Great Pretender – Episode 3

6 months ago 69

Hello everyone, and welcome back to Wrong Every Time. Today we’ll checking out the third episode of Great Pretender, where Edamura has at last proven his value to the team, by jacking up the prices of Laurent’s fake drugs. Having reaffirmed his talents as a swindler, Edamura at last seems genuinely comfortable with his new companions, and committed to their collective scheme.

Of course, from Laurent’s perspective, I can’t imagine Edamura’s rash actions have really changed his opinion of his new partner. Laurent seems less interested in this particular scheme than he is in cultivating a specific group of talents, and pursuing a more long-term ethical agenda. From his perspective, Edamura is an insecure kid with more ego than sense – unsculpted clay, with no real direction but a childish desire to prove himself. Edamura believes he can prove his value through his skills as a swindler; in contrast, Laurent has nothing to prove, but is happy enough to wield Edamura’s emotional levers against him. The two are an intriguingly mismatched team, and I’ll be interested to see if Laurent is actually invested in helping Edamura grow up, or simply use him as a talented but naive weapon. Let’s get to it!

Episode 3

With this show’s extraordinarily rich color palettes, even a goddamn fast food parking lot looks beautiful. The whole art design team for this show is just stupendous, and it seems they’re actually quite accustomed to working together. Director of Photography Kazuto Izumida and Color Designer Yuuko Kobari had previously worked together on Rolling Girls, another production renowned for its beautiful color work and background design. And both of them previously worked together with Art Director Yuusuke Takeda (the guy who made Eccentric Family look so good) on Dimension W. In spite of its narrative failings, Dimension W was an extremely pretty show, and it’s exciting to see that that art team is still collaborating when possible, and still pulling off great visual feats

The break between episodes is used to smooth over a staple perspective shift of heist dramas, as we shift from following Laurent’s team to following the undercover police team on his heels

“A man who sneaked into a big shot’s wallet and got big riches. Japan had the best con artist in history, too.” Edamura, the best con artist in history is someone you’ve never heard of – that’s what con artists do. But of course, Edamura isn’t really interested in acquiring wealth in the most diligent, reliable way possible. His every action is driven by his profound personal insecurity, his desire to prove that he’s made an impressive man of himself

“We’re not partners. We’re lone wolves. You can only trust yourself.” Abby clearly doesn’t have any interest in raising Edamura up into a capable, reliable teammate, and instead assesses him purely as what he currently is: a professional liability who is too soft, too erratic, and too egotistical to be relied on for anything

But instead of picking up and running, Edamura demonstrates both determination and a hint of cleverness, as he rents their target’s panned film saga and starts taking notes

Edamura’s play is really, really bold. He’s leaning far more into the character Laurent created for him, and attempting to develop a personal relationship with Cassano. Laurent essentially brought him on to wave and look authentically Japanese, but he’s gambling that he can get even more intimate with Cassano than Laurent – not a play Laurent himself would make, but exactly the kind of wild, overconfident stab you’d expect from Edamura

But it works! He gambled on one key point of vulnerability: that Cassano actually does care about his films, and feels some bitterness over how they’re only seen as a trashy cover for his other business ventures. Through that, he can forge a personal connection based on how much they both care about their work, but are never recognized for it

It certainly does help that their target is a sentimental movie producer. Learning what art resonates with someone can give you some useful insights into their motivation and worldview, in spite of what fandom would like to believe

“Double? That’s ridiculous.” “How much would you sell your child for?” He’s got him. Edamura’s extremely overconfident, but he’s also quite skilled, and sometimes you need to make the big play

Oh my god, Edamura just genuinely, earnestly loved Eddie’s terrible movies. I may have overestimated him

Eddie’s men are unsurprisingly looking into Edamura’s background in Japan – but considering this is Laurent’s plan, he’s surely got plants ready to confirm Edamura’s chemical genius. If he bought out everyone around Edamura to recruit him, he’s not going to skimp on arranging an airtight backstory for him

