This Trust review contains spoilers.
Trust Episode 6
John Paul Getty really is a bastard. If you haven’t reached that conclusion by now, “John, Chapter 11”is here to solidify his villainous status. Whether working through the assumed death of little Paul or one of the other myriad of problems that can be left at the bitter old man’s feet, we watch all of our characters suffer this week for reasons tied to Getty. He’s a callous father, an abusive boss, and an uncaring partner who treats every interaction like a combative board meeting.
We haven’t spent this much time with Donald Sutherland’s Getty since the premiere, but here he’s given a meal and devours his material with a ferocity that fluctuates between being truly visceral and sometimes appropriately hollow. Sutherland delivers the monologue about the death of his sister and its effect on his mother with a dash of melodrama that only an actor of his caliber could keep from being mawkish. But just when you think Getty may assume responsibility for the death of his grandchild and learn a valuable lesson, he’s of course bailed out of the situation and is back to happily dancing away to “Putting on the Ritz,” an unchanged man.
To avoid having to get that introspective again, he files to Italy to negotiate with Salvatore, and it’s here where Sutherland kicks things up a notch, confidently and coolly coming to terms in effortless Italian, flexing his power that earlier in the episode felt so meaningless. However, the rug is pulled out once again just when you’re feeling impressed by Getty when he shows the extent of his cheapskate pettiness by blatantly saying that he expects Paul II to pay the $5 million ransom he just negotiated. Even Chase is shocked by the arrogant disregard for what the entire family had just gone through when they thought Paul was dead.
Having most of the episode be dedicated to the characters reacting to a dead, charred body they believe to be Paul’s, when we are certain that it isn’t Paul, narratively is a waste of time, but it’s a great way to showcase some actors and deliver some serious monologues. British TV director Jonathan van Tulleken injects some style into the affair to keep everything from feeling like a lull. You know you’re in good hands right away with the overhead shots in the episode’s intro of the man swimming in the ocean. There’s a Malick quality to Gail’s flashbacks about Paul as a child, and the movie theater showdown is composed in a way that adds mystery and tension to Gail’s righteously angry speech.
Hilary Swank is finally given some material to work with here and she crushes every pitch she’s given. She harnesses the fiery power of a mother’s scorn and doesn’t suffer cruel kidnappers or even mouthy cab drivers that insinuate that she’s not grieving properly. Her speech about Paul being her favorite child is particularly special, with Gail no longer ashamed to hide the ugly thought in that low moment. Those lows are then balanced out by burning rage when she finds she’s been tricked and euphoric highs when she processes that her boy is not gone after all. It’s a rollercoaster that Swank is able to make feel thrilling and true to life.
Sadly, van Tulleken isn’t able to make Paul II’s material worthwhile in the same way. Despite how he tries, there’s just no way to make scenes about doing drugs cool or interesting anymore. Paul II is rightfully traumatized by his upbringing and crushed by the death of his son, but it all reeks of woe-is-me self-obsession, making his child’s death feel like just the latest chapter in his war against his father. He rails against Getty to whoever will listen, even to the old man’s face, but there’s a whiny, selfish quality to it that makes it hard to sympathize with. At this point, it’s well-established how Getty’s behavior has ruined Paul II’s life, Trust would be wise to spend more time examining how people like Bullimore, who isn’t even named Bullimore, isn’t able to embrace who he is because of Getty’s treatment or how Getty’s girlfriend is unable to carry the child she miraculously conceived because of his gross, controlling “contract.”
“John, Chapter 11” may be a reference to Lazarus, but we knew Paul was never dead all along. Still, the narrative pause at least made room for some stellar acting highlights. Trust doesn’t always feel like an essential watch, but every now and then, like in tonight’s theater scene or Getty’s Italian rendezvous, it’s able to flex its real embarrassment of riches, its phenomenal, movie-quality cast. Here’s hoping they still have some tricks up their sleeves.