Story problems

Previous Jack and Jennifer post: The scene of the crime

Since I keep saying Jennifer’s rape storyline is flawed, and then posting all the best scenes from it, you might wonder what the heck I am talking about. So I thought I would devote this post to talking about some of my frustrations with this story.

Some of it is just tonal. The show jumps back and forth between comedy and angsty scenes like the ones I’ve posted, without always showing a throughline between the two. For Jack, it works. He’s such a buttoned up character I believe he could bury his pain about being called a rapist by Jennifer and act much as usual. But Jennifer is not like that, so for her to be agonizing about the rape in one scene and then exchanging witty banter with Jack in the next feels off.

But, I would say my main problem with the story is about the lost potential. Most of the lost potential is on Jennifer’s side of the equation, that has the effect of weighing the story toward Jack and making him the star of Jennifer’s rape story. It didn’t have to be this way. There are lots of interesting issues this story could raise for Jennifer.

This scene is a case in point. The premise is rife with meaty potential. Kayla and Jennifer talk about Jack! And rape! Wow!

Jen and Kayla talk

But the writing just isn’t there. In fact, it’s so bad that I wonder what they were thinking. Keep in mind that this is the only scene where Kayla and Jen ever talk about rape. And this is all we get!

First of all, why would Kayla bring up the Crossfire segment (where Jack debated with another reporter whether a rapist could ever reform) at all? And given that she did, why would she bring it up and say it must have been hard on Jennifer? In what universe is that logical?

Then, Kayla goes on to say that she got over the rape when she realized she couldn’t shut people out, that she had to go back to work, go places, see people? What? She has no idea Jen was raped, so this “advice” on how to get over a rape is totally out of blue. (And, since I have watched Kayla’s rape storyline, this completely generic summary borders on the nonsensical. No way Kayla would sum it up this way.)

And I have to criticize Missy here. Clearly she had no idea how to play this scene. She is talking about rape, and Jack, to the person that Jack raped. She should be, at the very least, extremely uncomfortable. But instead she plays it with a smile. Nothing to see here, people!

I can believe these two wouldn’t necessarily have a heart to heart about this. (Though I think it could be a powerful scene if they tried.) But this gets to the heart of the lost potential of this storyline. The refusal on the part of the show to let Jen see Jack differently, to question whether she can be with him, to see more clearly the side of him that did this horrible thing. What Jen should be wondering about — not necessarily asking about outright, but wondering about — is not how Kayla got over a rape, but how she got over Jack raping her. Does she really think Jack has changed? How does Jennifer reconcile the Jack she knows now with what she knows he’s done?

Jack always accused Jennifer of being in denial about who he “really is,” not being able to accept all of him. And we saw that there was some truth to that. So this story should have afforded Jennifer a chance to have that denial cracked, back off for a bit, and then be able to come back to Jack and appreciate, perhaps more fully, how much he’s changed. And that’s just not what happens.

You can watch Jack’s segment on Crossfire here. Matt Ashford is amazing.

Next Jack and Jennifer post: Capable of cruelty


2 thoughts on “Story problems

  1. I’m pretty sure you know I agree with you on this. šŸ™‚

    They did some really good scenes in the rape storyline and I never want to discount those, but overall the story suffers greatly from the failure to really delve into Jen’s POV about Jack – not just how she might view him after her own rape, but also any anger she might have had about feeling like she couldn’t share her trauma with him because of his own history. And by giving less focus to these aspects, the story inevitably becomes much more about Jack’s reactions than Jen’s. Not only with things like the “rape slap” and it’s aftermath, but just how much Jen is focused on keeping Jack from finding out because of “what it would do to him.”

    And this scene above is one my biggest disappointments. It had so much potential to touch on something raw, but really didn’t. Instead, Kayla’s response become a more general PSA about rape recovery. It would have been much better if Kayla had been slightly upset about Jack’s statements on the show (after all, it’s not a secret who he raped) and have Jen react to that in a much more realistic way.

    Basically, the storyline is troublesome to me because they decided to “go there” without having the guts to really delve into it. And no amount of good scenes can quite make up for that for me.

    • I think you put it perfectly when you say that we don’t see any anger from her about not being able to share her trauma with him, because of his history. When I say there are interesting things to explore from Jennifer’s side, this is the kind of thing I mean. I don’t mean anything as simplistic as “I can’t be with you now that I know how awful rape is.” It’s not like she ever thought rape was not a horrible thing. But not being able to confide in him would make her feel very alone, make her own pain worse, and that would naturally create anger and resentment.

      Actually, my fantasy of how this story could play out is that Jack’s reactions to the “rape slap” would be from finding out about the actual rape. He would be telling himself “she’s better off without me” and she would be angry that the first time she really needed him, he wasn’t there for her. Is this relationship going to be all about her supporting him, and never him supporting her? Then they would both jump at the opportunity to get Lawrence (finding the gun, getting the letter, the whole train adventure), with Jack motivated by avenging Steve AND Jen. He would be trying to do something for her, while still believing she’s better off without him, and she would be angry at him but accepting his help if it means she’s more likely to get Lawrence. They end up cooperating even though she is still very angry at him, and of course the whole adventure draws them closer …

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