Vital Viewing – Feud: Bette and Joan Season Finale

Well, that was depressing.

When I first decided to watch Feud I had middling expectations, on one hand you have a talented cast and intriguing plot and so it would have taken something pretty dire to bomb, on the other hand I imagined that the characters of Bette Davis and Joan Crawford would serve as mouthpieces for campy and bitchy insults. For a while I was right, the first few episodes are filled with petty one upmanship and while fun, provided little substance. Little did I know that following -what I consider to be the turning point of the series – Bette and Joan’s dinner table chat in episode 3 the show would delve deeper into the complex lives of these two Hollywood stars and into the struggles they endured not just as actresses but as women too.

The last few episodes of Feud have taken a darker turn and a somewhat depressing ending was to be expected, that said, I didn’t expect to end up feeling so glum after the end credits. Don’t think that means it’s a bad finale, it’s not, it’s a great finale but it’s an ultimately depressing one.

Seeing Joan Crawford as a frail, helpless woman is a grim experience, even before these scene, watching her scrape at the bottom of the barrel, playing a part in the abomination of a movie Trog is so humiliating an experience for her that you just want to reach out and hug her (bearing in mind, she’s no saint, we’ve seen how horrible Joan can be).

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“You Mean All This Time We Could Have Been Friends?” — Installment 1, Episode 8 (Airs Sunday, April 23, 10:00 p.m. e/p) — Pictured: Jessica Lange as Joan Crawford. CR: Suzanne Tenner/FX

Bette too has moments of glumness in this episode and hearing her tell her daughter about the letters her own mother wrote to friends slagging off Bette is heartbreaking, especially when we know how much she doted on her mother. For the most part though, Bette gets off lightly compared to Joan, although we don’t see how lonely and sad Bette’s final years were, the brief visit to the doctor’s isn’t dissimilar to Joan’s trip to the dentist and could serve as a nice indicator as to how Bette’s life pans out.

There’s just too many significant moments in this episode to mention, from Bette being unable to speak when Joan answers her telephone call to the In Memoriam clip and it’s following toast. Of all the scenes the late night party at Joan’s house is the stand out. On seeing Hedda and Jack for the first time, dressed to the nines and laughing and with Joan joining them, leaving her nightdress and ragged hair behind I was initially convinced that she had died and joined them ‘beyond’ – until of course Bette came along. I then thought it was a dream, which was sad enough a thought, but on revealing that it was in fact simply Joan’s imagination the reality of the scene hit me like a train: it’s just so sad.

 

To conclude I really enjoyed Feud, more than I thought I would in fact and a lot of that is down to the acting and staging and also thanks to the fact that the show was so much more than two Hollywood legends insulting each other. We end up with an interesting insight into the injustice of being not only a woman in Hollywood (or any profession to an extent) but to being a woman over a certain age and the insecurities that are bred. It’s been a sobering finale but a fitting one and for once, ending a series on a ‘what if?’ is wonderfully apt.

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Final Thoughts

  • I usually have a good snicker throughout Feud but this episode was so depressing that only one line managed to get a laugh out of me:  “Looks comfortable, isn’t comfortable” – Victor

 

  • Ryan Murphy really knows how to draw our attention to working women’s plight and the unfair treatment women have to endure on a daily basis, many of the themes in the series reminded me of Marcia Clark’s storyline on The People v OJ Simpson, that series too, ended on a downer.

 

  • Apparently the next series of Feud will centre around Charles and Diana, I’ll be following developments with great interest, in particular casting which FX usually nail.

 

  • No Bob in this episode and he was missed, but looking back I’m not sure where he’d have fit in, it was good to see his name pop up in the ‘what happened to them’ credits at the end.

 

  • I can’t say which episode was my favourite of the series, Oscar night was a highlight yes but for me it was often scenes rather than whole episodes that stood out more.

 

  • I’ll give this series a strong A grade, it was a bit of a slow burner but it would have been spoiled had the pacing been any different

 

  • Emmys are going to be raining down on this show, in terms of acting you can make cases for the whole cast. Sarandon and Lange are shoo-ins for a nomination and possible winners but it will be very interesting to see whether Susan Sarandon will be nominated for lead or supporting actress. Other stand outs are Judy Davis as Hedda and Alfred Molina as Bob, Stanley Tucci was great as Jack Warner as was Jackie Hoffman as Mamacita but some might see them too much comic relief to merit an award.  Don’t rule out Catherine Zeta-Jones either, she’s proved how good an actress she is in this and in my opinion could potentially take the leading role in a Murphy-esque production. My wild card would definitely be Alison Wright as Pauline, she was criminally underrated on The Americans and has done a stellar job here, a nomination would be nothing less than she deserves.

 

  • Bette v Joan : there’s no winner here (how could there possibly be?) but overall Bette is the ‘winner’ 5 points to 2

 

  • Whatever happened to…Joan Blondell? As in, Kathy Bates’ Joan was the only member of the main and recurring cast who didn’t have a segment devoted to them in the end credits!
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