Like many viewers, I’m still not entirely sure what HBO‘s The Rehearsal is. Is it merely Nathan Fielder having a goof or is the Canadian comic getting off on his insidious power over other people? Or, as Vox reports, could Fielder be playing with Kabbalistic ideas to make a larger work about religion? I don’t know! But I do know that I am both enjoying The Rehearsal as a wild journey down a rabbit hole of reality and that Angela might be the most compelling characters I’ve seen on reality TV since psychic Alison DuBois e-cig-puffed her way through a Real Housewives of Beverly Hills dinner spouting all sorts of chaos.
Spoilers, but in The Rehearsal Episode 5 “Apocalypto”, Nathan confronts Angela about the fact that she is breaking the reality of The Rehearsal when he’s not around. Angela decides to leave The Rehearsal, but Nathan stays on to raise “Adam” as a single Jewish father. Where The Rehearsal’s final episode will take us, who can say? But Angela deserves some sort of kudos. Whether her actions were sincere or scripted, Angela made for a superlative sparring partner for Nathan Fielder. In fact, she made The Rehearsal weirder and more uncomfortable than Fielder ever could alone.
The Rehearsal is a new HBO series from Nathan Fielder, hitherto best known for his bananas Comedy Central show, Nathan for You. In that show, Fielder would help a struggling business owner by coming up with an outlandish plan. The whole situation would be filmed and the process often exposed strange, hilarious truths about human behavior, corporate tomfoolery, and just how awkward it is to be alive. The Rehearsal takes these themes to the next level. Fielder goes beyond the business and mines the personal. He creates meticulous re-enactments of stressful real life situations to help subjects conquer their anxiety about what’s to come. However The Rehearsal has started to lean more and more into exposing Fielder’s own carefully guarded self.
In The Rehearsal Episode 2 “Scion,” Fielder works with Angela, a 44-year-old single woman who has put off motherhood because the circumstances haven’t been just right. She has yet to find her ideal partner and still lives in a small city apartment. Fielder sets up Angela’s dream life in rural Oregon and hires a rotating cast of infant, child, and teen actors to play her son, “Adam,” at various stages from infancy to 18 years old. When an attempt to set her up with a domestic partner fails, Fielder steps in for the sake of The Rehearsal.Â
Well before their partnership devolves in Episode 5, it was clear from Episode 2 that Angela might be the first person Fielder, for all his tricks, can’t tame. The camera captures the devoutly Christian woman praying and her prayer is one that shows just what kind of formidable personality Fielder is dealing with:
“I just pray Father that you would place your hand heavy upon this production, heavy upon Nathan. That even if they think they are choreographing or guiding this process that they will see that it is not them, that it is you, God. You are the one that holds the world together on its axis, Father,” Angela whispers to the heavens.
Angela not only maintains in prayer that Fielder is not in control, but also ensures it with her actions. She consistently makes it so Fielder is putting in the bulk of the work around the house and manipulates the socially awkward comic with her soft-spoken, smirking manner.
In Episode 5, the two finally reach a real impasse when Fielder’s parents point out that it is weird that they are raising Adam in a Christian homeschool system when Fielder is Jewish. (One of his most iconic Nathan For You episodes creates a North Face-esque leisurewear brand that stands for never denying the Holocaust.) When Angela refuses to balance Adam’s upbringing with both Christian and Jewish traditions, her antisemitism leaps out. She essentially tells Nathan that he’s evil and even goes so far as to praise the films of Mel Gibson!
Fielder embarks on a wild plan to sneak Judaism into Adam’s life. He tells Angela that Adam has swim practice, when in fact he is visiting a Jewish tutor. When the tutor learns about the situation, she attempts to face Angela for herself. That goes poorly and Angela’s insistence that the Jewish faith is wrong is hands down more uncomfortable than anything Fielder has ever done.
As if that wasn’t enough, Fielder learns that when Angela is alone, she is breaking character, goofing off, and not taking his beloved, sacred Rehearsal seriously. This is the true breaking point for Fielder, who awkwardly confronts her (after Rehearsing the conversation with an actress cast as Angela).
“It seems like maybe when I’m not around, you don’t care so much about the reality of the experience. Yet when I’m here, you’re very controlling about what I can experience in it. Does that make sense?” Fielder asks Angela.
“Oh….” Angela says, with a weirdly smug grin on her face. “It definitely does. Mmm hmm.”
Angela goes on to passively aggressively â or maybe just aggressively? â blame Nathan for her actions. She says that she wasn’t given enough direction and that she could have been more of a collaborator, even though the whole point of the life was acting out her dream life. Angela then says she thinks it’s a “good time to bring closure,” in her chipper, controlling way.
Angela is the rare “Nathan Fielder character” that truly came close to exploding my brain. Throughout her run on The Rehearsal she was simultaneously a type of person I had never met before and one that I knew must exist thanks to the proliferation of Christian mommy influencers on the internet. She would make bizarre claims, like how both Google and Halloween were satanic, with total conviction. She’d wiggle out of arguments with a breathy claim of victimhood. She would pull fully grown grocery store-bought veggies from her garden without blinking.
There’s also the chance that Angela is a character created for a larger Rehearsal, the one that might be for Fielder to confront himself. Angela hasn’t been the only antisemitic subject Fielder has had to encounter in this short season of TV, and it seems that Angela is representative of the women Fielder has had relationships with. Maybe he didn’t date or marry (and divorce) hard core Christians, but women who would dominate the romance. At least, that’s what we learn in Episode 5.
By episode’s end, Angela is gone. Nathan has decorated the house in Hannukah decorations and taken control of his own Rehearsal. What’s next? I’m excited to find out. But whether she’s a perfectly cast actress or real person, Angela was certainly a TV character for the ages. She had me laughing, screaming, and mesmerized by her every move.
The post Farewell, Angela! You Made ‘The Rehearsal’ Weirder Than Nathan Fielder appeared first on Decider.