by Jeremy Grossman
Note – Jeremy Grossman is filling in for the normal “Pan Am” reviewer, Charles Mahoney, for this episode. Please excuse any differences in opinions of prior episodes.
“Pan Am” went in a different direction for its third episode, with the setting of the episode affecting its characters more so than ever before. While Paris was merely a backdrop to last week’s episode, the destination of “Ich Bin Ein Berliner” was Berlin, and the focus on a visit by President Kennedy linked the characters to a common plot and provoked the women in significant ways.
In the series’ most intriguing plot to date, the normally perky Colette suffered dealing with painful memories during her first trip to Berlin. Having experienced the Nazi occupation of France during her childhood, Colette found it difficult to share in the American enthusiasm for the people of West Germany. Karine Vanasse took both her character and the show to a new level of poignancy, exploring the depths of a woman who had more happening underneath her carefree veneer.
Kate, furthering her journey into espionage, had an intense plot, though one not nearly as strong as Colette’s, simply because there so much of the character is still shrouded in mystery. Befriending an East German spy who found herself in trouble, Kate yet again experienced firsthand the dangers of espionage. Yet, we still don’t know why she is so willing to risk everything for such a treacherous lifestyle. Kate clearly likes adventure — that’s why she became a Pan Am stewardess — but being a spy is much more than just an adventure. It’s potentially deadly. Currently, Kate’s “spy adventures” fit unevenly into the rest of the show, but if the character can be properly developed, her assignments will add a unique complexity each week.
Unfortunately, Maggie’s plot felt particularly weak in “Berliner.” Her obsession with meeting President Kennedy was downright goofy. Last week, her unorthodox behavior with an inappropriate passenger gave her strength as a character. This week, she appeared like a child, running rampant through Berlin, adding an unusually light tone to an otherwise serious episode. Christina Ricci is not to blame; it’s the fault of the writers, who are unsure of whether Maggie is a strong, independent woman, or a ditzy brunette who needs to always get her way.
Laura, the focus of the previous two episodes, took a backseat role this week, only occasionally appearing throughout. In her short amount of screen time, all she did was react to the flirtatious behavior of pilot Ted, a random relationship that was not at all properly fleshed out or hinted at thus far.
Despite any flaws it may have had, this episode was the show’s strongest to date, connecting the characters to one another through the common backdrop of Germany and President Kennedy. If “Pan Am” can continue to develop the rest of its characters, as has occurred with Colette, “Pan Am” will prove that it has staying power, and can be one of ABC’s most successful dramas. “Desperate Housewives” always sends its four ladies on their own individual paths, but “Pan Am” is interested in finding a common thread to tie the stories of each of its leads together. Hopefully this interesting trend continues in future episodes.
Jeremy Grossman is a contributing writer. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.