It’s a weird feeling, a series seemingly stagnant, its linear progression almost at a standstill, all while the depth and complexity of its central characters are cleverly layered, maintaining your interest and intrigue. For The Girl From Plainville, nothing could be more accurate. As the series progresses episode to episode, the case against Michelle Carter (Elle Fanning) gains traction, an inquiry turns to an indictment, and Michelle’s inevitable court appearance grows closer and closer. Yet, while the elements of the case are detailed and finalized, they fall to the background, more of the series’ filler than a front and center play-by-play of events. Rather, the series wants audiences to get to know both the young man who killed himself, as well as who the girl from Plainville truly is. Where crime miniseries have come before, focusing heavily on the crimes, The Girl from Plainville is committed to understanding its characters, allowing them a moment to be human.
Stating a Case for Empathy
“Mirrorball” continues its dive into the backstories of Michelle and Conrad (Colton Ryan), their stories both together and separate taking up a majority of the runtime. Opening on the two exchanging text messages, The Girl from Plainville continues to bridge the digital void, leaning away from showing text messages on-screen and bringing Conrad and Michelle face to face. While “Can’t Stop This Feeling” strongly leaned into this framework introduced early on, especially with its musical number, “Mirrorball” embraces it to its fullest potential. As the conversation between the two heats up, Michelle’s isolated binge eating comes to a pause, the two open themselves to the vulnerability of their relationship. Yet, as viewers will discover, there is a deeper meaning at play.
While The Girl from Plainville shows the intensity and power of text messaging – conversations always in hand – it shows how deeply it can reach and affect us. It also shows the isolation that it can create, emotions never truly seen or understood, while a persona takes hold. This opening scene of “Mirrorball” shows the true fragility of Michelle that she tries to hide not only from her parents, her friend Susie (Pearl Amanda Dickson), and from Conrad, but from herself as well. Viewers may have entered the series with preconceived notions with the first couple of episodes validating many of those feelings and assumptions. But as we have had the chance to understand Michelle, there is a sense of sympathy and compassion forming, one that “Mirrorball” drives hard in its opening scene.
The opening scene is vital to the success of the episode. While it does showcase the legal side more than previously, this is still Michelle’s episode. While her entire story is not fully revealed to audiences yet, the fractures in her self-esteem and psyche are breaking through. As it progresses back and forth between the past and the present, we see how much she truly does not understand who she is – and is seemingly wandering in search of herself. Many times it feels as though she is floating in and out of happiness, pulling back just as it seems she might be able to be happy – even if only for a moment.
Fanning captures this masterfully, her Michelle transforming before our eyes from presumed murderer to wounded teen. She transitions from past to present Michelle with ease, flawlessly executing each avenue of her journey. As Michelle reaches the episode’s end, our compassion and empathy grow as we see her grieve a brief moment of happiness as she embraces the Senior Prom Dance cascading into sorrow and potentially regret. For a series that seems to be looking to provide answers, it allows audiences time to ponder the questions.
A Case at All Costs
While viewers obtain a deeper look at Michelle, they are also given time to understand the case being developed against her. Leading up to the episode, there were friend interviews and text messages. “Mirrorball” brings a possible motive. The biggest mystery thus far is that of Michelle’s former friend Susie. We watched their friendship flourish through flashbacks, a devastating separation caused by Susie’s mother who thought they were spending too much time together and that Michelle was obsessed. As the series has leaned more into the relationship of Michelle and Conrad since Susie was banned from speaking or seeing Michelle, The Girl from Plainville has not forgotten her. As it turns out, she is at the heart of the prosecution’s motivation.
The prosecution does not only have text messages between Michelle and Conrad, but also between Michelle and Susie. As they formulate their court case, Susie and her mother are questioned about Michelle, with Susie’s body language clearly indicating there is more to the story than she can say. Even when her mother leaves, Susie has mere moments to speak to the prosecutor. It is frustrating to watch, as there is clearly more that is not being said. As the prosecutor claims Michelle encouraged Conrad to commit suicide to gain Susie’s attention, something feels off. It seems paper-thin as if the prosecution is grasping for straws.
The Girl from Plainville‘s “Mirrorball” is interested in relaying both information as well as an understanding of its players. We finally see Conrad and Michelle reunite after their first meeting in Florida, months of text messages giving deeply invested support between both of them. There is something rich that has developed, even if the vulnerability and knowledge of self hinder commitment. There is still so much to understand about Michelle and Conrad, their journeys are both different but their stories are forever intertwined. And as gentleman volunteers his services regarding the medications prescribed to teens, their behaviors, and the psychology plaguing them, the feeling that there is more to the story only grows stronger. And with three episodes to go, the series is in no hurry to fill in the gaps.
What did you think about the latest episode of The Girl From Plainville? Let us know in the comments below!
The Girl from Plainville premiered on Hulu on March 29, 2022, with new episodes every Tuesday!
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