The trailer above doesn’t really do this show justice. It’s a somewhat gimmicky trailer to showcase something racy and potential thriller material. I hadn’t seen the trailer but instead, found the premise in the Netflix description intriguing, and somewhat hitting close to home in much smaller ways personally.
In Netflix’s new original series Gypsy (the title and theme of which is taken from the famous Fleetwood Mac song, with Stevie Nicks’s haunting vocals bringing in the opening credits of each episode), Jean Holloway (Naomi Watts) is a therapist recovering from a mysterious past who begins slipping into the lives of people close to her patients, all without her patients knowing about it. Donning an alternate identity, she gets a payoff from meeting friends, family members, and former lovers of her patients. Her husband Michael (Billy Crudup) is a lawyer who is aware of her former history but remains unaware of her current disappearances and whereabouts. On the surface, Jean and Michael are a typical New York married couple with a young daughter, and they are working through mostly typical family issues, but behind the scenes, the day-to-day routine life of work, family, and home life aren’t cutting it for Jean, and so she sets out in her spare time to live an edgier and more curious life. When she gets involved with the story of one of her clients in his recent break-up, Jean meets his former girlfriend Sydney (who has a cloud of mystery surrounding her as well), and forms an unexpected connection with her.
As the season progresses, Jean begins slipping and her cover begins to unravel bit by bit, from unexpected emotional blow-ups at her kid’s birthday party to leaving small hints with her clients and colleagues that something isn’t quite adding up, the show definitely keeps you wondering just how it’s going to turn out for everybody, and the underlying uncomfortable feeling in our gut tells us it is probably not going to turn out well for Jean. Things are further complicated when Michael’s assistant Alexis begins flirting with him in the office. He is clearly trying to keep things together for his wife and daughter, but is conflicted when his wife continues to show signs that things are not as they seem.
This is as much about the show as I can say without spoiling it.
Gypsy is at once cognitive emotional storytelling at its best and also difficult to binge-watch. In my opinion, it is one of the best-written series I’ve seen since Breaking Bad. Its creator Lisa Rubin is a 2013 graduate of Columbia Film School and has only one other screenwriting IMDB credit to her name and one short-film directorial credit, but her insight into these characters is rich. And Gypsy is rich in character development. And Naomi Watts and Billy Crudup are brilliant in their portrayal of the two leading characters. As each episode comes to a close and – in Breaking Bad and current TV fashion – end in just enough of a cliffhanger for you to at least have to start the next episode, you also are left searching yourself if you have the emotional preparedness to take on another full episode for one day. That sounds like a bad show, but it’s really brilliant, because it’s such a roller-coaster.
This could also be the case for me because I know what it’s like to try and lead a double life. While my circumstances weren’t near the extent of Jean Holloway’s, I did go through some form of an identity crisis and tried to work out the details without opening up and talking to my wife or seek any form of counseling for it. This led to some painful mistakes I made, which involved me opening up emotionally to someone else. And by the time I realized it, I was in over my head and didn’t know how to begin getting help for it. I think a lot of people experience this, and it usually stems from deep insecurities people have. Sometimes it’s “easier” to talk to complete strangers about the inner turmoils we go through than it is to actually open up to people who genuinely love and care for us. Such was the case with me. And when I did come clean about it, there was such a relief about just being truthful and honest, and I was able to realize just how dark a place I had allowed myself to go emotionally.
Having experienced that, I watch Gypsy feeling a deep need to yell at the screen, “No, Naomi Watts! Please stop! You’re only going to get yourself hurt or in trouble!”
Lisa Rudin has created a world with rich characters, deep plot lines that aren’t nearly as explosive as the trailer would have you believe but entirely believable. The cinematography and production behind this show are some of the best in television, and Netflix has proved yet again to be the master of original storytelling.
I am still two episodes away from completing the first season, hence my lack of spoilers here, and I still have more questions than answers as to how this will end up. And it’s been realistic enough to make me almost reconsider an eventual counseling practice. (I’m joking but this show is really that good.)
And I look forward to future projects from Lisa Rudin.