'Black Monday' Plays With Its Conventions And Tackles Race
There’s a beautiful sort of symmetry that makes this episode a hallmark of the Black Monday universe. The same way Blair was a mirror for Mo’s life flaws in episode “295,” Tiffany is that for Dawn. Both Mo and Dawn sit adjacent of their respective mirrors at a dinner table in their respective episodes, offering advice that leads them to see the ugly truth of their own lives. Keeping that sort of continuity between two episodes with your two main actors, down to the setting of the dinner table, by leveraging a narrative convention you’ve sewn into the fabric of the show, is impressive storytelling.
Similar to how Mo began seeing the inequities in his life when he derided Blair’s newfound party life, Dawn begins to notice her own relationship’s flaws while dispensing love advice to Tiffany. She even mistakenly refers to Tiffany as “me” before humorously backtracking until she lands on “Tiffa-Me,” a funny and poignant reinforcement of the Dawn mirror.
In the same scene, Dawn also wears this catatonic gaze after Tiffany breaks down how the person you love can change so much one begins to fall out of love. Behind that stare, all of the firewalls and barriers Dawn places around the empathetic part of her brain, in order to work in her emotionally debased profession, broke down and she was deprogramming herself like a machine.
Similarly, Tiffany has an almost identical gaze painted on her face when her socialite friends admit thoughts of her calling off the wedding before she awkwardly repeats “call off the wedding” like a robot malfunctioning. She’s not only a reflection of every main character’s emotional instability but also a reflection of Dawn herself, in this episode.
Tiffany Comes Out
It may have taken seven episodes and 300 days in the Black Monday universe, but it was bound to happen. Tiffany Georgina had a vice-grip on viewers’ attention tighter than the one she gave Blair’s testicles in the series premiere, and for the first time, she is the main focus of an episode.
In this episode, Tiffany’s bachelorette party turns into a therapy session and is the perfect moment for Casey Wilson to showcase a bit of her acting range. She goes from pleading with Dawn to stay at the empty party with her face quivering in desperation to fully oblivious joy in a matter of a few facial contortions. Her cartoonish laughter turns into uncontrollable crying without changing the tone of her voice. Tiffany Georgina is a walking example of how easily the characters in this show can waver between emotional extremes.
Tiffany’s bachelorette party story arc is the finest use of Black Monday narrative conventions in the series, so far, in an episode that uses the 1980s the best.
1980s Tackle Race
‘80s pop culture stories like New York Giants legend Lawrence Taylor’s crack addiction and Nicole Brown’s fatal marriage to O.J. Simpson are fair game for ridicule on Black Monday. This week’s episode also utilizes the ethos of the decade to discuss race in the way only Black Monday can: by eviscerating the pop culture of the time.
The victim this time is 1984 romantic comedy Sixteen Candles. In Sixteen Candles, Jake Ryan offers high school freshman Ted the opportunity to have sex with his drunk girlfriend so Ted can lose his virginity. To Tiffany, Jake has a “heart of gold.” Rightfully so, Dawn responds, “That was in movie theaters and white people were just like…’cool‘?”
The writers drive home the racial divide that Sixteen Candles represents when Mo asks who Ted and Jake are, and Tiffany and Blair reflexively respond Sixteen Candles. Mo’s also the only person who mentions how the film was a “minstrel show” due to the stereotypical Asian character Long Duk Dong.
Black Monday doesn’t appear to make sweeping generalizations about the character of white and Black people. But instead, through the lens of pop culture criticism, it highlights certain questionable behavior, such as staged date rape, which certain cultures accepted as entertainment that others would not. That’s the sort of engrossing breaking of the fourth wall that will add to Black Monday’s first season’s replay value.
The Truth Might Set You Free
Episode “243” had the Black Monday cast racing towards its inevitable collapse. This episode shows the truths that could be their undoing.
So many bombs of truth are dropped at the end of this episode that it’s impossible for anyone involved to leave unscathed by the end of the first season. The plot-shifting truth Mo shares with Blair could crumble the entire Georgina Play. It also seems to have cost Tiffany her freedom. Dawn’s truth could liberate her, but crush her husband. In this episode, the truth doesn’t set anyone free as much as it makes them feel free, if even for a moment. But, it’s Keith’s truth that could potentially destroy the entire operation.
In a perversely touching sequence of events, we discover Keith is more comfortable with having his son implicated in his crimes than he is his boyfriend Miike. So, when Keith meets up with Mike at the end of the episode -- after seemingly being compromised by the SEC -- he tells him “no matter what goes down, I’ll always love you.”
On the surface, that is a sweet gesture but, Black Monday’s penchant for misdirection imbues that scene with an extra layer of mystery. Did Keith say that because he decided to become an informant? Did he say it because he chose money over love and actually implicated Mike?
Add in the fact Keith gives Mike the infamous tie pin worn by the person who will fall to their death at some point in the series, and the Black Monday writers have put the dominoes in place for something dramatic to go down in the last two episodes of the first season.