This Trust review contains spoilers.
Trust Episode 7 Review
Prequels, or in the case of tonight’s episode of Trust, flashbacks, can be tricky business. I’ve reviewed a lot of prequels and shows that prominently feature flashbacks and I’ve written at length about my problems with these sorts of stories or narrative devices but let me sum up my thoughts succinctly – they’re usually a waste of time. More often than not, flashbacks or prequels only plainly lay out details that have either already been assumed by the audience or are superfluous to the story. There are clearly some exceptions, but not every dot needs connecting. It’s the Anakin Skywalker problem; did I really need to see what Darth Vader was like as an annoying child and teen? Did I really need to know that he created C-3PO? Flashbacks and prequels are normally spelling out what was better left assumed and rewarding attentive audiences with fan-service and self-referential stuffing.
“Kodachrome,” primarily a flashback episode, does not overcome this trope. That’s not to say the episode is unsuccessful or completely unnecessary, it just feels like at times its beating a dead horse. A lot of our time spent looking backward at Getty’s old sins or the dissolution of Paul II and Gail’s marriage doesn’t add enough subtext to warrant almost an entire episode dedicated to flashbacks. I know Getty’s a heartless bastard, I can make assumptions about why Gail separated from Paul II, or why Paul doesn’t like Lang. It’s just not all necessary.
That’s not to say I can’t entertain some of it. Some may think explaining Paul’s love of art or his frequent shadow puppeteering as learned habits from his grandfather may be a bit much, but I found it fun and it does add questions and color to Getty. He clearly has an affinity for the boy, he admits as much at one point, so why wouldn’t he do more to help him while he’s kidnapped? These early flashback moments in the episode, with their grainy home footage quality, are interesting because it at least shows us a side of the characters that we haven’t known, a time when they were legitimately happy and Paul II felt love and admiration for his father, but then for some reason we cut to current-day Paul II’s on-the-nose commentary explaining what we had already gathered and was better left unsaid.
The stylistic montages return as soon as things start going south for the family. Highlighting Paul II’s overwhelmed feeling while firing employees with the subtitles starting to drop letters from the screen is cool; showing a cliché, office wrecking tantrum is not. It’s like for every great understated thing Trust does, it has to follow it up with something painfully unsubtle. But I guess if you have a scenery-chewing Donald Sutherland clearly having a ball hamming it up as a villain (what was that laugh?!) then by all means, drill down into the fact he constantly one-upped Paul II in business.
The only, really illuminating new detail we learn in “Kodachrome” is the fact that Paul II lost a lover to a drug overdose after his separation from his wife. Paul II is an emotional wreck due to the death and a physical one due to his drug habit. He calls his father and plainly asks for help, but Getty turns his back on his son. The reason the flashback is affecting is because what then happens in the present-day storyline. Paul II is told by his father that he’ll be receiving $5 million from the trust to cover his son’s ransom, only then to learn that Getty isn’t giving him a gift, but a loan, with interest applied. “You’re going to profit from your own grandson’s kidnapping?” Paul II shrieks. Paul II mistakenly thought his father was giving him a gift, the help that he needed but was denied in the last major crisis in his life, but as always, Getty is just pouring more on top, “burying” him. It’s Michael Esper’s best work on the show, and perhaps the most emotionally-charged moment so far.
Bitter from a lifetime of resentment, Paul II doesn’t sign the contract, letting his grudge take precedence over saving his son. Primo, with Paul properly dressed and ready for this ordeal to be over waits at the drop off location as long as possible, but realizes the money’s not coming at almost the exact moment that Paul figures out his birthday. “It’s going to be your death day,” Primo shouts as the episode concludes, but it’s not exactly a cliffhanger, because we already know that’s not true.
Though not devoid of worthwhile moments, I’d chalk this up as yet another episode of filler. I’m afraid that Trust doesn’t have much to say, other than tired clichés about money and power and fathers and sons. I assume next week will delve into the most famous aspect of the Getty kidnapping, the ear, so hopefully some narrative juice and some of that style, that’s been slowly dwindling since episode two, return in spades, otherwise Trust is going to start looking pretty bankrupt.