The first episode of Nathan Fielder Repetition setting our expectations, only to shatter them with each subsequent episode, until issue #4, “The Fielder Method,” shatters them to dust; we no longer watch a rehearsal.

What are we looking at, exactly? It’s hard to say!

The show feels a bit like watching the creative process in action, with all its chaotic spontaneity, Nathan’s brainchild branching out into layered simulations, causing moments of discomfort, emotion and beauty. unexpected.

The episode begins with another stilted conversation between Nathan and Angela, as she talks about her history of drug use, sparked by the anger she felt towards her father, with Nathan’s mock surprise upon learning that she used to take acid and cocaine as a teenager. .

It doesn’t pay off until the end – the majority of the episode sees Nathan heading to an acting class, convincing a group of bright-eyed students to stalk a target and mimic their lives in the slightest. details.

The students immediately understand the moral ambiguity of the task, and Nathan outright encourages them to do what they can to gather information, subject consent be damned. Of course, we don’t really know to what extent the task is an illusion – have the subjects ever been told? Are the actors performing? This show is designed to arouse suspicion with every reveal – at this point, we just don’t know what’s been staged.

Nathan has actually made some great casting choices so far, in the actors he’s used in his rehearsals, and this time he even cast an actor to play himself, while Nathan portrays the role of another student, Thomas, with an amusingly unconvincing wig. .

The fake Nathan nails Nathan’s calculated self-awareness, while Nathan himself comes to the conclusion that he’s not the most engaging teacher and that the chairs should be arranged in a circle.

For the next class, Nathan takes his own advice to heart, rearranging the chairs, armed with a more energetic delivery. At this point, the students have already accepted the task and seem intrigued by Nathan’s unorthodox method. Sounds a bit artistic, right?

Afterwards, Nathan tasks his students with working real jobs to imitate their targets, encouraging them to break every conceivable boundary of privacy to nail the performance – the only student who shows discomfort with their creepy task is Thomas.

So, Nathan does another rehearsal of his first lesson, then the second; he comes to the conclusion that the presence of cameras, HBO’s reputation, and collective peer pressure cause his subjects to agree to things they wouldn’t normally do, like signing a release form without reading it, or stalking a stranger for an acting concert. The knowledge that they could be about to receive their 15 minutes of fame overshadows the red flags.

This is an interesting reflection on Nathan’s earlier work, Nathan for youwhich relied heavily on the power of the camera and the selfishness of the subjects to get them to accept the wacky premise – it certainly wasn’t due to Nathan’s charisma (although his intense clumsiness proved an extremely powerful motivator) .

It’s always been part of the joke of Nathan Fielder’s work – that the feeling of being on camera, while engaged in uncomfortable conversation, is a hilariously powerful prompt. Many people just want to be filmed, no matter the cost! We see hapless fame seekers tortured and manipulated by reality TV producers all the time – Nathan Fielder is one of the few who seems interested in examining this power dynamic.

From there, things continue to escalate, as Nathan attempts to echo Thomas’ life, which means sending Thomas to an apartment designed to mimic his subject’s, while Nathan stays in the apartment. of Thomas, who has a disturbing collection of stuffed animals, watching him sleep.

Did Thomas know that Nathan was going to sleep in his bed? The question of how much Nathan’s subjects really know about their situation continues to linger over the course of the series. But Nathan’s acting class soon ends, as his students demonstrate their aptitude by mimicking their subjects’ work, a fun and underwhelming display that ends with Nathan handing over all the diplomas.

Afterwards, Nathan returns to Angela’s, where “Adam” has grown into a teenager – he greets Nathan with a warm hug, and the fake family enjoys a wholesome dinner. But Nathan finds the charade unconvincing and he has a real chat with Josh, the actor who currently plays Adam, to brainstorm ideas.

It turns out that Josh is a pretty good performer and suggests that Adam should be furious with his dad for being away for most of his childhood. They perform the “Welcome Home” scene again, and this time Adam is suitably irritated. Adam’s story even escalates into drug addiction, culminating in a dramatic overdose scene that elicits a panicky reaction from Angela, presumably mirroring her own experiences as a teenager.

Again, how much was rehearsed, how much was spontaneous, and did Angela say that would happen? We don’t know, but if you look closely you can see two of Nathan’s acting students playing paramedics, one of whom is Thomas – we’re deep into Nathan’s alternate realities at this point.

Adam runs away and Nathan finds him at a playground, where a clever transition reverts Adam back to a six-year-old, so Nathan can wipe the slate clean and try to be a better father. Angela has already agreed to relive Adam’s “childhood”, but again she seems reluctant, pressured by the presence of cameras (although it doesn’t seem like a bad gig for Angela).

The episode ends with Josh confirming his scene, with Nathan and little Adam heading off to do it all over again. Each episode seems to subvert the original premise – who knows where this show is going? I’m not sure Nathan knew this during filming, but he certainly cooked up a narrative in the edit.

One thing is certain – there’s nothing else like it on TV.

If you enjoyed reading, check out my recap of previous episode here, and the next episode here

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