Each week Joe and Terry discuss the most recent episode of Peacock’s reboot of Queer as Folk, alternating between our respective sites.
Spoilers follow for episode 3…
Episode 3 “Welcome to the Hellmouth”: Brodie throws an unforgettable party to honor his lost friends with money from the survivors’ fund; Brodie and Noah disagree; Ruthie lies to Shar again; Judy struggles to connect with Mingus.
It’s as though the Queer as Folk heard our (thoughts and) prayers, Terry: “Welcome to the Hellmouth” basically addresses all of the problems that we raised in our review of episode two. Not only do we continue to see how the diverse members of the show are handling their grief and trauma, but I would argue that this episode offers a sense of what the show will look like week to week as we proceed through this first eight episode season.
The answer is: messy. These are messy queers who are more prone to throwing a giant expensive party or yelling on a staircase full of people than actually, you know, address their feelings. What “Welcome to the Hellmouth” confirms is that even three months after the Babylon shooting, these people still have a lot of work to do.
There’s an amusing recurring bit throughout the episode involving Jack Cole Jordan (Benito Skinner), the “influencer” celebrity treating these vigils, funerals and Survivors Fund events as his own personal open mic. He’s aggressively off-putting in a way that will feel all too familiar to the queer community (we all know this gay), but he stands as a counter-argument to the kind of healing process our protagonists need. That would be “Ghost Fag”: a rager at Noah (Johnny Sibilly)’s where drag queen Bussey Horewood (Armand Fields) and others can “remember the messy ass sluts” they lost with a gentle roast.
The party is a great plot device by writers Stephen Dunn and Des Moran because it highlights the multiple forms that healing can take, as well as who these characters are. Watching “Proud Boy” JCJ gift Daddius (Chris Renfro)’s homophobic parents gifted a new car isn’t their scene. Compare this to the $5 hard seltzers, glammed up shrine and literally Hell-ish drag performance we see at Ghost Fag. No, the party tells us everything we need to know about Queer As Folk’s protagonists.
A party is often treated as a major event on TV and for good reason. It provides an opportunity to gather all of your characters together in a single place and explode their issues. (It’s also quite pricey from a technical perspective, which makes me wonder if this is why the crowd scenes in episode two’s vigil scenes were sparse?)
For Noah and Brodie (Devin Way), the party becomes a lit fuse for the end of their sexual relationship. Noah continues to struggle with his memories of Daddius (thankfully now relegated to flashbacks) and becomes frustrated with Brodie’s domineering personality as the younger man bulldozes over everyone to get his way. Their stairwell confrontation has been a long time coming and while the subsequent reconciliation is too easy and too quick, it’s good to hear Noah ask Brodie to stay and be his family…albeit in the guest suite.
The party is also a source of tension between Ruthie (Jesse James Keitel) and Shar (CG), whose new issue is a breast milk hunger strike by the babies. Keitel’s acerbic swearing at literal babies is comedic gold, but the baby formula issue winds up feeling lukewarm at best. If anything, there’s too much going on here: Shar feels like there’s a distance between them, particularly evident in Ruthie’s tendency to seize every opportunity she can to party with Brodie. Add in Brenda (Kim Cattrell), who basically refuses to leave their house once she learns the twins are technically her grandkids, and there’s approximately three conflicts in one storyline.
Alas none of them really have time to breathe, which highlights an overall issue that I’m having with the series: it is struggling to give equal screen time to its cast. Brodie and Noah are obviously the narrative’s central priority, while characters like Bussey and Marvin (Eric Graise) are obviously secondary. Ruthie, Shar and even Mingus (Fin Argus), however, are somewhere in between, and while the uneven screen time sometimes works, as we approach the halfway point of the season, I’m becoming impatient with what we don’t know about several characters.
Take Mingus: their screen time in “Welcome to the Hellmouth” consists of an intervention with mom (Juliette Lewis) after throwing out all of their triggering drag apparel. There’s a quick scene at the gun range, another meet-cute with Brodie at the party and then a barf scene involving Bussey that inevitably foreshadows Mingus’ return to drag. It sounds significant, but all together, I’d estimate it adds up to ~five minutes of screen time in a 50 minute episode.
