Sex & Death Collide In The Act's Virginity Loss Episode

PHoto: Courtesy of Hulu.
The Act has been building up to this. Depending on how you tilt the terrifying, inspired-by-real-events snow globe that is the haunting Hulu limited series, “this” could mean two very different things. On the one hand, the day of Claudine “Dee Dee” Blanchard’s (Patricia Arquette) inescapable murder has arrived with season 1’s fifth episode, “Plan B.” On the other, Dee Dee’s daughter, Gypsy Rose Blanchard (Joey King), long infantilized by her mom, has officially grasped the reins of adulthood. In a classic pop cultural turn, Gypsy steps through the threshold of womanhood by having sex for the first time. Virginity, be gone.
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By the end of the hour, it’s clear that from Gypsy’s point of view, Dee Dee could not live if Gypsy's own freedom was to flourish (or, even exist). It’s an outlook wrapped up in some of “Plan B’s” biggest moments, the fairy tales Dee Dee raised her daughter on, and aggressively repressed sexuality — just ask episode writer Lisa Long.
“There are a lot of moments in this episode where we’re seeing a point in time where things could have gone differently. Where Gypsy is almost desperate for things to go differently.” Long tells Refinery29.
The most powerful example of this fact is also one of “Plan B’s” most quiet scenes. Towards the end of the episode, Dee Dee tells Gypsy she owes her daughter an apology. Gypsy looks hopeful. Will Dee Dee, who likely suffers from Munchausen Syndrome By Proxy, finally apologize for trapping Gypsy in a series of unnecessary, painful, life-worsening diagnoses, and criminal scams? Or for barring her child from experiencing the richness of life, including new friends and boyfriends? Or for dragging Gypsy away from Nick Godejohn (American Vandal’s Calum Worthy) earlier in the episode? Nick did call the Blanchard household. Dee Dee does know they’re an item. She even gets a hint Gypsy and Nick are sleeping together.
Unfortunately the answer to all of these questions is no. Dee Dee apologizes for not letting Gypsy have a Dr. Pepper at the movie theater. This is is the final straw for Gypsy, who has already asked her boyfriend's alter-ego Victor to kill her mother. Especially since Gypsy's first sexual experience was so purposefully empowering.
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“It was important to us that Gypsy was the initiator. In many ways, this whole sex scene was her fantasy,” Long explains, “The BDSM role play also was empowering to her. It was a way to take her victimhood and turn it into something she could have control over — something she could derive pleasure from even.”
If you watch Gypsy’s movie theater bathroom-set virginity-loss scene — a locale cast without “judgment” Long reminds us — carefully, you’ll notice she’s the one who leads Nick. She flicks the lights off and announces, “Now you can kiss me.” She takes her dress off. She puts it down on the floor as a makeshift love nest.
“It’s a choice to go in a different direction and to be a different person — to be an adult. This show is so much about stifled and budding female sexuality,” Long continues. “Gypsy had to get there with absolutely no guidance, no healthy understanding of what [sex] means except for fairy tales, which, as we all know, are not healthy representations of female sexuality.”
In true The Act fashion, the show reveals the bleak underbelly of those delusional stories. Nick, Gypsy’s Prince Charming, is late to their heavily planned date. Dee Dee is terrified of Nick’s persistent interest in the Blanchards and runs shrieking from him in a movie theater. Later, she yells at him in a lobby. When Gypsy and Nick finally have sex, it’s a rushed hookup where viewers are left staring at Nick’s bare behind. Like many people’s first times, “it is both enlightening and devastating,” as Long says.
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The fingerprints of fairy-tale culture aren't limited to Gypsy's warped understanding of sex and relationships. You can also spot them all over her murder scheme with Nick — after all, Disney films are famous for their poor treatment of mom. “Think about all those movies. Most of them have absent mothers,” Long points out. “When I was writing this, I was wondering if that’s what Gypsy thought was going to happen: Her mom would just kind of go away in the way the mothers in those movies are gone. That’s what that meant to her. At least as we’re imagining her.”
This explains why Gypsy’s ultimate request for “Victor” to kill her mother has a fantasy bent. The two hammer out the specifics of the crime in an abandoned bus that is illuminated by bright red and black lighting. It's a setting clearly out of time and space, where any vampire movie would be comfortable. “It was important for us to stylize these moments between them because that feels truer to their understanding of what was going on,” Long explains. “Neither of them understood what it meant to kill someone in reality,”
As real-life events — along with previews for next week’s “A Whole New World” — prove, Gypsy and Nick aren’t going to remain that innocent much longer.
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