Elena's silhouette with a setting sun in the background

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We jump through at least 2 or so years as Elena gets married and has her first two children while struggling immensely in her personal and professional life.


Aired 3/21/2022
Network HBO
Directed By Daniele Luchetti
Written By Elena Ferrante, Francesco Piccolo, Laura Paolucci, Saverio Costanzo
Introduced This Episode
Mario Eugenio Di Fraia
Mrs. Galiani Clotilde Sabatino
Clelia Rebecca Fanucchi

Recap

The End Of The Engagement And Early Years of Marriage – Pietro, Elena, Pasquale, Nadia, Mrs. Galiani, Mario, Lila

Even before they walk down the aisle, Elena’s relationship with Pietro is rocky. He doesn’t support her going on the pill, and alongside that, after they are married, the sex is satisfying at first, but in time, she grows to feel separate from her body during sex. She even notes it lacks sensitivity. Though what makes things worse is the isolation. After being invited to Mrs. Galiani’s house, Nadia’s mom, and getting into it with Nadia and Pasquale, with Lila not backing her up, then comes a conversation with Mrs. Galiani. She props Lila up, despite Mrs. Galiani inviting Elena, with Lila being spoken of as a welcomed addition if she could come.

Mrs. Galiani (Clotilde Sabatino) talking to Elena
Mrs. Galiani (Clotilde Sabatino)

Mind you, Lila is bored of Mrs. Galiani and everything she says, but with Elena being the one who produced a book and has done so much, Lila stealing her thunder effortlessly is bothersome. And while Lila tries to be supportive, recognizing that Elena was affected by the series of conversations at Mrs. Galiani’s house, Elena gets in her feelings and not only doesn’t invite Lila to be a witness but doesn’t see Lila for years.

But, if it is any consolation, Elena does meet Mario, a charming engineer at a surprise reception. He compensates for the whirlwind of her wedding day, which ends with her sleeping with Pietro and becoming pregnant on their wedding night.

Dede – Mario, Pietro, Elena, Lila, Clelia

Though she had sworn off seeing Lila, this didn’t stop Elena from calling her. But with Lila talking about childbirth and pregnancy as if it is the worst experience of a woman’s life, Elena decides it may not be best to call her brilliant friend. Instead, she just enjoys her pregnancy and the miracle of childbirth. Which was all well and good until she realized Pietro wasn’t going to be much of a father. Instead, he would let Elena do all the work and, when she complains, talks about getting one of their mothers to help, which is a non-starter for her as she’d rather hire help.

Now, you might be thinking, what about Lila? Through a series of nightmares, Elena determines she sure as hell isn’t an option, but, luckily, eventually, Pietro gives in and hires Clelia. Yet, thoughts of Lila still linger, especially how her life would be if she had Elena’s resources. And with missing her friend, Elena pushes Pietro to have a party, and there she encounters Mario again.

Elena and Mario (Eugenio Di Fraia) swooning together
Elena and Mario (Eugenio Di Fraia)

At first, while flirty, it seems he is just friendly, and he is offering her studio to write because he is invested in her career. But when she comes over, the first time, they make out, and he even tries to eat her out as she sits on the window sill. But, as he goes from the window sill to the best, she decides she can’t do it. Thus leading to her having the best sex of her marriage.

The Next Book & Next Child – Adele, Elena, Pietro, Lila

While still avoiding seeing her face to face, Elena still calls Lila and checks in. She learns both Lila and Enzo have good jobs working in tech, one that pays him 150,000 lire ($85.10 in modern money) and her 80,000 lire ($45.39 in modern money). Also, she notes her son is doing well, talks about the neighborhood drama, like Dario being killed, Pasquale and Enzo being assaulted by the fascist, alongside her theories on Don Achille’s murder.

Strangely, not too long after her chat, Elena has the drive to write again, but unfortunately, those who read the book think it is a dud. Be it Adele, who doesn’t like the protagonist and thinks the book is pretentious, or Lila, who is coerced to reveal she thought Elena’s first book wasn’t good for it didn’t sound like her. This is not what Elena needs or wants to hear. But before Elena can even process everyone’s criticism and retool her book, maybe even scrap it and begin a new one, she becomes pregnant with her second daughter by Pietro, Elsa.

Things To Note

Question(s) Left Unanswered

  1. What was happening in Lila’s life during the years we went through? Beyond her son growing up and her and Enzo getting into tech, surely more happened, right? Or are we pushed to remember this isn’t Lila’s story? She is just a strong influence?

What Could Happen Next

  1. Considering she was tempted to have an affair once and seems unhappy in her marriage, either Elena will pursue a love or divorce

Review

Highlights

On The Fence

The Dreariness Of Elena Focused Episodes

As shown in the first episode of the season, and many in previous seasons, often when the main focus is on Elena, the show can become quite dreary and a drag. Elena’s love/hate relationship with Lila, where she wants her validation yet is repulsed by her, all the while needing to be as good if not better than her. This gets old quickly. Especially since it only pushes you to see Elena as a bad friend since she can’t handle how much Lila makes her feel insecure and refuses to have a real conversation with Lila about it, or cut Lila off and be done with it.

Thus leading to Lila being a ghostly figure who haunts the episode and comes off as someone whose presence is an obligation that must be fulfilled, and Elena, the character you have to stomach. Which, sometimes, makes it even harder to get into Elena’s stories, even feel sympathy for her, since you are torn. On the one hand, Elena mirrored Lila in marrying a man for his status, potential, and ability to help her escape from a life she didn’t want. Yet, because we hear her inner thoughts, see her actions, her suffering doesn’t make you feel bad for her as it sometimes seems like it is what she deserves. Which makes Adele’s comment about watching an unlikable protagonist almost seem like a nod to what some viewers may feel when they spend an exuberant amount of time with Elena.

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Elena's silhouette with a setting sun in the background
My Brilliant Friend: Season 3/ Episode 4 “Chapter 20: Cold War” – Recap/ Review (with Spoilers)
Overall
While a tough episode to sit through at times, episode 4, "Chapter 20: Cold War," presents multiple time jumps that send viewers forward as we head towards eventually reconciling the Elena who narrates with the one we've been with for most of the series' run.
Highlights
Disputable
The Dreariness Of Elena Focused Episodes
74

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2 Comments

  1. “But when she comes over, the first time, they make out” – its not the first time as evidenced by the row of erasers which was their way of counting the times they’d been together.

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