Boasting two-time Academy Award nominee Naomi Watts (also currently of Twin Peaks) in the lead anti-heroine role, Gypsy is a purely mature drama that examines its central figure's lucrative work from an inside-out perspective -- without compromising for a broadcast network nor salaciously casual viewers.
Watts stars as Dr. Jean Holloway, a cognitive behavioral therapist whose professional success in treating sexual dysfunction is unpredictably fueled by her attachment to the same cause.
Holloway strides to balance her scales of commitment and satisfaction while struggling to keep her dependents in check. Her pattern of desire -- or potential addiction -- makes her develop excuses that would normally keep new acquaintances at arm's length or farther.
The therapist's compulsive behavior (gracefully pointed to in the series' opening episodes) might be called a "cycling" adaptation, keeping her clearly opposite roles in the world from direct conflict. The alternation between states lets her "filter" her patients constantly, re-understanding and re-orienting them as her own motives are drawn in new directions.
The common substance used to reset one's natural night/day cycle -- coffee -- serves as an added accelerator when Holloway's morning order is taken by Sidney (Sophie Cookson of Kingsman: The Secret Service and The Huntsman: Winter's War). Sidney has observational skill beyond Holloway's, and both she and the doctor eagerly play in the resulting conundrum.
Dr. Holloway's sessions, especially with frequent patient Sam (Karl Glusman of The Neon Demon, Nocturnal Animals), develop into a form of role play -- and Jean becomes increasingly dominant as her desires are better fulfilled.
Jean's husband Michael (Billy Crudup, known by comic book heads as Watchmen's Dr. Manhattan) is left to struggle to find harmony with a partner who's available to herself and her work more than her life at home. Crudup takes a prototypically blank role ("antihero's spouse") and adds a contrasting and believable perspective to Dr. Holloway's domestic appearances.
Drawing headlines for the return of Fifty Shades of Grey director Sam Taylor-Johnson (who directs the first two episodes), Gypsy succeeds foremost in presenting a matured drive for both connection and anonymity without resorting to two-cent fantasy situations that left many unable to take the forgotten paperback sensation seriously.
The base of the success must be attributed to debut creator Lisa Rubin, who stated the goal precisely to The Guardian: "I thought it would be interesting to have a woman in her mid-forties being portrayed as desirable and desired, because the world is full of these women and yet we so rarely see them on television."
Stemming from her early success with David Lynch (originally on the intended television pilot of Oscar-nominated Mulholland Drive), Naomi Watts is the clear dream choice for the multifaceted role.
Through otherwise startling turns of motive, Holloway remains believable because of Watts' unique strength in keeping the character grounded within a single persona. Watts' roles (also crossing paths twice with two-time Best Director Oscar winner Alejandro González Iñárritu) have asked her to recast her character's motives constantly -- as her last Netflix appearance on BoJack Horseman demonstrated in just one memorable episode.
The answer to Netflix addicts' first question about Gypsy -- will you be able to keep the next chapter from autoplaying? -- depends if your attention span can keep up to the heady challenge. As a ten-hour series, viewers will be treated to a still-all-rare bird: an adult female perspective without exclusively male desire.
For the series to take hold, viewers can't be afraid to look closely or the effects won't last. Patience will be tested by the sheer variety of scenarios Holloway lands herself in, by choice or good fortune.
Gypsy, with Holloway's family affairs and patient interactions, takes viewers through relationships that can no longer be considered in binary terms -- neither by gender nor orientation -- and all adults are likely to face an uncomfortable memory or unrealized dissatisfaction if giving the series the attention it asks.
Holloway (through patients and family) constantly deals with the recent phenomenon of "screen time" while Netflix's streaming model holds viewers' screens longer than any others, and the development has changed her line of work as much as it's upended real life consumption habits.
Holloway's texts received alerts may give many the urge to look to their own second screens, but Gypsy is an open-ended concept that allows future seasons to turn up the excitement. Fans of Watts (or those who had loftier hopes for a genre that Fifty Shades failed to sustain) will want to place the series at the top of their queue.0comments
-- Zach Ellin is a freelance writer for PopCulture.com. Follow him on Twitter for more of his insights.
Photo Credit: Netflix