I have been a big fan of Transparent since it first premiered. It's a show that really makes me think. It expands my mind and pushes me to broaden my approach to the world.
It's also the most accurate account of life in a Jewish American family that I've ever seen on television or in a movie.
Season four was released at the end of September and this time we accompany the Pfeffermans on a family trip to Israel. Maura is invited to give a lecture based on one of her books and Ali tags along.
*SPOILER ALERT! Do not read on if you do not want to know any of the details of season four.*
A truth bomb is dropped during episode three, when Maura discovers (through a random comment from a stranger) that her father, Moshe, is alive. Maura's mother (who we've only really gotten to know in flashbacks) told Maura and Bryna that he had died. Well, turns out he is alive and kicking in Israel. And he's a millionaire.
Moshe offers to fly the entire clan over from Los Angeles, setting into motion a disastrous and dysfunctional "vacation." If you have ever traveled to Israel, there are so many things you'll relate to and find familiar - the tour buses, the bus security guards (who have always had some kind of badass role in the Israeli army), the copious amounts of vegetables, hummus and schnitzel served at every meal, the shock of entering the Dead Sea (Rocky bottom! Incredible floating ability!), the dizzying experience of visiting the Kotel (the Western Wall) for the first time - they really captured it perfectly.
I've given a lot of thought to the best way to share my thoughts on this season and I think it makes the most sense to go character by character.
Maura - Maura (formerly Moppa, formerly Mort) is played with such tenderness by Jeffrey Tambor, who won a Golden Globe for the role. In season four, Maura is much more comfortable in her own skin. She is thrilled to be traveling to Israel to speak. In a cute moment, she is furiously sticking labels to the covers of all of her books (which originally said Mort Pfefferman).
This season we see her pursue a relationship with a man, a first for her and something her family embraces (in their own self-centered way). There is also one scene that is impossible to shake, where Maura is stopped by airport security after her body scan reveals "questionable genitals." This show brings real humanity to these moments that happen around us every single day. It's an important reminder to always lead with kindness, not judgment.
Shelly - Actress Judith Light brilliantly plays Maura's ex wife, Shelly. Known for her frenetic energy and pushy personality, she becomes larger than life this season when an improv class puts her in touch with her alter ego, Mario. Mario is Italian, he's super macho, regularly grabs his crotch, curses and eats giant subs.
In season four, Shelly also moves out of her retirement community into Josh's house. You can imagine how well that's going.
Josh - Speaking of Josh, the Pfefferman's middle child spends much of this season in a sex addicts group. Those conversations spark him to hallucinate his former babysitter, Rita.
Josh is basically in a bad mood the entire season. I really miss him with Rabbi Raquel.
He does have one particularly touching moment during the Israel trip, where he encourages his mother to come into the Dead Sea, though she is paralyzed with fear.
Sarah - It's always a toss up for me, which Pfefferman sister annoys me more, Sarah or Ali. This season I think they were actually both a bit more subdued. In this installment, we find Sarah and her ex-husband Len back together and they've formed a relationship with a third person, Lila.
Those threesome scenes are definitely not safe to watch in a public space (airplane, train, bus). You've been warned.
Ali - The youngest Pfefferman originally joins the Israeli trip as Maura's wing woman, but finds herself exploring two much deeper conversations. The first is around the Israeli / Palestinian conflict and the second is around her own gender identity. For the first three seasons, I found Ali pretty intolerable, but this season, she had much more vulnerability.
There is also a scene in one of the early episodes of the season where she discovers her former professor (and lover) has written a poem about her that is unflattering and ends with the phrase "farting forks." I almost spit out my water.
Overall, I found this season of Transparent really captivating. Creator Jill Soloway is tackling a lot of issues and doing it in a thought-provoking way. Soloway was featured in the September issue of Glamour magazine talking about her own gender identity. It's worth the full read if you have an extra five minutes.
Did you binge season four? What did you think?