TV Recap: The Slap, ‘Hector’ (Series Premiere)

Written by Aaron Sarnecky

The Slap

HECTOR PLOT SUMMARY:

Based off the Australian mini-series of the same name. The first episode follows Hector (Peter Sarsgaard), a New York government employee facing a potential midlife crisis. On the cusp of his 40th birthday, Hector is tempted to have an affair with his wife’s co-worker, Connie (Makenzie Leigh). In addition, he is forced to play mediator when his cousin Harry (Zachary Quinto) hits his friends’ son Hugo (Dylan Schombing) at his birthday party.  

It’s a little odd that the premiere of a show called The Slap focuses so much on Hector, instead of Harry, the one who does the actual slapping. Does this mean the show is dead on arrival? Not entirely. After all, it seems each episode will focus on a different character. Still, Hector is a questionable first subject.

Photo Credit: Jeff Riedel/NBC
Photo Credit: Jeff Riedel/NBC

Hector’s daydreams about cheating on his wife Aisha (Thandie Newton) is very film noir-ish. It’s strange but true. The affair alone fits into the genre. With the voice over (given by a narrator, admittedly), the dark urban setting, and the saxophone-drive score, it’s practically undeniable.

It’s a good hook, if you like those sorts of stories. While I am a fan of noir, this plotline feels disconnected, almost like it’s pulled from some other work of fiction. It’s also a little unclear whether or not these are his fantasies or memories.

With this plotline feeling so out of place, you might think putting it on the back burner solves the episode’s main problem. You would be half-right, because more narrative issues arise when the party guests arrive.

It’s no secret that this mini-series has an ensemble cast; NBC made sure of that. It’s undeniably full of talented actors and actresses. Unfortunately, most of the cast is introduced in the span of maybe two or three minutes, making remembering who’s who a real challenge.

There’s Hector’s father Manolis (Brian Cox), his mother Koula (Maria Tucci), his friend Rosie (Melissa George), her husband Gary (Tom Sadoski), their son Hugo, Hector’s friend Anouk (Uma Thurman), and, of course, his cousin Harry (Quinto). Actually, there are bunch of other characters, but I figured this is complicated enough as is. In fact, I’m not sure whether Anouk is Hector’s friend or relative.

They could have handled the introductions a lot better, perhaps if they were introduced characters before the party and waited to focus on an individual character in the second episode. Also, it would have been nice if there were fewer minor characters.

Photo Credit: Virginia Sherwood/NBC
Photo Credit: Virginia Sherwood/NBC

There are foreshadowing events up to the slap that add some meaning to the clutter, most of which show Hugo misbehaving. And to the show’s credit, he is a real brat, so I can at least understand why someone would hit him. There’s also scenes where his father and Harry argue, establishing that they don’t like each other.

Harry’s slap is easily the most interesting moment and it does feel genuine. Although it does come off as a little silly that Harry insists that he “had” to hit him, when really Harry just lost his temper. Peter Sarsgaard’s performance as mediator drives this scene. Too bad it leads to a goofy and inadvertent resolution to his mid-life crisis in the coming scenes.

Perhaps it’s appropriate that the way the episode ends highlights it’s weaknesses. Because, while Hector’s marital troubles are interesting, they just seem better suited for a different story.

Perhaps the show will pick up the pieces in the coming weeks, as it’s laid the groundwork for an interesting story. It all depends on how the show focuses on the other characters.

Rating: 6.5 out of 10 (Average)

THE SLAP AIRS THURSDAYS ON NBC

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1 COMMENT

  1. Focusing on Hector in episode one was brilliant, as I followed his every move just waiting for him to wallop SOMEONE. When – out of the blue – it was Harry in the background doing the deed I was completely shocked. That may have been the intent, as violence is so ubiquitous in our “entertainment” I may not have felt it with the same intensity.

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