So far, episodes of The Act have existed in two timelines at the same time. After the first couple of episodes, it no longer made sense to jump between the murder and the events before it. Now the timeline jumps from the end of Dee Dee’s life to the beginning of Gypsy’s.
The primary plot is Gypsy and Nick trying to run to his home in Wisconsin after killing Dee Dee Blanchard. Nick only bought one bus ticket, so they need to stay in Springfield for two days until the next bus leaves. They stay in a motel room with the most relatable front desk worker that I have ever seen. This unnamed woman serves as something of a voice of reason, showing how delusional the two are. They plan to run off to Wisconsin to get married, but they have only had their first in-person date. The receptionist had very few lines, but her reactions were incredible. This character serves as a “straight person” to react to absurdity of the situation.
In this episode we see the effects of Dee Dee’s abuse even after Gypsy escaped. We see Gypsy popping pills to relax. She even pressures Nick to take some despite his discomfort with drugs. She pressures him but doesn’t force him to take the pills.
Gypsy never says the name of the drug that she’s taking, but it’s easy enough to figure out. It’s likely either Xanax or Vicodin, two commonly abused prescription drugs that have a sedative effect. We see that Dee Dee’s name on the bottle, but not the name of the drug inside. The pills look to be long white pills with squared edges, suggesting that they’re Xanax. Not sure if it makes a huge difference, but I had fun figuring that out.
There’s also a recreation of a video that Gyspy actually made while in a hotel room with Nick. It’s uncomfortable, almost more uncomfortable than the dramatization of their cyber sex from previous episodes. Nick seems uncomfortable with the camera pointed at him. In the end, he does have sex with Gypsy with the camera still rolling. The show doesn’t show very much of the graphic detail, just an uncomfortably close shot of Nick’s chest during the act.
Still, I like the way that the thematic concept of boundaries has kind of come full circle by this point. When Gypsy first started online dating, she found it difficult to maintain boundaries. But now she’s trying to push Nick’s boundaries. The most telling scene is an argument that they have late in the episode. Gypsy snaps at Nick, saying that she’s tired of doing everything for him. Up until now, Nick has done more than Gypsy had. Nick had traveled from Wisconsin to Missouri twice. Nick had worn exactly what Gypsy wanted when they met at the theater. Nick had killed another person for Gypsy. It’s almost delusional how Gypsy doesn’t acknowledge that. Living in such a toxic environment had a negative effect on Gypsy, as one would probably expect. I like how this episode makes that clear.
The second plot is good, but I have my doubts about why these events were together. There seems to be a thematic connection, with the end of Dee Dee’s life and the beginning of Gypsy’s. Still, I found the connection somewhat forced. Regardless, the B plot provides context to Gypsy and Dee Dee’s relationship. Dee Dee lived with her mother Emma when she had Gypsy. From the very beginning, Emma undermines Dee Dee and doubts her parenting ability. Their relationship breaks down until Dee Dee is acting as caretaker for her dying mother. She refuses to give her any painkillers and even turns the television volume up as she cries out for help. After Emma’s death, Dee Dee begins to turn her attention to her daughter. This plot shows the roots of Dee Dee’s abuse and the beginning of the series of events that would lead to her death.
This episode was strong, but only because it was greater than the sum of its part. A Whole New World has two strong plots, but they had a pretty loose connection to each other. Still, it provided an escalation that is going to lead into the couple’s ultimate arrest and trial.