HBO’s series on our second president was mostly very good. It’s about time the American revolution got a serious Hollywood treatment.
But they really pulled the mood down in the concluding episode. In fact, tonight’s finale was downright ghoulish. I guess they had to show Jefferson’s and Adam’s death beds because of the coincidence of them dying on the same day, and the bit of trivia about Adams’ last words.
Still, it felt like the show lingered on death this evening. The close-ups of Paul Giamatti as the series’ make-up people edged him closer to the grave felt overdone. It felt like the entire purpose of the final installment was to show lots of dying, crying, and the brutality of aging. The election of John Quincy Adams was given short shrift, as were the administrations of Jefferson and Madison. Instead, we got drawn-out treatments of Nabby Adams’ mastectomy, and tortuous, agonizing deathbed treatments of Jefferson’s, Abigail Adams’, and finally John Adams’ passing (complete with a leak of spittle dropping from the corner of his mouth, in case you weren’t quite sure he was dead).
Seems like an odd way for a series celebrating the American founding to go out. Here was an otherwise terrific series depicting the men who did more to liberate mankind than anyone in human history, and I turned it off not inspired, but half-depressed. Almost makes you wonder if director Tom Hooper wasn’t expressing some pessimism about the American experiment. Or perhaps this was his way of allowing the show’s actors to audition for their Emmies.
Otherwise, it was great. I think Paul Giamatti silenced his critics, and proved he’s more than just a comic book character–or a walking advertisement for Pinot Noir. And I look forward to seeing more of Stephen Dillane. His Jefferson was marvelous.