30th Sep2015

‘Review 2×09: Happiness, Pillow Fight, Imaginary Friend’ Review

by Gretchen Felker-Martin

“What are your values, son?”


A man is dead and Forrest is to blame. The goodness Forrest’s father once saw in his son has been burned away by Forrest’s belief that what he does as the host of Review is more important than and/or somehow separate from his personal integrity and what its dissolution means for the people he loves. Even his trauma-induced dreams of his victim’s face floating up through the non-toxic waters of the Magic 8 Ball betray his inability to take responsibility for the killing, an inability thoroughly explored in the episode’s ‘Happiness’ segment. Forrest, haunted by nightmares after last week’s carnage, is tasked with being happy all the time.

At first it seems like a godsend, a puff piece after a year of non-stop violence and insanity. Forrest twirls a lacy parasol and struts around ignoring the ills of the world, trying to be a ray of sunshine for himself and others. Then Suzanne shows up and tells him that she wants him to stop seeing his son, Eric. Forrest is forced to be happy with her decision not by his review but by his own narrow interpretation of adherence to it, a kind of myopic self-destruction which equates compliance and conformity with joy. There are a thousand ways to interpret the experiences Forrest subjects himself to, but even as the police drag him away to answer for the shooting he committed he insists on maintaining his deranged facade of happiness.


Landing in prison gives Forrest a moment of terrified clarity. “I need to be totally focused on getting the (bleep) out of here,” he tells Grant after the odious producer arrives in jail with a camera crew, permission to film secured. Grant won’t hear of it. Forrest in prison is incredible television, a trip down a rabbit hole as yet unexplored, and Forrest’s ego is too easy to manipulate. “Everyone is so grateful for the sacrifices you make,” he oozes. “They look up to you. They’re inspired by you.” His word-switching and feigned humility in the face of Forrest’s accomplishments, combined with a little bullying and legacy-tweaking, turn Forrest around without much hassle. Review is too complete a cocoon, too safe an insulation from personal responsibility and actual experience, for Forrest to really, truly want to leave it.

Forrest’s staging of Review in prison is beyond depressing. A.J. sits nervously beside him on a cold plastic bench, producing the show’s sound effects a capella while Forrest delivers his star ratings via cut-out sheets of toilet paper. His muddled verdict on being happy all the time leads solidly into ‘Pillow Fight,’ a short segment in which Forrest inadvertently starts a prison riot when the prisoners pack their pillows with weights and assault the guards. Circumstance, as A.J. says when claiming one can control the weather by moving to Hawaii, is everything. With that bitter lesson yet again probably ignored, Forrest receives his fateful final review. He is to have an imaginary friend.


Forrest creates Clovers, an admiring and supportive friend with whom he can play checkers and shoot the breeze, escaping for a few precious moments the house of horrors his life has become. Here, too, Forrest’s lack of confidence in his own sense of reality doom him. The other prisoners begin to make Clovers their property, narrating his actions and preying on Forrest through him. Forrest, trapped by his own narrow view of the world, becomes a twitching wreck instead of simply ignoring the cruel posturing of his nemesis, schoolyard bully Cassius. In the midst of this slow heartbreak, Forrest’s father appears to bail his son out, and to sever ties with him.

Mr. MacNeil spends some time bonding with his son before he breaks the news. There’s a commonality between the two MacNeils, an easy/ungainly charm and a slightly pained quality to their love that makes it all the harder to watch as Mr. MacNeil tells Forrest that he no longer recognizes the good man he felt he’d raised. “What are your values, son?” he asks. “Did I raise you where it’s okay to have values where it’s okay to kill someone? I hope not.” He gets up from the table, leaving Forrest bewildered and more alone than ever. “Take care of him, Clovers,” he says, his voice breaking. But it isn’t meant to be. Not only does Forrest’s release mean that he and Clovers(who Forrest has now been convinced is a felon) must part ways, but Cassius and his thugs ambush the pair on a deserted walkway and imaginary shank Clovers to imaginary death. Forrest’s release is meaningless, an exile from literal prison and back into the prison of his own mind.

Will this last awful act of destruction, the death in a sense of Forrest’s heart and soul, finally be enough to snap him out of it?


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