George & Tammy (Miniseries) Episode 1: Country-theme isn’t everyone’s thing. Even with biopics’ indisputable appeal, you may just be put off by the people Showtime’s new miniseries has chronicled unless you’re already somewhat intrigued by the country-music monarchs George Jones and Tammy Wynette. The only other reason you would give it a fair shot is if you, like most of us, love seeing a real-life bad romance commence, escalate, deteriorate, and eventually, albeit inevitably, burn out. And that is a track that George & Tammy has not just covered but shrewdly prioritized. It is, after all, the cursed tale of the two famous stars who forgot their demons for a while in love but ultimately lost the race when the demons caught up.
Abe Sylvia gives Jessica Chastain her second Tammy in two years, and that too with two biopics. Her performance as Tammy Wynette largely evokes the fingers-crossed kind of wish that the Chastain era doesn’t end anytime soon. Not to be too “A star is born”– Chastain’s Tammy noticeably eclipses the immaculate George that Michael Shannon is.
Dramatizing the ebb-and-flow of the wild relationship shared by the two artists who changed the course of country music and made history, George & Tammy tries to stay as close to real events as possible. Only necessary liberties taken by the script end up serving as essential stepping stones for manifesting who George and Tammy really are underneath the glamour.
George & Tammy (Miniseries) Episode 1 “The Race is On” Recap
Drunk out of his mind, George Jones (Michael Shannon) barely has the sense not to flush dollar bills down the toilet, let alone the motor skills to get out and perform for the crowd that has gathered to hear the star summon the mightly blues. But he does manage to come out–barely–and with the help of duct tape, keeping his knees straight. Nonetheless, the soul he pours out through his music on stage is hardly revealing how inebriated he really is.
In the crowd stands the star-struck Virginia Pugh, who now goes by the name of Tammy Wynette (Jessica Chastain). Married to the opportunist Don Chapel (Pat Healy), who plans to make a name riding on the gravy train of his wife’s charm and talent, Tammy puts the success of their family band over her own. Born to a father who had commanded her mother to nurture any musical talent she may have, Tammy has dreamed of making it big with her singing for as long as she can remember.
When Tammy meets George, it is hardly a meet-cute. She walks into his hotel room to find more beer bottles than anything else, and two women wake up with the drunken rockstar. “I haven’t taken a shit in three days” happens to be the first thing she hears from her idol, who isn’t quite convinced to let her family band open for him. And it is perhaps her perseverance that he takes notice of, if not her strong stomach, that makes him think what the hell and give her a shot.
Making a spectacle of himself with his toxicity in all its glory, drunk George shoots up the tour bus to let some air in. Rescued from the side of the road by Tammy, he goes the rest of the way in her car. What’s surprising coming from a man like him is how good he is with her kids. On stage during rehearsals, Tammy makes space for Don’s giant ego, but her singing shines bright enough for George to take notice.
It’s his songwriting that Don wants Tammy to push. So when he eavesdrops on George and Tammy and overhears him flirting with her, he knows that his songs will go unnoticed. Don leaves with his shattered ego and takes the band with him just before Tammy is about to go on stage. Getting the perfect opportunity to play Prince Charming, George joins Tammy with his guitar and a voice that would melt an iceberg. After the show, it’s not just his old bus that he gives her, but also his heart.
Clearly unable to keep away from Tammy, George shows up at the recording studio as the teary-eyed Tammy sings D-I-V-O-R-C-E. Playing it smart for a minute, he entertains Don about his songwriting, and whether it is because he wanted to get closer to Tammy or that he genuinely was impressed by his writing, he does end up singing one of his songs. The little book of George’s songs that Tammy keeps now has her husband’s lyrics in it.
George & Tammy (Miniseries) Episode 1 – Ending, Explained
George realizes that Tammy isn’t one for infidelity. Another reason why she wouldn’t leave her husband’s side is that she has been made to feel grateful for what he has done for her. With his marriage ending, however, George has nothing stopping him from pursuing her. In new love’s hopeful delusion, the troubled alcoholic singer feels that he can be a better person if he gets to be with her.
The confrontation comes their way when George invites himself to their house for dinner. With Don’s passive-aggressive dysfunction seeping out, Tammy can feel the tension growing. When George shows up at their door, Don is at his worst, trying to overcompensate for his failure with a braggart show of laughably fragile masculinity.
At dinner, he bullies his own kid for having his elbow on the table. Suddenly, table manners are essential for the house he runs. The struggle for masculinity is palpable at the dinner table, with George trying to defy Don’s authority by making a joke out of his table manners speech. Tammy’s attempt at diffusing the escalating tension is struck down by a terribly misogynistic remark Don throws at her.
With nothing stopping Don from gradually making it worse, he ends up asking George if he wants to have sex with Tammy. Perhaps he expected denial or even shame. But George comes back with a shockingly affirmative reply. “She’s a lousy lay” is the breaking point of George’s patience. Already peeved by alcohol withdrawal, George’s ego couldn’t sit around and let a man degrade the woman he loves. Breaking the toxic masculinity meter with a table flip followed by a chair thrown through the window, George asks Tammy to leave with him and bring the kids that belong to her. “It’s not gonna be a fairy-tale’’, yells out Don while Tammy and George are getting out of the driveway. “Will you love me when I’m old?” asks George. And she said yes! Settle down before you get your hopes high for the love birds. If they only knew any better, they would take Don’s last words as an inalterable premonition.