Master of Turns!

27 06 2017

Death-Castle

“I Love You, New York,” episode six of season two of the Netflix show Master of None investigates, while enacting, the dynamics of the turn.

**Spoiler alert! Spoilers abound in this post about spoilers!**

The episode opens with a shot of a taxi cab advertisement for the film (above), then cuts to three friends, Dev, Arnold, and Denise, as they head off to the movie.

Dev: You guys psyched for Death Castle?

Arnold: Oh, yeah, baby. Hear there’s a crazy twist at the end.

Dev: The fuck’d you tell me that for?!

Denise: Yeah, what the hell, Arnold?!

Arnold: What are you talking about? I didn’t tell you what the twist was.

Dev: Yeah, but now I’m going to be expecting a twist.

Denise: For real! Narrative immersion? Ruined!

Arnold: Wow. I hadn’t really considered that perspective on twists. I’m sorry.

Dev: It’s okay, buddy.

The episode then commences to twist wildly. Instead of following the three friends (three of the show’s main characters) as they make their way into their evening and to the movie, the camera follows a nearby doorman and stays with him and his story. For a few minutes. Then, following a fellow doorman to a local grocery store, we begin to follow briefly (again, just a few minutes) the activities of a deaf grocery store clerk. (This portion of the sequence is silent. It’s shocking, at first–I checked the sound on my computer. But then, once I realized what was happening, I settled in for lyric immersion.) The story follows the clerk in some after work activities, until she and her inattentive boyfriend grab a cab. The camera, though, stays on the street, and watches two women hail a cab. This is the taxi the camera takes. Inside, the two women glance at a video screen playing a newscast in the process of wrapping up a movie review of Death Castle. The reviewer states,

The movie may be called Death Castle, but in my opinion it’s filled with a whole lotta life. I say: lower that drawbridge, and get thee to your nearest theater…

The women remark:

Woman 1: Have you seen Death Castle yet?

Woman 2: Yes.

Woman 1: How crazy is that twist?!

Woman 2: I never saw it coming. Wait, so let me make sure I got this right: the black guy was actually Nicholas Cage the whole time.

Woman 1: Yeah, and the castle was heaven.

Woman 2: Yes.

Cut to the taxi driver, shaking his head. The story will now follow him.

Woman 1 (now in the background): I know, it was insane…

Taxi driver [via Bluetooth, speaking to a friend in a language not English, so I’m transcribing the closed caption translations]: God damn it! One of my passengers just ruined the end of Death Castle!

Friend: Don’t say anything! I haven’t seen it yet!

Taxi driver: I hate it when this happens! Cab drivers watch movies, too! They should check if we’ve seen the movie before they start talking about spoilers.

Friend: You still want to go see it this weekend?

Taxi driver: Honestly, I don’t know, man. This kind of ruined my whole day.

The story follows the taxi driver into his personal life as he and his friends spend a night on the town. After meeting a small group of women, someone asks, “Where to now?” And another person asks, “Is there something we can do?” The camera cuts to a theater marquee: “Death Castle‘s playing!”

In the theater, the camera pans (all the while we’re hearing movie dialog in the background confirming the fact that, yes, the two women in the cab did understand Death Castle‘s plot twists): we see members of the group who just entered the theater, and then we see the doorman, and the store clerk and her boyfriend, and then the camera settles on Dev, Denise, and Arnold. As the last of the twist-filled revelations are given, the audience gasps.

Arnold (whispering): What?! What?! What?!

Denise (whispering): Man, I’m straight shook right now!

Dev (whispering): I knew there was a twist, but not like this! This is crazy!

The camera pans left from Dev to reveal he’s sitting next to the taxi driver. Dev lightly bumps him, says, “Sorry.” The taxi driver, sitting with arms crossed, simply shakes his head.

Cut to credits.

“I Love You, New York” is about many things: it’s about race, consumerism, globalism–a fuller reading of the episode (which I’m not attempting here) would have to take all of these elements into account. I just want to, here, admire this episode for its intelligence about the turn. Knowing there’s going to be a twist should never be a problem when encountering narrative or lyric art. Spoiler alert: very, very often, if it’s good art there are going to be turns! Great turning is largely about audience expectations (you can’t give an audience a turn they might think of as tired), and, in order to prevent tired turns, successful turning is mainly about the manner by which the turn is enacted. And finally: pretty much everyone not only loves the kind of Hollywood blockbuster that is Death Castle, but also loves the jolt of surprise that genre supplies. It’s to poetry’s detriment if it doesn’t make use of the turn’s dynamic force.