Easy Money: a really troubling episode of due south that I don’t know how to begin to parse and fit together.
It’s got so many odd parts that don’t seem to go together, except… except. If we look back from Fraser and Quinn's dialogue at the end of the episode. I guess the episode is maybe about letting other people make mistakes, and trusting that they will see them for what they are? But it’s also about weighing up what is good against what is lawful, or what is righteous against what you can live with, or what will let you live.
Or, or. What else? It’s about picking your battles and your battlegrounds.
But all of these ideas make it hard to reconcile Ray’s plot to the rest of the episode. His plot is mostly about his parents, who have come for a surprise visit. And early in the episode, he tells Fraser that his dad did not want him to become a cop. He said that his father thought that... he'd have the stink of bad people on him — the same as his father has the stink of the meat packing factory on him.
Except his plot is also about Fraser. Ray spends a lot of this episode asking Fraser if he’s ok, explicitly worrying about Fraser… and Fraser seems uncharacteristically vulnerable. There’s something about them that is very close, and almost soft.
Except except except. The weird third act action movie, where Ray has to play hostage negotiator, worried friend, and wily cop. Where he has to decide based on his own instincts what call to make. Where he is convinced that playing by the rules — by treating this like a movie, by playing by the script for how this should play out, he could get Fraser and his friend shot, or worse.
All of this is Ray’s plot, too. It’s about care. Concern. It’s about softness and vulnerability, I guess. He’s very vulnerable, too, when he tells Fraser about his parents.
How. Do we. Reconcile. This. What is the episode saying?
I don’t even know how to begin to tackle the plot with Quinn. I am not sure I like what the episode is saying. I am not sure I know what it is saying, although I think I know what it’s trying to say.
No, my capabilities pretty much run out at Ray Kowalski. So let’s think again about his father telling him he will have the stink on him of bad people. But this is an episode where Ray is pretty explicitly helping other people — and specifically he is taking care of his best friend, and his best friend’s mentor. Early in the episode, Ray asks why Fraser has to be responsible for Quinn, and Fraser explains mentorship… which is when we learn about Ray’s fraught relationship with his father. His father is not his responsibility, he says.
And then we see the way that Fraser and Quinn have helped each other make mistakes and the right decisions alongside them… as a kind of equitable relationship. They help; they don’t take responsibility for each other’s actions.
And we see that for all that Ray doesn’t know how to talk to his father, his father does not know how to talk to him. And they both want to try. Ray’s father has brought him his car, all the way from Arizona. They stare, in unison, at the car engine. All the little things that make it work; things that Ray’s father taught him, and that he has taken care of. For Ray. as well as himself. The car says more than his father does out loud (he speaks through the car). But.
Again; it’s about care. It’s about what you do for other people. Ray’s father working in a factory job he hated, dreaming of a better life for his son. Ray, taking care of his friend; first by negotiating with the guy who has him hostage, and then jumping in through the window with a motorbike (because that scene was an ACTION MOVIE). Fraser, letting his friend make the “mistakes” he needs to make — not turning him in for having stolen goods. Even if he keeps annoyingly being like “I know you will do the right thing!” he is still letting Quinn make that choice.
And of course the problem here is that Quinn's “mistake” is trying to sell on some jewels he stole from a jewel thief, who stole them from the power company who are about to flood the village he lives in. He wants to sell the jewels in order to get a lawyer to fight for his village. This is a mistake, Fraser believes. but he will help him anyway.
And so for a lot of the episode, we think that maybe Fraser cares more about this corporation and its stupid jewels — or at least the laws governing them — than his friend’s life, home, way of life. It bums me out. But then we get this exchange:
Quinn: I’ve failed.
Fraser: How do you see that?
Quinn: It’s hard to think of my land being under 100 feet of water and not see it as a failure.
Fraser: You know there’s a…a short entry in one of my father’s journals that reads ‘My adversaries appear ready to listen. I’m nearing victory.’ And that entry was written the day before he was shot.
Quinn: Your father acted heroically.
Fraser: Yes. But he’s not here. At least uh… [He looks around] He doesn’t appear to be.
Quinn: I wanna thank you Ben.
Fraser: For the jewels? You would have returned them anyway.
Quinn: How do you know that?
Fraser: I know you.
Quinn: You do, don’t you.
Fraser: Yes I do. You let me make one of the biggest mistakes of my life.
[Canada. Young Fraser is poised to shoot. The caribou turns towards him and looks at him. Young Fraser shoots. The elation on his face quickly turns to distress.]
Fraser sees his resistance to this plan as - not about the interests of the corporation, but about his friend's safety and freedom. As I read it, there is a reversal here, a revelation?
And yes. what does this come back to? Care. The analogue here is that Quinn continuing to take on the power company would be like his father. My adversaries appear ready to listen. And to Fraser this is a dangerous moment of vulnerability, and one that is too dangerous. By selling on the jewels to a fence for money to hire a lawyer, Quinn would be opening himself up to many other modes of attack — one of which, in the form of a violent jewel thief, actually comes for them in this episode. And it also shows that both Fraser and Quinn understand that fighting the power company would be the heroic thing to do. But also. It is already lost. Fraser does not think it can be won.
It’s bleak and in the wider context of Native American & indigenous & First Nations peoples in North America fighting against pipelines and other forms of power company control and exploitation of lands in 2018 I think… god. I do not like this take on politics. This hopeless fight, this learned hopelessness, enforced by supposed allies, the way there is no alternative offered, no movement, just this one man with no means.
But in the context of the episode, this is where it comes down to the point. The dichotomy here is not so much about lawful vs good. It’s about taking care of those that you love. It’s about stopping them from taking a shot they can’t win, or letting them do something they’ll regret if they need to do the thing, and not abandoning them at any stage of the process. So we get Ray Kowalski, renowned asshole, spending an episode worrying over Fraser's hand and pleading to be the one to negotiate for his life. Nobody in their right minds would let Ray Kowalski, who often alienates everyone he loves, be the person to deal with a volatile criminal on the phone. But Ray knows the stakes, and is somehow attuned to them, to the criminal, and to Fraser; at this moment, he takes care. Ray often performs best under this kind of pressure; as long as he is able to engage to some degree on his own terms, as long as he can see what he's doing... and here it’s not about his quest for justice at all means, or the letter of the law that drives him. It’s care for his friend, whom he loves.
And so the episode ends with Ray’s parents and their mobile home, waiting for Ray outside the station. And it ends with Fraser and Quinn, talking about what they can save and what will only kill them if they try. And it ends with a horrible, dredged up memory… the memory of Fraser getting exactly what he wanted, the thing his twelve year old bravado told him was the most important thing: a kill. A hunted caribou. And the caribou stares at him and it dies horribly and excitement turns to ashes in his mouth.
It goes back to that idea about what is brave. What is the big manly thing to be doing. And what is not brave, what does not fit that idea of bravery, but will preserve life. What is the difference between bravery and care.
What else does this episode mean, then? Is it be careful what you wish for? Is it you needed to make this mistake early so you didn’t make it again? Well, it is that. but it’s also, I think, about gentleness. It’s about these men learning to care for each other. And the episode has problems that I can’t (and don’t want to) smooth over. But it also has so many tender moments. It’s a strange, strange thing. Fraser almost falling from a building. The sudden terror. Who knew he could feel terror? The strain of it? And what saves him is friendship, and trust.
“I know you… you let me make one of the biggest mistakes of my life.” There’s something here too about the intimacy that vulnerability and care creates, and how it splits both ways. And as this is a show about, well, partnership… it’s worth keeping in mind. You were there when it was bad and you’re still here now. you gave care when it was hard. Thank you.