Pan Am: When the Past Can’t Be Forgotten

PAN AM: 1.03 “Ich Bin Ein Berliner”

I’m really disappointed to see all the articles lately about how Pan Am has experienced a huge drop in the ratings on Sunday night because Sunday’s episode of Pan Am was definitely it’s best. So much so, that’s one of the shows that’s left me still thinking about it two days later.

The show shined as we watched through the tearful eyes of Colette, played by Karine Vanasse. Vanasse did  stupendous job with the role she was given, and I must say kudos to the writing staff for this episode as well. We’re in the 1960s, and to most of us viewers, WWII is long in the past. But to Colette, it wasn’t that long ago that the Germans occupied her home and killed her family. Every moment in Berlin seemed to make her relive the past (I loved her reaction to the groups running up the staircase), and despite JFK’s passionate speech, she wasn’t there to forgive and forget. She couldn’t.

Honestly, it was a brilliant portrayal, and I was absolutely enthralled throughout every one of Vanasse’s scenes. Her shaking voice as she sang at the party, almost spitting the bitterness off her tongue, was just so poignant. It was certainly a change from the past two episode of Pan Am, where all was concentrated on was what would happen Laura’s love life and the fun-filled paradise that is a Pan Am stewardess. This isn’t just a fun show with retro clothes. This is a real generation of people.

I almost wish Kate’s storyline hadn’t been in this episode. I didn’t want to be bogged down with what was happening with the CIA. I wanted to know what Colette would do next. However, I did love seeing other people’s reactions to Colette’s struggle. Laura was oblivious. Kate thought she was swelling with emotion until finally realizing what was happening in the final moments of the episode. But then there was Dean, who caught on right away (I’m loving their interactions, by the way).

And then there was Maggie, the JFK stalker. I guess this was supposed to be our comic relief, and I’m glad they did finally explain that she supported him and was supposed to meet him but missed her opportunity. It did give her fanaticism a reason. But really, I’m surprised she wasn’t carted off in a heartbeat, particularly for chasing the cars down across the lawn. Most Secret Service would have knocked her down in a heartbeat. It does show you how much things have changed.

My only complaint about Pan Am, though, is this interspersing of real events into the show so heavily. Mad Men does this to a degree, but they do it in a while that it’s really peripheral, yet introductory. You don’t really need to know too much of your history for Mad Men, but you understand the impact. Here, you really need to be pretty familiar with JFK’s presidency to understand certain scenes or their impact, and I worry that we’re a little too forceful. Fast forward to JFK’s assassination, where I’m afraid they’ll overplay this so much that you lose the emotional impact in it. That’s really the test of period pieces — that balance — so I do hope Pan Am treads lightly.

But if we get another episode like this any time soon, I’ll certainly be a happy viewer.


4 thoughts on “Pan Am: When the Past Can’t Be Forgotten

  1. I haven’t been watching this but I agree with you that Mad Men successfully intersperses its history in the background; it does this effectively, in a way that even if you’re not up to speed on the period, you understand the impact and implication. Nice observation that period pieces need to employ this kind of balance. I never thought of it that way, but you’re right.

  2. Great thoughts on the Colette storyline – I agree that it was brilliant. I actually thought that the Maggie and Kennedy plot was a bit absurd, but it provided a nice balance to the heavier emotional weight of Colette’s story. This was definitely the best of the three episodes, and I hope that subsequent episodes can be as good – and that some of the lost viewers come back, of course.

  3. Pingback: Pan Am: Without Colette, I Was Bored « Raked

  4. Pingback: The 2011 Awards: Part 2 | Raked

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