How Episode 3 Hooked Me on Proof

Detail from the poster for Proof

I’ve been watching Proof. Episode 3 “Showdown” was on last week. Although I had no specific gripes with Proof, I wasn’t really hooked yet.

Joe Morton, Matthew Modine and Jennifer Beals in a scene from Proof

The cast is terrific. Joe Morton, Matthew Modine, Jennifer Beals – all pretty much wow. And there’s Dr. Tyler’s ex-husband played by David Sutcliffe, her intern played by Edi Gathegi and her daugher played by Annie Thurman – it’s all good. But that isn’t what hooked me.

Episode 3 hooked me. (There are spoilers ahead.)

A scene from Proof with David Chisum,  Ryan Robbins and Josh Cooke

These three guys show up in episode 3. On the right is Dr. Daniel Powell (David Chisum). The other two guys (Ryan Robbins & Josh Cooke) are undergoing a past life regression with him in this scene.

The episode opens with a battle during the Korean War. It’s being told as a past life regression story in a lecture being given by Dr. Powell. Dr. Carolyn (Cat) Tyler is there with her intern to “keep an open mind.” Dr. Tyler is skeptical of everything about the idea of finding proof of life after death, even though she agreed to investigate it. Past life regression is one of the things the billionaire played by Matthew Modine insists she investigate.

When the lecture ends, we learn that Cat and Dr. Powell went to med school together and have warm feelings for each other. As they exit the lecture venue, another man comes up and accuses the man who told the Korean War story of stealing it from him. Dr. Powell does more past life regressions with these two. We go back again and again to the battle scene, the two men, the explosions and wounds and soldiers falling. Finally, in a joint scene where the two are hypnotized together, we find out both of them were there in past lives, and they were in love. One said it out loud as he was dying, the other man couldn’t get the words out.

Hence, lingering emotional trauma for the past life regressions to dredge up. Dr. Tyler is watching all this and trying to keep an open mind, even though she thinks it is a crazy hallucination. Meanwhile, Cat and Daniel Powell have been reminiscing and flirting and talking a lot. They end up in a sex scene that was fascinating. Jennifer Beals made an L Word joke about it on Twitter, but I found it remarkable.

The scene opened looking over the surface of a still-made hotel room bed with sex happening on the floor on the other side of the bed. We see Jennifer Beals’ back as she raises up, some obviously sexual motions, the moving hands of the man under her and that’s it. No pounding music, no loud moaning, no heavy breathing. In fact, no kissing.

I hope other network shows look at this and think about what can be done with sexy scenes.Later we see them in the bed, talking, holding hands, touching. They are relaxed. This was not a sex scene for the male gaze (and this is from a male director, Alex Graves). I thought it was really sexy and hope other network shows look at this and think about what can be done with sexy scenes.

In this relaxed moment, the camera circles round and shoots them from above their heads, as if Dr. Tyler’s world is turned upside down. That’s when Daniel Powell convinces Cat Tyler to try hypnosis and regression herself.

The regression takes Cat Tyler to the day her son was killed in a car wreck. She was driving. She woke in the emergency room, frantic about her son. The whole memory is violent and chaotic and emotionally charged, with Jennifer Beals doing a stunning acting job.

The woman in the green scarf played by Gabrielle Rose

In every episode so far, Cat Tyler catches a glimpse of a woman in a green scarf. It’s confused her because she knows rationally that the woman isn’t there. She’s there again in the ER in Cat’s memory of the day her son died. Cat asks Dr. Richmond (Morton) about brain processes that could create a vision of something that isn’t there are he gives her a rational explanation.

When Cat comes out of the hypnosis, she literally runs from the hotel room. Outside on the sidewalk, she is almost brought to her knees by the impact of what she re-experienced.

There is really no way to actually know if there is life after death. I like that Proof isn’t taking a position on it. But here’s this science-based skeptic of a physician who experienced near death herself and who has now done this regression exercise. Her intellect and her emotions are in conflict.

Everything about Jennifer Beals’ acting in this series has been outstanding. Her skepticism, her confidence as a doctor, her concern for her family, her grief over her son’s death, her own near death experience, even her talent as a flirt – all believable and masterfully done. Her performance in this episode goes beyond that excellence into a category deserving recognition. Awards, people, I’m talking awards. And shit if I’m not good and hooked on this show.

So, tell me. What’s your reaction to Proof?

All Images @TNT

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