Victoria Walker enjoyed Praxeus, but has a note about an aspect of its reception
I think I speak for a fair proportion of people here when I say that Praxeus was a remarkably good episode. Pete McTighe was rather unfairly lambasted in the last series when it came to Kerblam! though I enjoyed that episode, despite the unsatisfying conclusion. McTighe is back again with another commentary on today’s society.
Praxeus, much like Orphan 55, makes a call to action regarding the state of the environment on this planet. Instead of general gloom and pollution, the message is kept simple, highlighting a less obvious problem: microplastics. McTighe allows the episode to stand on its message, which is a strong one. Many complained about Jodie Whittaker’s monologue at the end of Orphan 55, and I can see why. Praxeus sidesteps all of this by having the ecological devastation be only a catalyzing factor for the story, dipping into the dystopian territory of an almost worst-case scenario. The cause and effect is immediate and obvious, so the message is conveyed clearly. Similar cause and effect is also seen in The Airzone Solution, where Nick Briggs has used humanity’s air-polluting ways to make a statement surrounding privatisation and environmentalism.
Much of the discourse surrounding this episode has centered on Jake (Warren Brown), one of the main secondary characters. Many argue that he is a deconstruction of toxic masculinity. Unfortunately, I shall not bestow McTighe with the credit for this, no matter how brilliant I think he is. Jake does not so much deconstruct toxic masculinity as he does pay lip service to it. He’s supposedly closed off emotionally (which seems to be something he’s been working on anyway, given his openness to Graham), and he has certain ideals regarding protecting others. As far as I can recall these are the only substantial aspects regarding societal masculinity that are seen. This is unfortunate, however not unexpected. Proper vivisection of such portrayals of masculinity requires much more time and development than a single episode can provide. My main critique of this particular reading of the episode is that the narrative, to a certain extent, glorifies Jake’s attempted sacrifice at the end. I would like to spell it out: Jake attempts suicide to pursue a masculine ideal of sacrifice. It is a perfect example of a terrible expectation placed upon men by our patriarchal society, so I see little reason to hail this episode as particularly feminist.
A lot of people had hoped that with Chris Chibnall getting a secondary writing credit again, we might get some more series arc development. I am glad the episode was this good, so the lack of such development is in no way a disappointment. I very much enjoyed watching it, and it tackles an issue close to my own heart. I am similarly glad it chose to dispense with blame, and instead focused on consequence and fixing. The message is clear: it doesn’t matter who got us into this mess, pollution doesn’t discriminate.