The third episode of The Act gets darker, foreshadowing the twists that are yet to come. This episode is a fictionalized version of things that happened in reality. It does lean a little more on fiction than the previous installments, however.
In this episode, Two Wolverines, Dee Dee and Gypsy Blanchard go to a comic book convention near their home. It’s a fictional convention, but the real Dee Dee and Gypsy did go to conventions together. While there, they meet two men who are both dressed as Wolverine. Dee Dee meets Russ, a man her own age who wants to get to know her and find her “layers”. Russ is, as far as I can tell, a completely fictional character. He warns that devoting all her time an energy to her child can cause her to lose her own identity. Gypsy meets Scott, an older man who accompanies her around the convention. He teaches her about comic books and even poses with her in a replica DeLorean from Back to the Future. While they’re both adults (Gypsy was 19), Scott is still much older than her. He is based on a 35 year old man that she met at a real convention. Scott is a fictional character, but the major beats of the story happened in real life.
I liked the parallels that we see between the two relationships after the convention. Russ and Dee grow closer, and we see what might be a relationship for her outside of Gypsy. Then, once he offers to help her around the house and with Gypsy’s care, Dee Dee refuses and hangs up on him. This is a telling moment for her character. She goes on and on about how difficult it is for her, yet here she is refusing help. She didn’t want help, she wanted to get the admiration that would come with doing it all herself. It wasn’t about Gypsy’s “illnesses”, it was all about her.
At the beginning of the episode, we see another benefit that Dee Dee gets from her lies. She gets letters with cash from sympathetic people. Not only that, but the Child of the Year award from the previous episode came with a five thousand dollar prize. Not just looking for admiration, Dee Dee is committing fraud. This episode pulls no punches with Dee Dee’s exploitation of her daughter.
At the same time, Gypsy keeps in touch with Scott and quickly falls in love with him. She tells Lacey that she’s found her “prince charming”. She’s excited to have her own secret that her mother doesn’t know. She took some of her mother’s “nest egg fund” to buy herself a prepaid cell phone and made herself a Facebook account. . She needs to enter a birth date for her new Facebook account. So she decides to check her insurance card to get the answer to how old she is once and for all.
Every episode of The Act highlights a lie that Dee Dee tells to Gypsy about her own life. This time it was Gypsy’s age. She was born on July 27, 1991. However, Dee Dee tries to make Gypsy seem younger than she is. It’s another way to infantilize Gypsy and keep her dependent. She changes her story during the episode, first claiming that Gypsy is 15, then 14. She covers up her lies by claiming that she forgot Gypsy’s birth year after a car accident.
A minor annoyance I have with The Act is how many characters are based on real people but didn’t actually exist. I understand why the producers may have made this choice, though. If they couldn’t contact these real people or the people refused to allow them to use their likeness, this would be the only option. Gypsy Rose Blanchard has been open to interviews in the past, though. So it makes sense that she would allow Joey King to portray her onscreen.
My bigger problem with the series is casting. Joey King makes a great Gypsy Rose, but I immediately noticed that Patricia Arquette doesn’t look like the real Dee Dee Blanchard. I wasn’t there for casting, and I think that her performance is great, but she is much thinner than the real woman. It’s not a problem that affects my opinion of the whole production, but it does get annoying.
The third episode of The Act has a shift in mood from the first two. It’s a turning point that I predict will lead to a much darker tone for future episodes.