Feud: Bette and Joan has always played fast and loose when it comes to the time between episodes. In this episode, which is wonderfully titled “Hagsploitation,” there is the biggest time jump yet. This is mainly because Bette and Joan, as two women who hated each other, didn’t see much of each other after Baby Jane. The success, and controversy, of the movie is in the past when this episode picks things back up.
A whole genre, the aforementioned “hagsploitation,” has formed, but Bette and Joan’s careers are even worse off than before. So it is time to bring the two women together for yet another horror picture that is eerily similar to What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? — and, once again, the sparks fly.
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While Bette is in the “wasteland” of television, Joan is trying recreate the magic of Baby Jane on the silver screen. As always, Feud is much more concerned with Crawford’s life than Bette’s. We are fully immersed in seeing the actress selling her soul doing B-movie horror. Joan is dressed up like a joke to promote the movies, and it’s pathetic. It’s almost sad enough to almost feel sorry for Joan when she throws something at the head of actual human angel Mamacita in a fit of drunken and bitter rage. The key word is ‘almost.’
Joan has far more to worry about than just making bad movies. She is visited by the exposition queen, Hedda. Hedda tells Joan that she is dying of a heart condition and she just has one final request. This isn’t an effort to make Hedda a sympathetic character in any measure, however. Hedda quickly informs Joan that there are rumors of a “stag picture” (aka porno) of a young Joan floating out there. Hedda wants details and warns Joan that the truth will get out eventually, but Joan denies it all. Even in (almost) death, Hedda is nothing more than a plot device.
What Ever Happened to Baby Jane Cousin Charlotte?
These rumors cause Joan to agree to a movie that she has no real desire to do otherwise. Bob Aldrich, who sadly returns to Feud in this episode, comes to Joan (and Bette) with his new movie, What Ever Happened to Cousin Charlotte? Cousin Charlotte is almost exactly like Baby Jane albeit set in Baton Rouge, but Joan is playing the crazy family member and Bette is the victim. It’s clearly not a recent development that Hollywood loves to repeat success stories.
Bette and Joan are determined to make Cousin Charlotte different than Baby Jane, however. For Bette, this means more creative control on the movie, a pretty reasonable and admirable goal. For Joan, it is just about being more famous and visible than Bette, proving that she hasn’t learned anything. It is frustrating how much Feud focuses on Joan, but she is arguably the more interesting character. She just can’t seem to get out of her own way. Bette is far from perfect, but she is at least presented as a lot more stable than Crawford, and there’s probably not a lot of story there for her.
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A Little Bit of Deja Vu
They might want different things out of Cousin Charlotte, but Bette and Joan do agree on one matter. They want to work together and try to be civil. They pull it off … for all of two minutes. In a rather extraordinary table read scene, Bette and Joan work in tandem, feeding off each other and making Cousin Charlotte into more than just the cheap cash-in it is destined to become. The two can’t resist taking cheap shots at each other, though, so their friendly harmony dissolves quickly and in real time.
It is deliciously campy, as all scenes between Crawford and Davis have been, but it also feels extraordinarily real. Joan and Bette are larger than life, but their hatred for one another is so very human and so very sad. Once again, Feud establishes that Joan and Bette could be an amazing creative duo if they just got over themselves a tiny bit.
Things get worse between them once the movie starts filming. Right before everything sets off, Bob Aldrich’s wife, Harriet, finally decides to get out of the bedroom, where literally all of her scenes have taken place thus far. Free of the covers and her pajamas, Harriet decides that she also wants to be free from Bob. She announces that she wants a divorce, which shocks Bob. Bob is now an unmarried man. This allows for the icky chemistry between Bette and Bob to be even more obvious but just as icky, much to Joan’s horror. Joan knows for a fact that she is not going to be the favorite on the set. It’s on this cliffhanger, which isn’t really a cliffhanger, that the episode ends.
“Hagsploitation” is very much a transitional episode for Feud. It’s the beginning of a new phase for Bette and Joan’s fight and in many ways feels like a brand-new pilot for the series. There’s plenty of promising things set up, but it is all just potential. It’s far from satisfying as a standalone episode.
What did you make of it? Are you looking forward to watching more of the making of Cousin Charlotte? Are you disappointed with all of the focus on Joan or is she the more interesting character? Let us know what you think in the comments section below.
Feud: Bette and Joan airs Sundays at 10/9c on FX. Want more news? Like BuddyTV’s Facebook page.
(Image courtesy of FX)