Terry, what are your thoughts about the division of screen time between characters? Do you, like me, hope that Julian (Ryan O’Connell) will get to do more than be the relationship whisperer to Brodie and Noah? (He’s on the verge of being the CP equivalent of magical negro or indigenous spirit guide). Do you agree that this episode is much stronger than episode two? And have you ever had a barista turn against you for reasons you don’t understand?
What I loved about this episode, Joe, was that it kind of cemented how the series will be for me. The first episode was loud and brash, introducing a bevy of characters and then exploding their lives. Episode two then reintroduced them and set up the central conflicts going forward.
“Welcome to the Hellmouth” establishes an easy flow of narrative that is still centered around the characters’ pain, but is also about them trying to move on with their lives. I was very happy that Daddius was relegated to flashbacks instead of the cringey ghost/hallucination of episode two. I can kind of forgive it, since it cements Daddius’ relationship to both Noah and Brodie, but I’m hopeful to see them move on from that plot device to something more grounded and meaningful.
A sense of laughing in the face of death permeates episode three, right from the opening. I loved the cold open of Daddius and Brodie trolling the graveyard for mushrooms. It’s a potent, and subtly applied, metaphor of life springing from death and finding itself anew. It’s also foreshadowing, with a cheeky fourth wall break as Brodie flings a cigarette to the camera. Finally, we also learn something new about a baboon’s colon.
This show is educational and entertaining!
The fact this rather joyous opening segues into the cringiest funeral service possibly committed to celluloid (or the digital equivalent) actually had me laughing. JCJ is the absolute worst and when he starts rhyming “Daddius” with “saddiest,” I wanted to make like Brodie and flee.
I was happy to see him bonding with Marvin, a character who has so much energy and spark that I realized I missed him in episode two. Marvin and Bussey are very strong side characters that could be series regulars in other shows. But to answer your question, I do think there’s too many characters right now for a series that’s very plot-specific. There’s a lot of ground to cover in eight episodes and it’s all centered around trying to move on from a heinous event. So we’re getting a lot of shorthand, such as firecrackers triggering their PTSD and the party going from not being on -> to being on -> to not being on -> to ending in a lip sync and fire extinguishers.
Because of this, we’re barely getting time with the main cast and if there is a complaint to be had of these episodes so far, it’s that there’s too much happening too fast. In some ways it feels like a 30 minute show in a 50 minute body, where everything that’s introduced in the episode has to be finished by the end of the episode.
Sure there’s the season-long story arcs (Daddius’ complicated relationship between Noah and Brodie, Ruthie and Shar learning how to parent, Mingus’ relationship to drag, everyone moving on, etc.) but a lot of the conflicts, particularly here, are being introduced only to be solved by the end. It feels slightly unsatisfactory when Noah shouts absolutely brutal, drug-fueled tirades at Brodie who, a little later, acts as if they had a tiff rather than a blow-out shouting match.
You’re absolutely right about Mingus…I feel like we got to know more about Bussey and Marvin in “Welcome to the Hellmouth” than a series regular character whose story does feel a bit stale already. Give Fin some more meaty scenes to dig into! They were my favorite part of the first episode. It’s a delicate balancing act that I think Queer as Folk is still navigating. And while it’s a little frustrating in spots, I’m still 100% invested in these messy queers.
Speaking of characters, I did kind of cringe at the way Julian is basically the life coach in these last two episodes. In “Blocked”, he’s manipulating Brodie into helping himself and here he literally sits on the bed next to Noah and gives him the “are you okay, champ?” speech. Ryan O’Connell is a hilarious actor and it’s a little hard to go from Special where he got to show off his comedic timing to here.
I definitely think he’s being underused…though still able to throw a hilarious quip. His explanation about Buffy’s ability to turn every real problem into a monster that can be solved in 45 minutes killed…as did the throwaway line of, “Also, the guys are hot.” I want more of that and less of the sexless magical fairy who solves everyone’s problems, particularly since O’Connell is a strong actor.
