The first season of Starz’s The Girlfriend Experience was one of the boldest premium-cable jobs in years, a half-hour drama with the same title as a film nearly nobody saw: a 2009 Steven Soderbergh indie feature around an escort relocating through a civilization of obnoxious finance males. The TV variation had nothing to execute via the movie conserve for the alternative of an escort as protagonist. Its initially season fused nearly pornographic erotica with facets of the corpoprice and legal thriller and the emotional drama; the creating and direction channeled classic 20th-century art-house flicks favor Persona and also The Passenger. Soderbergh served mainly as a creative matchmaker, pairing two well-concerned indie voices — veteran writer-director Lodge Kerrigan (Clean, Shaven) and actor and also short-film maker Amy Seimetz (Stranger Things, The Killing) — then stepping aside. The initially seaboy starred Riley Keough as Christine, a regulation clerk, regulation student, and trick contact girl whose trysts attracted her right into a corporate conspiracy, publicly humiliated her, and pushed her to question her identity and consider remaking it. Kerrigan and Seimetz co-composed eincredibly episode and took transforms directing (Seimetz did six, Kerrigan seven). Although the show’s analytical style could be off-putting, its central performance was mesmerizingly opaque, and also its rigor was fascinating. Seaboy one was a rare TV drama that revealed psychology with activity, be it as visually spectacular as an extensive sex scene or as mundane as Christine nervously establishing down a drink after being warned by a client’s wife never to go close to him aobtain. The finale, which unravelled like a compact one-act play, detailed simply one of Christine’s appointments through a john obsessed through a cuckold fantasy; it was filled through images and also lines that served as a commentary on the acts of storytelling, filmmaking, and performance, including discussions of word choice and intocountry in the time of sex talk and a shot of the client opening motorized home window blinds that was framed to evoke curtains rising on a phase production.

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Seaboy 2 is an experiment of a different type. The winning team has actually split up. Kerrigan and Seimetz have each created their very own half-hour, seven-episode series that are being presented as conexisting yet sepaprice occasions. Successive installments are paired on the exact same night over salso weeks. But whether this plan was expected to spark associations in between the narratives or ssuggest confirm that the filmmachines were artistic equates to who’ve been given their very own sandboxes to play in, it doesn’t add much to the viewing endure, because the jobs are so various in topic matter, visual style, tone, and also worldview.

Kerrigan’s “Erica & Anna” is half–mental drama, half–political thriller, set in Washington, D.C. (actually Toronto). The city highways and eerily unfurnished interiors are photographed with ruthless compositional exactness and also occupied by cruel and/or desperately unhappy civilization. The major characters are Anna (Louisa Krause), an escort who caters to political forms, and Erica (Anna Friel), a high-powered operative who funds races through a super-pac. The 2 end up being entangled as soon as Erica convinces Anna to aid her in a blackmail system. Then Anna and Erica loss in love, and the story becomes a tale of sex-related and also emotional obsession. Kerrigan’s script alternates edgy discussions of the major characters’ relationships with graphic sex scenes (between Erica and Anna and Anna and also her clients) and also scenes wbelow Anna tries to navigate a facility congressional race in which obscene amounts of money and also power are at stake.

Unfortunately, Kerrigan never convinces us that the carnal facets of the series (including a full-on, visible blowtask — a pay-cable first?) are integral to the expedition of Anna and Erica’s psychologies. You can skip at leastern fifty percent of the sex scenes and not lose important plot indevelopment — a marked comparison to the original The Girlfrifinish Experience, which deepened narrative and character each time Christine had sex or masturbated. Neither these nor the intense scenes of Erica and also Anna flirting, fighting, and also breaking down in cathartic tears ever before fully attach via the stuff around money, national politics, and money-in-politics. Regardless of completely committed and often superb performances, neither Erica nor Anna come alive as recognizable humans. The exact same is true of the guys, the majority of of whom are ethically hideous Ayn Randian right-wingers gassing about the glories of project creation and the ingratitude of the undeserving negative. It’s clear that Kerrigan was going for somepoint other than naturalism below, and that the series’s misanthropic vision of Amerihave the right to life (which would be misogynistic if the director didn’t seem to hold the men in better contempt) is integral to whatever he’s doing. But despite effective individual scenes and also sequences, the series’s larger vision never before snaps right into focus.

Seimetz’s story, “Bria,” is even more involving. Carmen Ejogo stars as the title character, a New Mexico–based arms dealer’s wife who drops a dime on her husband and goes right into witness defense via her ex’s bratty teenaged daughter, Kayla (Morgana Davies). Tunde Adebimpe, lead singer of TV on the Radio, plays U.S. Marshal Ian Olsen, that is assigned to safeguard Bria and collection her up in a new life that has a project in a soft-drink factory. In what might be the only allude of narrative call with Kerrigan’s series, Bria is a former escort, and when it becomes clear that her brand-new task is all wrong for her and that she will never have sufficient money to live as comfortably as she wants (or enough to escape, have to she require to), she starts seeking clients aget.

This is just a little part of the tale, though — a truth reflected in the method Seimetz shoots the sex scenes, maintaining the actors clothed and fixating on Bria’s reactions and also motivations. Like the original GFE, though through a various setting and also in a various genre (the witness-defense thriller, wherein the protector drops for the witness), this one is around a beleaguered and also overextended woguy taking stock of her life and asking exactly how she came to be who she is, what she desires, and just how to obtain it. The story drops apart close to the end, and the whole series feels truncated and scattered; the emphasis appears sometimes misput, especially in the last 2 episodes, when the story, which had actually been maintained on low simmer for the first four episodes, picks up warm and also boils over. But Ejogo’s transparent performance, the character’s sympathetic predicament, and also Seimetz’s structural choices (such as building an episode approximately Olsen’s perceptions, and shifting the moment structure roughly to conceal and reveal information) are consistently engaging and sometimes brilliant. Overall, the two series add up to an uneffective but fascinating experiment. The following question Starz need to ask is whether Seimetz and also Kerrigan work-related better together (on this show, if not on their own projects) than acomponent, and also if so, whether the correct solution is to ask them to sign up with forces aobtain or hand also the next season to someone brand-new.

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*A variation of this post appears in the November 13, 2017, problem of New York Magazine.