with an intern!), which gets her booted from the Coin and effectively severs the relationship with her daughter.
This backstory clarifies why Clara was so eager to seek out her father, Schrödinger (naturally), as well as why she wants to destroy the Grail. What’s less clear is whether father and daughter realized that their 10 year journey, which included all sorts of scientific experiments and trips around the globe, was just as much about forging a familial bond as it was eliminating the Grail. The look on Arthur’s face and the fact that he has returned to being an island recluse following his daughter’s explosive demise suggests that he came to the realization too late.
What’s shocking is how effective these events are at making us invest emotionally in these characters. There’s no question *something* will happen when Clara drinks from the cup (likely something terrible considering Clara has never been glimpsed in the present), but credit Widatalla and Ning, as well as director Owen Harris, for turning an exploding head into an event that is equal parts deeply upsetting and also kind of hilarious. It’s a testament to the show’s ability to balance its myriad tones that this sequence works on several different levels.
Of course the show remains an utterly ridiculous delight so the cliffhanger ending, as Simone repeats Clara’s oft-mentioned statement “Whatever it takes” in response to a) retrieving the Grail from a whale (!) and drink from it to b) prove Schrödinger’s theory that her transplanted liver (courtesy of Clara) will protect her and allow her to destroy the cup.
It’s wild, it’s exciting, and it’s very, very silly; basically everything the show aspires to be.
- All the credit to McDorman and Gilpin for making the most of their limited screen time. Their reactions to Schrödinger’s epic tale totally cue the audience how to respond and why we should care. Plus: the flirty banter is very cute and welcome.
- All of the jokes about Schrödinger’s cat (how he hates them, how his co-workers gave him memorabilia as a joke, and how he came to own a 35 year old feline) are clever and low-key hilarious.
- The Jay scenes feel a bit superfluous, particularly the tension around how much he can or can’t tell Simone about his “relationships” with other women. They make sense given the show’s interest in Simone’s faith, but the diner sequences also feel forced and less amusing than the rest of the show.
- An extra issue with Jay’s plotline? We all know Simone is going to fall back in love with Wiley before he, in all likelihood, dies saving her in the finale, right?
Mrs. Davis airs Thursdays on Peacock