THE SLAP Misses Its Mark
The Slap, an adaptation of an Australian series of the same name, was not the best TV I’ve ever seen. It centers around a grown man slapping a misbehaving child, and the ensuing trial surrounding the incident. It was a mediocre series but it had a really fantastic finale. Except it missed the point.
In the finale, the teen boy who took pictures at the party where the slap happened gets drawn into the court case, exposing his past that included cyberbullying and a suicide attempt. The attention he gets from the news articles about him cause him to attempt suicide again. While I understand the storytelling behind him surviving, testifying and both the parents of the unruly child and the man who committed the act being punished, I really thought that there was a larger point to the finale that got missed.
What I wanted to see, that was not seen, was the impact Richie’s (Lucas Hedges) actions had on the people involved in the case. We see a glimpse of remorse from the father of the boy, and the slapper doesn’t want Richie to suffer, but what I wanted was devastation from the mother.
From the get-go, Rosie (Melissa George, who played the same role in the Australian version) is a bad mother. Not only does she continue to breast feed her child, even though he is long past the breast feeding age, it is revealed that she does so while drinking wine. In addition, she coddles the child and does not reprimand him when he misbehaves. It also gets revealed that she suffered from post-partum depression shortly after the child was born and abandoned him briefly.
As the case continues, she makes mistake after mistake, including confronting Richie and Harry (Zachary Quinto), the slapper, jeopardizing the case multiple times without ever realizing that she is bringing up her child in a way that makes him a menace to those around him, with zero impulse control and no sense of right and wrong.
Yet, her friends stand by her, her husband stands by her, and she receives no ill effects from the case, other than being subjected to a few visits from a case worker from Child Protective Services. At no point do we see how Richie’s attempted suicide impacts her, and that is a travesty from this show.
If you are going to go the route of cyberbullying, teen suicide, and gay youth, don’t use it as a plot point, then ignore the consequences. Yes, Richie is all right in the end, but the impact of his actions is never seen. The trial ends and we’re left with five minutes of wrap up to see where these characters have ended up six months later. Frankly, I don’t give a damn about six months later. I want six hours later. After watching these characters royally screw up in their lives and fight each other over an incident that could have been avoided with the slightest bit of decent parenting, I felt that the story only started when Richie attempted to kill himself.
Yet that is the end of the series. It is a mini-series, so there will be no follow up unless NBC decides to do a sequel like they’re doing with A.D. But the ratings for The Slap weren’t great, so I don’t expect that. And while The Slap was my weekly “I’m angry at everyone in this show and therefore the world” show, this final episode was the first one to make me want to see more.
I wanted to see Rosie realize that her actions spiraled beyond her control and nearly cost a young gay teen his life. I wanted to see Rosie’s friends actually confront her on that point. Basically, I wanted to see Rosie change. But she doesn’t. Even right before the final day of the trial, her regret is that she didn’t do more to ensure Harry’s conviction, even though there was plenty of screen time for her to have seen the article about Richie and realize that she is to blame, despite the fact that it was her husband that leaked the story.
But she doesn’t. In eight episodes, everyone is in a different place in their lives except Rosie. And that is tragic.