The Slap, Episode 3, “Harry”
Thursday, 8:30pm, ABC1
Stream on ABC’s iView
‘Yeh it was good. So what?’
That’s how Harry would review Episode 3 of The Slap.
Harry Apostolou is the Greek businessman/ family man / loose canon who hit the child at SIGNIFICANT BARBECUE in Episode 1.
He would HATE me. Seriously, him with his “Suck on my nuts” way of ending phone calls and me with my “SO lovely to talk. Talk to you soon. Byeeee!” would not relate to each other at all. So talking about an episode told from his perspective from MY perspective feels a little redundant, fruitless. What do I know about a guy like Harry? If it were up to me, I’d have him sit in front of Paul Weston, the therapist from HBO’s In Treatment, and start working through his rage issues. But it’s not up to me. And I suppose the fact that I’m scared the main character in this episode is going to read this recap and be mean to me, suggests I’ve found myself in the hands of some pretty capable storytellers. Alex Dimitriades (who plays Harry) and Brendan Cowell (who wrote the episode) have done some great stuff here. Carry on Harry Apostolou, as you were.
This is a portrait of an under-represented in Australian pop culture man. He is part of the ultra-successful working class. He has a wife Sandi and son Rocco, as well as a possible secret second family. And like his cousin Hector, he thrives on a casual mid-afternoon line of rack. Getting inside the head of someone like this provides some valuable cultural data for the self-congratulatory middle class – we are not like these people, and those people are all like this person. Because let’s face it, the idea of Harry’s reviewing Harry’s episode of the Slap is a total misnomer – I’m fairly confident Harry doesn’t watch much ABC1. He is sitting in his tiled white mansion full of contemporary art, most likely watching something on his premium Foxtel subscription, maybe the Hangover 2. Which is to say, Harry’s arc was full of fun details which establish its own believability as a study in class warfare. And may I just say, kudos to the set-designer who put a blown up b&w photo of Harry and Sandi’s wedding day on their walls, and a glamour shot of Sandi on Harry’s iPhone caller ID. Lol.
This episode has a sort of ambling structure, which is a nice way to capture the purgatory of life after a big incident. One of the party tricks is to repeat similar scenes at opposite ends of the hour. We see a lot of comparable moments twice, and the difference in the second version highlights the gradual accrual of rage and stress Harry is experiencing. We see him at his business, his auto shop, swiftly resolving a conflict with a wayward employee. Later on, Harry unfairly and arbitrarily denies another employee a day off and then imagines beating him with a wrench. He visits his mistress twice, the first visit is simple and familiar, the second time is ugly and thwarted. (Oh and thanks a bunch for showing us Alex Dimitriades seedy fluttering eyelids as he’s being sexually pleasured – twice.)
Most chillingly of all, we see Harry chasten Rocco for talking smack about black women in rap videos: ‘Hey, don’t talk about your auntie Aish like that’, and then a few scenes later refer to Aisha as ‘that stuck up black bitch.’ It’s a bit like a game of spot the difference – a smart way to move beyond the spot the difference questions that can plague a text that’s already an adaptation of a book.
Did you play that game in primary school, ‘I went to the market, and I bought an apple…’ ‘I went to the market and I bought an apple and a guinea pig’. Anyway, this show has a bit of a going-to-the-market type momentum. Each subsequent episode is feeling richer and more inhabited by the memory of the previous one. And you are rewarded for remembering certain things. Having absorbed the atmosphere of Rosie’s house in the previous episode means watching Harry take in the aesthetically displeasing details of their lifestyle (the wind chimes!) is a poignant way to lead us in to his disastrous attempt at an apology.
The big domestic violence scene is also worth talking about. Usually I find myself being all “:'” towards this series’ self-conscious approach to tackling the big issues – but this is NOT a cliche – we don’t know much about what goes on inside the head of someone who is violent towards his wife.
These are the reasons they give: anger, heritage, embarrassment, pride, misogyny.
The violence itself takes place right on the knifes edge of the issue – Harry is both aggressor and protector as he goes from pulling her hair to hugging her tenderly. His attack on her hair is symbolic – it is the source of her vanity and her subservience. She is so groomed, so pilatie-d, and it’s all for him. She broke my heart stacking the dishwasher in her one-shouldered party frock. Harry holds the vacuum of power in the house. And that is why we never get episodes from Sandi or Rocco’s perspectives – they only really exist to orbit Harry.
So I’ve been panicking about a Season 2 of The Slap. What happens if this ends up being a really successful series for the ABC, but they don’t have any more source material with which to create a second season? Don’t even worry, Mark Scott! Because I figure The PIRATED DVD’s PARTY in this episode would make an excellent stand in for TECTONIC PLATE SHIFTING BARBECUE.
Both events trigger questions of legality and morality, and present a raft of dynamic new characters who could be the focal point of 8 new episodes. For example, you could have an episode about Van the DVD man (how have torrents affected his business model?), the Indian cleaner who wants a night off (for WHAT! I’m dying to know!), the sick daughter of Harry’s mistress (why is she always sick? Is she faking? Or is it serious? Poss. sad storyline.). The list of possible new characters goes on and on, I definitely haven’t already run out of people to talk about.
So, is anyone watching/liking/h8ing The Slap? (Crowdsourcing!).
Words By Sophie Braham