There’s a reason the trope about therapists being the most fucked up ones of all exists. And if there’s any solid pop culture evidence of that, Jean Holloway a.k.a. Diane Hart (Naomi Watts) is it. From the very first episode of Gypsy, “The Rabbit Hole,” we’re invited to go down just that with Jean as we enter her favorite coffee shop of the same name, where it “just so happens” that Sidney Pierce (Sophie Cookson) works as a barista in between peddling fliers for her true passion: her band, Vagabond Motel. It doesn’t “just so happen,” however, that Sidney is the ex-girlfriend of one of her patients, Sam (Karl Glusman). Sam’s obsession with Sidney has prompted Jean to see for herself just who is the delusional one between them. This isn’t the only patient Jean finds herself stepping out of bounds with, an overbearing mother named Claire (Brenda Vaccaro) inciting Jean to go to the same place where her daughter, Rebecca (Brooke Bloom), gets a blowout every week, ingratiating herself into Rebecca’s life “casually” enough to glean tidbits about Claire from her. Armed with Rebecca’s true opinions on the matter of Mother, Jean does her best to steer Claire in the right direction, guidance-wise.
This isn’t the sole area where she uses a therapist’s cheat sheet, so to speak. When a drug addict named Allison (Lucy Boynton, of Sing Street fame) comes to her for help, Jean personally accompanies her to meetings–regardless of what Allison’s rather scary boyfriend, Tom (Shiloh Fernandez), has to say on the matter. As Jean gets deeper and deeper into the abyss of inappropriateness, her web of lies begins to catch up with her gradually throughout the ten-episode season, created and written by Lisa Rubin, making a solid debut entrance into “the industry.” It’s a web of lies that catches up in just the same manner as it does in that other series starring another fellow Aussie and friend, Nicole Kidman. Except, in Big Little Lies‘ case, the spreading of a fraught psychosis over three different women tends to make it slightly more credible. And, of course, Bonnie (Zoe Kravitz) acts as the mandatory racially diverse younger woman tantalizing all around her, replaced by Michael’s assistant, Alexis (Melanie Liburd), in Gypsy. She even writes on the side, too!–one of many semi-vexatious elements aside from depictions of Bushwick being that she gets one of her short stories into n + 1.
Though some might not necessarily appreciate the high camp of Gypsy, remarking that its “psychosexual drama is as subtle as syphilis,” there is something to be said for its addictiveness. It’s almost as though we, as viewers, share the same exact problem as Jean: we can’t stop what we know is bad for us. The way Shailene Woodley’s Jane Chapman tries to escape a dark past by moving from Santa Cruz to Monterey is the way Jean tries desperately to cling to her dark past, counting it as the part of herself she wants to hold on to, lest she lose sight of who she really is completely in between being the ideal wife and mother to the unfortunately named Dolly (Maren Heary), especially for a girl who identifies more with the qualities of boy. Though she tries to be accepting of Dolly’s overt gender displacement, she’s often one of the many sources of Jean’s plaguing, an aspect of her life that eats away at her desire to be perfect. Regrettably, perfectionism isn’t exactly a viable pursuit when one’s appetitiveness for lying and prescription drugs constantly gets in the way.
In one of many instances that drives home that metaphor about syphilis earlier, the Fleetwood Mac song of the same name as the series serves as the narration for the title sequence, with fragmented pieces of Jean representing the many selves she must adopt in different scenarios, the version she appears to feel most comfortable in being Diane, the woman who can slip into lesbianism at random and lay claim to the job title of freelance journalist with “future plans: unknown.”
Constantly using her co-worker Larin (Poorna Jagannathan) as a reason for staying late or going out into the city, Jean has no shortage of excuses for remaining away from her Connecticut abode for extended periods of time. Michael, a workaholic himself, doesn’t often mind their separate but together lives, himself easily distracted by Alexis’ “charm.” As the drama of the season unfolds, however, Michael begins to realize he’s been all too willing to play the fool for too long. And when he finally comes out of his proverbial coma, he starts to see that he, too, is at fault–for not noticing all the telltale signs of Jean’s spiral.
“Who are you when no one is watching?” the tagline to Gypsy asks. The thing is, Jean is always watching everyone else, which is what affords her the luxury of the con. For as self-involved as she is, she’s the only one who seems to be interested enough in others to figure out who they really are when they think they’re safe from voyeuristic judgment.