“Bright and High Circle”, the fifth episode of The Romanoffs, finds Diane Lane’s Katherine Ford in an awkward position. The episode, written by Kriss Turner Towner and Matthew Weiner, is a snapshot of the telephone game, of what happens to someone when the worst is thought of them after simply a little hint. It’s a snowball effect, as more people knowing only leads to worse things being considered.
The episode comes at a time where believing someone or defending someone is a red hot topic, written in a way so your particular thoughts on the subject play on how you will view the episode. It’s where a general dislike or unease of someone can paint an overall narrative, where these characters look for things to connect the dots of the overall person being in totality bad from the start.
But the way in which it’s told is almost tongue in cheek, a sly satire about privileged inner workings as it dives down the rabbit hole of immediately thinking the worst of someone. It’s played straight at other times, which can cause some emotional whiplash of not knowing the tone the episode is going for entirely.
This is all incredibly vague due to spoilers. But what isn’t vague is how “Bright and High Circle” has a degree of reality in it, with Weiner’s own accusation, and also the initial ties of The Weinstein Company to the project. It does feel a little bit like a comment on guilty until proven innocent, where the image of someone is tainted the moment something unsavory is tossed into question without all of the answers. For that, the episode has some unfortunate ties and will likely get bogged down by this. But for those watching the episode purely as 71 minutes of entertainment, it has some merit in its performances and comments on higher class lifestyle. One such moment comes at the opera, a nice little visual gag which is quick and fun.
Lane is a measured and direct presence in the episode, where her turmoil is driven by trying to be as delicate as possible with those around her. Lane plays this nicely, and does an admirable job. Ron Livingston, too, is a composed performer here, though more of Livingston would have been useful given how rarely he appears and how interesting he can be in those instances. Andrew Rannells is wonderful in the episode, given some quick but memorable moments, at one point playing the piano while reminiscing over the power music can have. It’s a touching moment, and makes him one of the main standouts of the episode.
“Bright and High Circle” is a tough episode to read fully. Based solely on its subject matter and what the episode offers, it is a fine episode but doesn’t really offer as much as episodes that came before it. Adding to that the wonder if it has something else to say for personal reasons, it can give “Bright and High Circle” a general feeling of uncertainty. It’s an open question and won’t be solved by this episode here.
The Romanoffs: “Bright and High Circle” airs on Friday, November 2nd on Amazon’s Prime Video.