Review: Transparent Season 4 (2017)

Jill Soloway is right to step away as Transparent‘s show runner after this season. The liberated Pfefferman family return in the most irritating, grasping at straws season in the once great show. This needs to end, and here is a good place to do it. (Even though more seasons have already been confirmed.)

When Transparent emerged on Amazon TV back in 2014 it was a breath of fresh air for challenging and insightful comedic drama on television. The Jewish-American adult family whose 60-something patriarch wants to transition to a woman named Maura (Jeffrey Tambor) which forms the basis of the show was something of an honest revelation to television. Not only did it open up the world of trans lives further on television than ever before, it also looked inside the machinations of a group of inordinately selfish children in Sarah (Amy Landeker) – a mother of two grappling with her bisexuality, Ali (Gaby Hoffman) – a free-spirited sexually liberated student, and Josh (Jay Duplass) – a neurotic music producer with intimacy issues all his own. Layered on top of all this was the modern Jewish customs as experienced in this version of current Los Angeles.

For its fourth season Transparent, having covered a lot of ground in the LGBTIQ world and Jewish perspectives, seems to be reaching for relevance as it pushes the credibility of the show and its characters to the limit. Touching on sexual addiction, polyamourous relationships, Air BnB (?), and binary/non-binary awareness – the show throws in a trip to Israel for good measure so we can go to the ‘motherland’.

What results, however, is that the built up good will for this family is all but lanced from proceedings as the characters descend into utterly irritating caricatures of themselves. The Pfeffermans aren’t nice people. They are selfish, self involved assholes who are paraded around here as though they are the beacons of the communities they represent. Of which, they aren’t. Luckily, the members of said communities the Pfeffermans interact with do come off better.

There is an ardent pretense to the way this season is written, an arrogance of righteousness that pervasively corrodes the essentials of solid narrative – you need to empathise or, at the very least, care about a character to stay on the ride.

Maura is a flippant egotist, Sarah is a sexed crazed nymph (her first scene is a sex scene and every subsequent plot point revolves around sex), Ali is a destructive, self involved flit whose crises of the week is identity this time around, and Josh, who physically looks really unhealthy, is as boring as the recycled story line he’s given to play. (Seriously, Jay Duplass looks exhausted and bored throughout the entire season). Only Judith Light’s matriarch Shelly comes off unscathed, namely due to her sidelined narrative and being the only character who seems happy to be alive.

A lame attempt at linking Jesus Christ Superstar to it smacks of desperation as the season builds to a fizzer of a closer and your left scratching your head as to why you bothered sitting through it at all.

Offering nothing new and desperate to stay relevant Transparent Season 4 marks the worst in the series and a telltale sign to the writers that a complete rebuild for the already announced seasons 5 & 6 is required to keep this puppy going.