It’s a good way to ratchet up tension, though. Rather than escalating through new developments, heists often escalate through forethought – “I’d already thought of that” is defeated by “ah yes, but I thought you’d think of that!” and so on. If you think that’s a kind of cheap way to resolve conflict, you’re not alone – heist stories tend to be structurally flimsy, and more reliant on the magic of authorial misdirection than most genres

Yep, Laurent already had his collaborators in place

Ooh, this shot of the Cassano estate’s pool is wonderful. The distortion of the pool’s surface creates a nice organic contrast with the straight lines of the building, and the muted yellows of the interior light reflecting on the water create a nice sense of symmetry within the composition

“Let’s consider this bet a draw.” Once again, Edamura’s overconfident play is cleaned up by Laurent. Of course, Edamura takes this purely as a snipe, and seems unlikely to learn from the experience. I guess it doesn’t help that Laurent is transparently incapable of taking Edamura seriously

Detective Anderson of the LAPD has apparently been chasing Eddie for years

“You’re being watched by the LAPD!?” At the moment, Edamura’s naivety is actually one of his strengths as a con artist. He can react with earnest surprise to a fair number of obvious quirks of the trade, making his cover as a scientist with no experience in lawbreaking that much more convincing

“Will this be a car chase?” “We got a request.” Ah, crime

This chase scene is a nice flex of Great Pretender’s aesthetic congruence. Normally, car chases with these modern CG designs look pretty terrible – not only do the models not fit within their traditionally painted backgrounds, but the models themselves look rigid and unconvincing in the abstract. Here, the application of Great Pretender’s block color aesthetic on top of the CG models helps greatly in integrating them into the overall composition, while the contrast of bright lights and darkness also helps mitigate the distinction in visual styles. Great Pretender is a CG composite success story, and I hope other shows start mimicking some of its compositing tricks

I love how when the car spins, Laurent and Abby are just screaming in excitement, while only Edamura is genuinely frightened

As it turns out, even Anderson is on Eddie’s payroll

“The recipe isn’t what makes a first-rate dish. You need careful, thorough training.” It’s still a pretty serious strain on this arc’s credulity that Eddie hasn’t had anyone else test Sakura Magic. The show is asking us to believe that Eddie is a far more stupid person than would actually occupy a position like his, which in turn makes it harder to believe that our leads are actually super talented con artists. To prove a character is a great con artist, they have to con a target who’s actively prepared for them, not one who’s willing to take it on faith that he’s going to get a secret new wonder drug

Anderson’s operation has been taken over by the FBI, led by the preposterously named Pola Dickens

Ooh, I love this quasi-match cut of Dickens saying “make your choice,” leading into Edamura in a panic. Dickens and Edamura’s equivalent framing, and the titled angle of the composition, create a great sense of cohesion between the cuts, and amplify the sense that Edamura is considering the same question

Edamura stalls on actually creating the drug, claiming he needs better work conditions. To be fair, if he were actually making some kind of ecstasy or amphetamine-derivative wonderdrug, that would actually be true

This whole episode is basically the consequences of Edamura’s doubling down causing the operation to spin out of control. “We’ll sell you a certain quantity of a fake drug” was one thing, but introducing a production pipeline is adding a lot of risk to the scheme

Dickens claims Laurent is her target, not Eddie

Welp, now Edamura is stuck with Salazar. I’m frankly relieved to see Eddie at least taking some precautions here. He’s acting so carelessly swindle-able that I almost feel sorry for him

And Done

Well, we’re certainly deep in the scheme at this point. Frankly, it actually feels like the overarching scam here is the weakest part of this production – Laurent’s plan seemed improbable from the start, and every new episode asks me to suspend my disbelief even further regarding Eddie’s understanding of criminal enterprise. On the other hand, I’m actually really enjoying our deeper explorations into Edamura, Laurent, and even Eddie’s characters, while the show’s art team ensures that every new scene is a parade of visual wonders. I suppose the ultimate question is, does Great Pretender have a reliable narrative engine underneath that beautiful hood, or are we getting swindled as well?

This article was made possible by reader support. Thank you all for all that you do.

Read Entire Article