Review: “Give Me Away” Broadens and Deepens to Close Out Season One
Give Me Away (Season One, Part Two)
Written by Mac Rogers
Directed by Jordana Williams
Presented by Gideon Media, with distribution from PRX
Episode 5: September 17; episode 6: September 24; episode 7: October 1; episode 8: October 8; episode 9: October 15 on all podcast platforms; or, all episodes available September 17 on Stitcher Premium
|Cover art by Kate Kosma
To briefly recap (you can read our full review of part one here), the first four episodes of Give Me Away introduce 50 year-old Graham (Sean Williams), whose marriage to Morgan (Hanna Cheek) is reaching its end. When an alien structure, nicknamed "The Ghosthouse" and housing a mainframe cum prison, shows up in the Nevada desert, Graham volunteers to be part of a project to rescue the prisoners by transferring their consciousnesses into human brains, which they then share as "Seconds," a process first undergone by project leader Brooke/Deirdre (Lori Elizabeth Parquet).
Episode 5, “My Body is Your Body,” flashes back, filling in some of Brooke/Deirdre’s backstory, drawing attention to Republican opposition (for political rather than ethical reasons) to the rescue project and behind-the-scenes maneuvering against it, and not only revealing the surprising origins of at least one of the Second pairings but also, as we arrive back where episode 4 left off, a utterly unexpected applicant to the program. From there, the plot builds momentum without losing sight of the character work or (and often inseparably) the questions and themes at the heart of the series. One of the most significant new developments is the extraction of brilliant but brash Joshua (Sean Williams) from the prison. An all-or-nothing idealist who is quite willing to cause collateral damage to achieve his ends, he has found himself in opposition to Deirdre in the past (he also refers to a now-missing leader), and will again before the end of this season. We learn more about the aliens’ world and ways of life, as well as more about how this group ended up imprisoned. Meanwhile, the media becomes a proxy battlefield in the political war over the Ghosthouse; a Republican senator (Brian Silliman) has been making calls to the unbendingly nationalistic Lt. Riley (Ato Essandoh); and, just as events spiral into dangerous, potentially deadly territory, Morgan and Talia (Dani Martineck), one of her and Graham’s children, are speeding to the camp. These threads and others come together in a tense, satisfying finale that also dexterously sets the stage for season two.
Having taken its time in the first part of the season to establish its characters, in this latter half, Give Me Away really begins to test them and what we (think we) know of them. While it widens the scope of its story, it also continues to focus as much on the personal and familial as on political skullduggery and alien technology, giving more space to characters such as Corey/Isaiah (Hennessy Winkler) and Graham and Morgan’s unruly daughter Jamie (Diana Oh), whose feeling unworthy and alone turns out to drive a lot of her actions. With those who are literally unable to be alone, Give Me Away delves into further exploration of the experience of consciousnesses from different species sharing a body. In one interesting detail (and raising interesting questions about embodiment), we learn that because human bodies cannot produce the sounds necessary for their Seconds’ real names, the human hosts cannot think those names either. In a more comic moment that points to how much we rely on shared assumptions to communicate, it turns out that whether the whole world is like Nevada is a tougher question to answer once you get past “No.” There are also provocative instances of continuity between what seem to be sharp differences, such as Jamie’s insistence here on making her own choices in juxtaposition to Graham’s in earlier episodes, as well as the idealism of the dissident Joshua in juxtaposition to the (masculinist, nationalist) idealism of staunch government loyalist Lt. Riley. The acting continues to be terrific all around—Oh and Winkler make superb use of the increased spotlight on their characters; Neimah Djourabchi is extremely funny the low-key Evan, whom Jamie meets while protesting; Essandoh’s Riley continues to be a calmly infuriating antagonist; and Williams’s performance as Joshua makes it feel as if another actor has joined the cast—and we were remiss in our initial review not to specifically mention Adam Blau’s moody theme.
Joshua argues that humanity’s self-destruction is a choice, and therefore not irreversible; similarly, if you haven’t yet succumbed to the sci-fi adventure of Give Me Away, now is the perfect time to rectify that decision.
-John R. Ziegler and Leah Richards