Until now, Feud has been a weekly source of enjoyment with plenty of humour, fun and memorable star turns from it’s glittering cast. This week however, the show has upped it’s game and delivered an episode of truly outstanding television. For the first time since the series began I found myself audibly oohing and aahing every twist and turn and being truly gripped and engrossed from start to finish. In a similar vein to Ryan Murphy’s last series ‘American Crime Story – The People v OJ Simpson’ the tension created in this episode was palpable. I was watching with baited breath as the winner of Best Actress in a Motion Picture 1963 was announced despite the fact that I already knew the outcome. Ryan Murphy has a real talent for making an audience invested into something they already know plenty about.
In terms of plot the episode focuses entirely on the 1963 Oscars. Bette is up for Best Actress and the word about town is that she’s going to win. Joan meanwhile is not only furious not to have been even nominated but seething at the fact that Bette looks the most likely candidate to win, to combat this rage she and Hedda decide to damage Bette’s odds of winning by playing a game of ‘good cop, bad cop’ with Hedda spreading hateful gossip about Bette while Joan plays it sweet by ringing and congratulating other nominees.
Despite their best (or worst) attempts at sabotage, Joan still feels hurt, neglected and wronged by the Academy and in what is arguably the only scene in the episode that portrays Joan in a favorable light, she breaks down to Hedda on the terrace. Thus, the infamous plan for Joan to accept the award for Best Actress is born with Hedda promising her that she will be the one walking out with an Oscar.
The two deduce that neither Katharine Hepburn or Lee Remick are going to win and so Joan focuses her attention on Geraldine Page and Anne Bancroft played by Sarah Paulson and Serinda Swan respectively. Both actresses do a wonderful job in what are essentially one scene wonders (both could easily be contenders for Best Guest Actress Emmys.)
Sarah Paulson plays hurt so well, she did it to critical acclaim in The People v OJ as Marcia Clarke and does it again here as Geraldine Page. We see her for a single scene (excluding briefly in the Oscar montage cold open) and in that scene she manages to get us the audience to like Ms Page and feel bad for her as Joan manipulates her over the phone.
Serinda Swan was a new face for me but just like Paulson she made the most of her limited screen time and gave an outstanding performance. Unlike Page, Anne Bancroft seems a lot more steely and not too dissimilar to Bette, however unlike Bette she is sympathetic to Joan and agrees to allow her to accept the Oscar on her behalf should she win.
Meanwhile we have a nervous Bette being supported by Catherine Zeta-Jones’ Olivia de Havilland who becomes more than simply a talking head this episode. Catherine Zeta-Jones is actually underrated in Feud as far as I’m concerned, her lengthy monologue at the beginning of the episode is mesmerizing, I could have listened to her talking about feuds (be it Bette and Joan’s or her own feud with sister Joan Fontaine) for hours. This episode will surely be her Emmy nomination.
The Oscars is a great set-piece and as a bit of an Oscars junkie myself, watching the arrivals of all the golden Hollywood stars was a great scene, but the finest scene of the episode (and possibly the whole series) is that of both Bette and Joan waiting backstage as the winner of Best Actress is announced. That gut punch moment was captured perfectly and the look on Susan Sarandon’s face was incredible. It’s a moment you’ll want to watch over and over for sure.
Where the series goes after this will be interesting. Bette will no doubt be a woman more than scorned and as we see Joan sitting lonely in her bedroom with her two Oscars the question on everyone’s lips will surely be was it worth it? Next week’s episode will tell…
- Joan Crawford was doing the silver hair thing looooong before the hipsters made it cool/annoying.
- I love the subtle shade thrown at Katharine Hepburn by Hedda and Joan, they really dislike anyone with more than one Oscar don’t they?
- I hope we see more of Geraldine Page and Anne Bancroft but I get the impression this episode will serve to be their cameos
- Bette v Joan: well, I think it goes without saying that it was a rough week for Bette, Joan most certainly takes this round. Bette 3 – Joan 2
- Whatever happened to…the supporting cast? Bob, Pauline, Warner and Joan Blondell were all absent this week and even Mamcita was reduced to only a few lines. I daresay it didn’t matter too much this week since we got more of Olivia and two new characters in Geraldine and Anne.
One thought on “Vital Viewing – Feud: Bette and Joan Episode 5”
Great post and well written!