Nathan Fielder pushes himself to places that very few comedians would even dare go. On his show, he’s risked breaking the law, falling off a building, and even made serious attempts in bringing down big business like Starbucks and Uber. His face is always predictable, but his actions are never. He seeks the awkward moments and gets his comedy out of them in impressive ways. Almost like a modern-day Andy Kaufman, but with a little more structure. The brilliance of Nathan Fielder is we never know when he is playing himself or just a version of himself. He is known to play this “serious-business man” caricature of himself in the show who convinces people to do outlandish stuff, but in Finding Frances we believe we finally get to see the real version of Nathan that we haven’t got a chance to see yet. That changes very quickly once Finding Frances hits the half-way point, and soon we begin to realize that he may be pranking us this time. Or maybe not. Who knows?!
Where in previous episodes, we seem Nathan push himself to dangerous places mainly for comedic purposes and “helping” the small businesses he has set out to turn around, in this episode we see him go to deep places for the sake of real human emotions that we rarely see on camera nowadays. There are scenes and moments in this 2 hour special that are deeply personal and very hard to watch, and a new type of “awkward” that we have not quite seen yet on this show. This episode also is very rich in themes. His 2-hour season finale is not only a depiction of love, loss, and tragedy, but also on just life and existence. However, love might be the key theme here. Fielder explores all the fascists of love, not just he joy of finally finding a lost love, but also the dread in never finding someone who loves you the same as an ex did. As the specials goes a long, Fielder explores the idea of not just love, but being in love with the desire of being in love.
While watching Finding Frances I was conflicted with many different emotions at once while watching it. At times I was laughing hysterically, other times I felt very awkward and tense. Should I be rooting for Bill to find his long-lost love? As we find out more about him, it makes things much more complex. Things go in very different, unpredictable directions that end up benefiting the entire special as a whole. When we find out that Bill lied to Nathan about being a professional Bill Gates impersonator, just so he can greedily have a spot on television, it takes a turn on both Nathan and us as audience members. We realize that Bill is not someone to be trusted, and maybe his feelings for Frances were made up as well and just a stunt so he can have an entire episode dedicated to him. Bill pretends to be someone he’s not to gain recognition and acclaim, and I can’t help but question myself in the process, and I know lots of other people feel the same way after watching this. Are we all just being caricatures of ourselves to survive in this world? We can’t help but empathize with Bill, despite the deeply flawed person he has become, because he’s a person that has refused to face reality. He’s flawed, but his flaws are very relatable which makes him such an intriguing person to watch.
After each Nathan For You episode, we are always questioning whether specific comedic events were planned or just miraculously happened on camera, and that is the joy in watching the show. However, in this particular episode (documentary?) were are left wondering whether what we see on-screen is real human emotions, or just fake fabricated circumstances for our own viewing pleasures. We are left questioning at the end of this episode, just like Maci does, what is the purpose of all this? It’s ambiguous in ways, that makes it almost like an art house film.
If this were a film, then Frances would be the “macguffin.” The special is called Finding Frances, but it becomes so much more than that, which is really what amazed me so much about this. It exceeded my expectations, because my expectations were something else entirely, and it was still better than what I thought would happen. This is truly one of the best episodes?, documentaries?, movies?, I’ve seen all year. This and Twin Peaks: The Return, and Master of None have proven that television is not so far behind film as far as content and originality is concerned. There is a blurred line between what can be depicted as a movie/tv episode. Before long, television may be the new reigning medium in our culture. If television keeps producing things like this, and movies keep producing unoriginal sequels and reboots, I wouldn’t be surprised at all.