Feud: Bette and Joan really does has the misfortune of airing after the 2017 Academy Awards. After the sniping in the press and in person, Bette and Joan’s rivalry reaches a head in “And the Winner is… (The Oscars of 1963).” As you can imagine from that title, the episode covers the 1963 ceremony. Snubbed by the Oscars, Joan does everything she can to steal Bette’s limelight and Best Actress nomination. This might be the best episode of Feud yet, but the drama that Joan Crawford makes happen pales in comparison to the most recent Best Picture debacle with Moonlight and La La Land.
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How to Steal an Oscar
Joan can’t change the nominations for Best Actress. She doesn’t even try. Joan’s plan, though, is to make sure Bette doesn’t become the first woman to win three Academy Awards. Assisted by paparazzo Hedda, who still can’t help but feel like an exposition machine rather than a real character, Joan starts making calls to Academy voters. She campaigns for everyone in the Best Actress category to win but Bette. It’s petty and ridiculous, but Feud still manages to do a good job of making Joan Crawford sympathetic. She is a monster, but she is a monster who has been made by Hollywood.
It’s not enough for Joan to just make sure that Bette doesn’t win either. She decides to go with two of the younger nominees for Best Actress and ensure that she is front and center on the night of the ceremony. She calls up nominee Geraldine Page, who provides our obligatory Sarah Paulson appearance of the season; this is a Ryan Murphy show, after all. Joan bullies Geraldine and shames her into agreeing to allow Joan to accept her Oscar if she wins. Geraldine agrees to Joan’s sly demands, not because she is cowed by Joan but because she realizes that Joan needs this far more than Geraldine. It’s not exactly a subtle moment for Feud but is incredibly accurate.
In a much kinder scene, Joan goes in person to another nominee, Anne Bancroft. Joan is truly pathetic, dancing around the issue of accepting the award on Anne’s behalf while slyly insulting Anne. Anne knows what is going on and puts Joan out of her misery. She asks Joan to accept the award, realizing how much Joan needs to be special. Then to put the icing on the cake, Anne tells Joan that she should have been nominated over Bette. Joan might get what she wants, but it is Anne who is in control, whether the aging star realizes it or not.
The Shade of the Century
The night finally arrives. Besides showing us that the Oscars used to be much less grand and the speeches mercifully shorter, the highlight is Bette and Joan. Joan is in her prime, dressed up in all silver and feeding on the attention like a Dementor from Harry Potter. Bette is a nervous wreck, and we see her at her most vulnerable point yet. She wants this Oscar win, and it is hard not to root for her. When Bette gets wind of Joan being the center of attention backstage, though, she rushes to confront her.
The exchange between Bette and Joan as they come face-to-face is mostly wordless. (Joan wishes Bette luck, but Bette ignores her meaningless gesture.) The tension is so heavy and intense, though, that it doesn’t matter that no one speaks at all. For a story about their animosity, Feud hasn’t bothered to put Sarandon and Lange in the same scene very much. This quick and heavy confrontation is proof positive that when they are together, they do sparkle with the deepest animosity.
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Hollow Victory and Bitter Defeat
Bette and Joan’s backstage glare-down is just the coming attraction for the real fight: the announcement for Best Actress. Joan goes right from presenting the award for Best Director to traveling backstage in a loop until she is once again waiting in the wings besides Bette. When Anne Bancroft is announced as Best Actress, as Joan knew she would be, Joan breezes by a devastated Bette and accepts the award, raking in the attention.
It’s such a small and honestly silly thing, but Feud manages to make the moment seem larger than life and so horrible. Joan is somehow vicious in her gracious acceptance and Bette utterly destroyed. It gets even worse as Joan then goes to pose for pictures with the rest of the Oscar winners as if she actually won the award. (All of this really happened, by the way.)
While “The Winner Is…” has mostly been about Joan’s efforts to beat Bette, the episode does appropriately deal with Bette’s loss in the final moments. Bette is angry and hurt that she didn’t make history and win her third historic Oscar that she probably deserved. It is a sympathetic moment for Bette, especially since Baby Jane was the last great role of her career. As always, Feud does seem to paint the more tragic figure as Joan. Joan comes home with her “stolen” Oscar and places it against the one she rightfully won. She looks at them, and the sight can’t be any more pathetic to her and the audience.
From the first episode, it was always assumed that Sarandon and Lange were going to be nominated for Emmys for Feud. This episode cements it; both actresses are so amazing in each of their roles. Now it is just a matter of how they decide to poke fun at Joan and Bette’s rivalry and their Oscar drama during the Emmy ceremony.
What did you think? Was there enough Oscar melodrama in the episode? Who came off the best in the episode? Who came off the worst? Did Joan really cross a line here or should she have been nominated? 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)