While the events in Feud: Bette & Joan episode 7 are not necessarily the end of Joan’s career, you can see them as representative of precisely that sort of thing. Joan proclaims herself to have an illness, but what she is suffering from is a case of serious heartbreak. All she wanted was to make Hush, Hush, Sweet Charlotte, and find a way to have her name and her reputation restored as one of the most prolific and powerful names in all of Hollywood.
Instead, what she found was an ego that refused to relent or accept the idea of being far down on the call sheet. Bette Davis was in complete control of the movie, and out for blood after what happened with the Oscars leading up to it. Joan found herself in a position where one way or another, she’d be humiliated. Either she agree to take a smaller role here, or find a way to storm off and not go quietly into the night. She chose the later, claiming an illness. She tried sidelining herself for a month and did everything she could to halt production. She assumed that the film needed her — she was Joan Crawford! — only to eventually realize that this was not actually the case at all. They could hire alternate talent, bring in some other people who were capable of delivering, and in the end, they got the ball rolling … and they handed Joan over a lawsuit to boot. They didn’t need her anymore. That was a painful thing to realize, but it was true nonetheless.
What made this even more painful was that Joan learned the ultimate truth while already hospitalized, and she ended up losing Mamacita when she threw something at her head for the second time. She’d been warned that this was going to be coming, and then she fulfilled that promise. Joan was, in the closing minutes, left fully alone and without any support.
The story of this episode may have been more straightforward than any one before it, and that was fine. This was clearly Joan’s story even more than any before and Jessica Lange owned every single second in which she was on the screen. She provided the pain, the power, and the bravado you would want from playing a woman in such a position. The thing about Feud is that when it’s going strong, it’s so good that you completely forget that you are meant to analyze something critically. It’s as solid and consistent a show as any out there, and in minimizing the story of Robert tonight, the show alleviated our biggest complaint with previous episode.
This was, in the end, fantastic television, and it depresses us greatly that there is only one more story left to be told. Grade: A.
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