11
Oct
2011
Pan Am: Season 1, Episode 3
Ich Bin Ein Berliner
Rachel
Pan Am continues its historical romp with "Ich Bin Ein Berliner," taking the crew to Berlin to see the famous Kennedy speech that gives the episode its name. As a nerd, I love that this show is becoming Forest Gump on TV (and if that's the case, Laura is the "slow" one, but she isn't all that lovable"¦).


Laura


The crew has a very busy sojourn in Berlin, "a 24-hour layover," as Ted calls it, shuttling journalists for the speech. Maggie, we learn, was active in Kennedy's campaign, and immediately begins her crusade to meet the president. Laura just gets caught up in the movement of it all, and Ted tries to take advantage of it by making a move on her (which she deflects. She has the potential to be a real person, but she isn't there yet). Meanwhile Dean is tasked with glad-handing some big wigs so Pan Am can expand its Berlin hub, and Katherine is tasked with picking up a message hidden in a first edition of Nietzsche.

Katherine

Katherine continues to face the danger of the job she has taken on as a CIA courier, which is starting to burst the bubble a bit. First she saw the dangers of not following instructions to the letter, as evidenced by Bridget. Now she encounters her doppelganger in German in intelligence, and becomes very aware of the fact that, unless she does something radical, this girl will be killed.

Colette

Colette, meanwhile, has to face her demons. She is, after all, French, and it turns out she was three when the Nazis took Paris, an event that she is still reeling from. The massive crowds and the running about trigger a wave of bitterness in Colette that unwinds in a delicate, repressed way, a way that is perfectly crafted considering it is decades after the war and the world has spent those decades attempting to actively forget the atrocities wrought by the German's during the war. Her heartbreaking admission to Dean that she "wasn't a special case" in losing her entire family, leading into the flashbacks of the invasion brought on by the mad rush during Kennedy's speech, are surprisingly well done. The episode uses Kennedy's words to perfectly correspond with Colette's struggle, as he discusses broken families at her most vulnerable moment. "He's not my president," she says, clearly bitter at how conciliatory the forgetful west is being in its single minded quest to take down anything that's even tinted red. Her stand at the party, towards the end of the episode, is a "La Marseillaise" moment a la Casablanca (which I almost expected her to sing instead of the German national song she performs, which she was obviously forced to learn as a child during the occupation). Colette never gives a big political speech on her feelings and motivations. Instead, they unfold subtly, through her personal pain. Even when she does make a public display, it is one that externalizes her personal struggle. Her real story is told only to Katherine, on the empty plane in New York, and it isn't vitriolic, its vulnerable and genuine and shows her strength of character, even as she struggles.

Here is wear Pan Am thoroughly outpaces the soon-to-be-defunct The Play Boy Club: the stewardesses, like the bunnies, face the iconic nature of their occupations, but the stewardesses, most prominently Colette, manage to balance their roles at work with their personalities in a way that is convincing and compelling. The bunnies never stopped seeming like caricatures, even in their falsely tender personal moments, whereas I would love to travel the world with the Pan Am stewardesses.
Dean and Colette

Colette has pretty firmly solidified her position as my favorite character. I do wish, however, that she'd had more time with Dean this episode. But I guess its good, rather than playing out that whole thing too quickly. He saved her when he had to, leaving the door open for some continued interaction. Their little chat on the stairs was just enough of a teaser to hint at some more development of their relationship in the future without being overbearing. I hope this blossoms first into a strong and close friendship instead of moving directly into something romantic. Fingers crossed that Pan Am continues its expert handling of this relationship.

A Maggie and Colette centric story is great, seeing as they are by far the strongest characters at this point. The show is doing a great job in recognizing its strengths: Maggie at the forefront, Colette next, followed by Katherine, with Laura at the rear of the story. It is interesting that this mirrors the hierarchy of the flight crew, which seems like a subtle way to keep Pan Am at the center of this shindig.

Maggie

Maggie's zeal to meet Kennedy is amusing throughout the episode, if not as compelling as the Colette story line. Her ingenuity, her drive, and her passion are what make her adorable. And the fact that her dreams were initially crushed because she took a mistimed bathroom break is hilarious. "I just want to thank him for making us realize that each of us can make a difference," she begs an Air Force One security guard. And I believe her. On a quick personal note, I recently took a trip down to the Occupy DC protests (one of the many similar movements taking hold across the country, namely Wall Street), and was surprised to see that, of the sixteen people lined up to discuss the substantive topics taken up by the "committees" the movement formed, only 2 were women. I can only imagine what activism looked like for a woman in the early 60s. In the end, she gets to see the President, if only from afar. While my roommate was particularly dissatisfied with this, I was happy with how the show handled it. If she actually got to shake Kennedy's hand, the show would have veered too far into completely unrealistic dream world. And this will, hopefully, keep Maggie hungry for more in the political realm.



Grade: A-

The Little Things:

O Ted, you're such a cad. Got over your crush on Maggie pretty quickly, didn't you?

"This is my third assignment!" "This is my SECOND!"

Dean is the perfect pilot to play ambassador

"Did they teach you to lie? Because you're not very good at it."

"Your ancestors probably danced in Versailles." O Dean, you're cute.

Kudos to Kate, sticking it to her intelligence contact: "So just follow orders? You're actually telling me that here?" This is one of the many subtle moments throughout the episode that pushed the history past simple idealism to reality. Kennedy's speech, while monumental, also had a dark side of conciliation that made many (including Colette, obviously) uncomfortable

I haven't made a final decision on how I feel about this episode's use of flashbacks. The show has done it before, particularly in the pilot, but this episode really went to town with the technique. It is an interesting way to approach character development, and highlights the show's general concern with and focus on historicity. But I can see this going south if it becomes gratuitous

Tags: Pan Am
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