A Television Review by Akash Singh
NOTE: SPOILERS OCCUR!!!!!!!
Kintsugi, or Kintsukuroi, is the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery with powdered gold, silver, or platinum that is often mixed or dusted with lacquer. Kintsugi’s historian origins may be traced to the late fifteenth century, when Japanese craftsmen were pushed to repair a Chinese tea bowl belonging to the shogun Ashikaga Yoshimasa. The resulting piece was not the expected haphazard tea bowl that eschewed beauty for the sake of completion. The melted gold gave the object a sense of renewed completion and rejuvenation, an entirely different sort of beauty where the gold enhanced the tea bowl and created something distinct. With kintsugi, the breakage and repair of an artifact isn’t considered to be something that must be veiled, hidden from society. It’s considered to be integral to the history of the object and history is vital. Kintsugi could also be described, as Juliana notes, a philosophy where imperfection can be beautiful. Imperfection, however, is rarely noted to be beautiful in the actuality of the real world and certainly not so in two empires inherently tied to the concept of racial purity. In the Third Reich, the pursuit of perfection has been tied down to the level of altering one’s genetic code and the idea of kintsugi would likely be laughed off as the vague superstition of an “ally” that is hilariously tied to the idea that they are a superior race (the discussion on the table of bridge at Helen’s house is an affirmation of this). For women, that imperfection is inherently tied to a woman’s ability to bear children. Juliana’s fractured pelvis raised eyebrows in her application for asylum and even gave Smith a moment to pause.
The greatest strength of “Kintsugi” as an episode is Juliana’s burgeoning abilities as a spy and she thankfully seems to be quite the natural at it. A part of that no doubt is her understanding of her rather limited options at the moment, but her entry into Helen’s bridge club was enough of an innocent subterfuge to work (even if Helen still seems hesitant to take Julia Mills at her word). The spilling of the coffee was neat work as well, quickly gaining Juliana access to a woman named Lucy, whose husband just happens to be the chief propagandist in the American Reich and a man who reports directly to Reichminister Goebbels. Lucy is kind, as are much of the individuals Juliana is coming across before she quickly reminds herself that they are Nazis themselves and individuals who wouldn’t hesitate to turn someone in if they didn’t fit the Nazi definition of “perfection.” A nanny who was found to have some Jewish ancestry was quickly turned over, her years of service and kindness overshadowed by what was termed to be her “genetic imperfection.” Lucy, after taking Juliana on a trip to get a dress, breaks down in the bathroom over a fear that she may be physically “imperfect” herself. Her and her husband Henry have been trying for three years to conceive and the more time goes by, the greater her concern rises over her position of privilege. It’s sympathizing to look upon her internalized misogyny and even Juliana is surprised that she felt sorry for a woman who was voicing some semblance of fear that a Jewish nanny was around children.
John and Helen receive a surprise of their own as Thomas arrives one evening, beaming with pride at a letter that noted that he had been selected by the Commissioner to be a part of a ten-member group to go on a “civilizing and educating” trip to “the poor masses who live outside the Reich.” The nasty undercurrents of what that probably means are left to the imagination. Helen is instantly aghast, trying to come to terms with the fact that her child’s illness couldn’t possibly be kept a secret for that long. Smith then comes up with a plan that he tells is the only way out of their predicament, even if it seems quite notable that there were certainly less byzantine solutions that could be present. They were going to send Thomas off to Buenos Aires, from where he would go with the rest of his troupe to the foothills of the Andes Mountains. There Smith would arrange for some sort of kidnapping that he would conveniently blame on Jewish insurgents and then he would spearhead a “search” that would go on and on and on without yielding any results. Helen would be bereft, Smith would appear heartbroken and the two would know that their child, at risk of being euthanized in the Reich, is safe. What really doesn’t make any sense to me, and I share that concern with many such scenarios in the real world, is how the Smiths can be so thoroughly inconsiderate of individuals they consider “genetically inferior” considering what is happening to their son. It shouldn’t take a personal tragedy for someone to be empathetic, but that’s what it sometimes takes to see a perspective other than one’s own. The Smiths are rattled and there’s a sympathy to be extended to them, but that they couldn’t extend that sympathy to those they are actively helping oppress points that no matter the philosophy, that there are limits that cannot be crossed, the veneer of kindness be damned.
Great/Not So Great Moments Not Mentioned Above:
+So Gerry wanted compulsory genetic testing? Rot in hell, Gerry.
+Nicole has a great sense of humor
+“It’s horrible, isn’t it, what we do to one another?”
+I’m liking the motif of jazz that is popping up now and again
+Environmentally conscious Nazis? Are Nicole and her group a rebellious sort?
+It apparently takes psychedelics to make Joe remotely interesting. Whatever it takers, writers.
+Juliana, kintsugi, and her scars
+Tagomi’s turmoiled home life continues to be fascinating. He has to reconcile two entirely different world views and one of them is signing the divorce papers so his wife can move on with her life
-Stop trying to resurrect Juliana + Joe, show. It won’t work.
Episode Title: Kintsugi
Written by: Francesca Gardiner
Directed by: Paul Holahan
Source(s):“At Freer”, Gopnik, The Washington Post; Kotobank
Image Courtesy: Amazon
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