Amazon's latest original series leaves the viewer wanting of nothing; a classic modern story sublimely executed.
Transparent leaves no box unchecked. Engrossing web of storylines? Check. Perfect handling of urgent social issues? Check. Gorgeous aesthetic, addictive piano soundtrack, faultless script? Check, check, check. It’s no wonder that Jill Soloway’s creation landed a win at the Golden Globes this year, and is nominated for a smorgasbord of other upcoming and prestigious television awards.
Telling the story of Maura, the transgender matriarch of a family that sits perfectly on the line between troubled and believable, through ten half-hour online episodes, watching Transparent feels more like watching a segmented film than a television series. The advantage of streaming services’ original content comes into play here: the series is made for people who are already interested. There’s no filler episodes, there’s no shoehorned-in guest stars, there’s no ‘here’s what you missed last time’. The result is an intelligent and compelling drama that doesn’t patronise its audience, and is all the better for it.
Jeffrey Tambour leads a stellar cast as vulnerable Maura – it’s refreshing to see a protagonist in a drama aimed at 20-somethings who is not only transgender but is also of the older generation. Amy Landecker, Jay Duplass and Gaby Hoffmann provide the younger voice as siblings Sarah, Josh and Ali – each perfectly cast as their gorgeously well-developed characters. The series balances screen time between each character well – while Maura’s story drives the narrative and forms a common plot strand for the whole family, the show has an ensemble feel overall, moving from storyline to storyline seamlessly. The final three of the ten episodes drop the pace a little – the series really climaxes in the seventh episode, ‘Symbolic Exemplar’, followed by an eighth episode set entirely in a flashback, which is somewhat frustrating. However, it’s worth pushing through to the end, and the series closes leaving the viewer hungry for a second series to appear on their Amazon account.
Following the successes of Netflix’ original series Orange is the New Black and House of Cards, Transparent brings Amazon to the forefront as a worthy competitor for audiences’ streaming subscriptions – and between the two services, it’s very much looking like this might be where we start to look for the best of new television.
Transparent is available to view on amazon.com, and is free for Prime subscribers.