Those bits aside, this is absolutely a stronger episode, Joe. I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about the writers shoehorning Brenda into Ruthie and Shar’s relationship, but I ended up being somewhat okay with it by the boozy, formula-filled end. Speaking of which, I’m the blandest of blands when it comes to my coffee orders (Just coffee, as big and hot as possible) that I probably wouldn’t even know if my barista was picking a fight with me!
Speaking of big and hot, what did you think of the explosive finale, Joe? Was Brodie’s reaction to Daddius’ parents practical or fanciful wish fulfillment? Do you think Noah and Julian’s kiss is going to add to the drama or be dropped? How long before Noah and Brodie begin hooking up again? And am I alone in wanting a drag queen to pull a switchblade on me?
Bussey’s reaction honestly seemed over the top to me, especially considering what a baby Mingus is. In her defense, though, dealing with drunk people – even teenagers – is dangerous, so maybe this is more true to life than we realize.
It’s a memorable moment in an episode that understands how to deploy Bussey as a utility player. From getting the crowd back on track after Noah and Brodie’s public blow-out to coordinating the roast of the Babylon victims (“That’s so Kevin” a random party goer yells) to that fiery lip synch of The Animals’ “House of the Rising Sun”, Bussey is serving it in episode three.
And honestly, shout out to another fantastic drag performance. I’m hoping that this becomes a regular fixture of the show because it is definitely giving me life. I’m a huge fan of shows that know how to deliver a musical montage and this felt like drag catharsis, Terry!
Circling back to Brodie: his immolation of the car definitely speaks to his impulsive and reactionary nature. I’ll be curious to see if this comes back to bite him in the ass (I don’t doubt that Brenda’s money could buy him out of most legal trouble, but blowing up a car in a suburban neighbourhood isn’t exactly a petty crime). If nothing else, between this and Bussey’s performance, episode three really brought the pyrotechnics.
I’m more mixed on that kiss between Julian and Noah. It’s not unexpected, considering how emotionally vulnerable Noah is and how reassuring Julian is; also grief makes people a) do unusual things and b) horny. My bigger concern is that this will become a plot device in the future to drive a wedge between the brothers, which would absolutely be the wrong way to explore this. My hope? I’d rather they drop it and give Julian something more meaningful to do.
Same for Noah and Brodie. As the central romantic relationship, the “will they, won’t they” is incredibly familiar, so I’d love it if Queer As Folk commits to a path for them (my preference would be not to have them hook up because it’s a more realistic and narratively challenging avenue to pursue). Given that Noah’s relationship with Daddius still hasn’t come out, we can only assume that the writers will leave that dangling plot thread over the remainder of the season. After all, Brodie’s got to have something to spiral out over if the season is going to end on a cliffhanger, right? 😉
Which brings us to episode four, Terry. What are you hoping for as we move into the middle section of the season? Are there certain character combinations that you would like to see? And since we’re being teased with Drag Boot Camp, which iconic queer character would you like to see Mingus embody next?
Honestly, I really want to see more drag performances. The two we’ve been given are really good and feel so connected to the story of Babylon and these characters. Drag Boot Camp would give Mingus something to do aside from pining/hating Brodie and I think it’d be good to see his progress from being triggered by his drag outfits to being empowered. One of the themes of this show is resilience and Mingus finding their resilience through art is such a powerful idea. As for character combinations, I want to see more of Mingus and Bussey; the messy teen with the “so not here for it” queen is too good to pass up.
As for other characters? Seeing Julian actually build relationships within the queer community aside from cruising would be good. I’d love to see him and Marvin tear up the city and I think he could go word-for-word with Ruthie’s snippy comments, so that would also be fun. I think “Welcome to the Hellmouth” established an easy cadence to the storytelling and I’d love to see Queer as Folk dive deeper into the characters to heighten their actual…well, character.
At any rate, this show is scratching and itch and I’m just here to see where it’s going to go from here! Come with us as we head back to Gayly Dreadful next week for our weekly coverage!
Queer as Folk is now available in its entirety on Peacock