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Phil and Ned as Foils in Groundhog Day

One of the most brilliant decisions the GHD creative team made was to expand Ned Reyerson’s role and use him as a foil for Phil. (Show and staging spoilers below)

Tim Minchin gave Ned the heartbreaking song “Night Will Come,” to teach Phil that while you can’t always save everyone, you can’t give up on life either. You have to keep going and keep striving for better days.

Danny Rubin gave Ned’s character a backstory that turned him from annoying punchline into a foil for Phil. Ned has experienced the worst life has to offer and gained wisdom from it, while Phil has allowed himself to become angry and divorced from the world. In many ways Phil hates Ned because he hates himself.

However, what I really want to talk about is Matthew Warchus’ direction and his use of beautiful, understated blocking to illustrate the two characters’ respective journeys.

When Phil and Ned first meet, Phil is center stage and Ned crosses from stage right to talk with him. Towards the end of their conversation, Ned puts his right hand on Phil’s left shoulder. It is a supportive gesture, as if Ned can tell that Phil is in trouble. Of course, this is before the loop begins, so Phil brushes off this support. He is unable to see Ned as anything more than an annoyance. Another “half-wit bastard” as it were.

In Act 2, after Phil has taken Rita’s words to heart and is trying to engage in the world in a meaningful way, he and Ned meet yet again. Except this time, their roles are reversed.

After Phil apologizes for punching Ned, he leaves him center stage while he crosses to stage right to retrieve Ned’s wallet and then returns. The two men have switched positions literally and figuratively. This time it is Phil who places a supportive right hand on Ned’s left shoulder as he asks Ned if he’d like to get a cup of coffee. Ned agrees, as he is able to accept the help Act 1 Phil could not. As a man raising children while grieving his wife, it must be a relief to Ned to be the one receiving support instead always having to give.

The final note between Phil and Ned is when they become one during “Night Will Come.” As the song ends and Phil realizes he’ll never be able to save the old man, he begins walking behind Ned, eventually falling into step with him for the final verse as he accepts that despite not being able to help Mr. Jensen, he has to keep going and striving to do good no matter what. (Andy talks about this moment in his SAG Foundation interview. Go to 5:35.) After “Night Will Come” ends Ned is center stage and Phil is stage right of him, again placing his right hand on Ned’s left shoulder.

Although they do not interact again in the show, both men participate in “Seeing You.” They sing of being here and being fine. Phil, having travelled the farthest, has learned to live in the now and see people and world for who they are, not his perception of them. Ned has been reminded that while he was on a good path, he can ask for, and receive, the support of others and will be ok despite his loss.

Sorry for the essay, it’s just this show has so many layers to discover and share. I have more to say on the subject, but this is long enough for now.

Also, I know some folks only experience with the show is via the audio boots and/or cast recording, so I want to give you an idea of why I love this show much and the direction is a large part of that.

Ok now that I have my thoughts in order, some things from the new ep I want to talk about:

1) the reveal of Faust and Baira’s conenction to each other and to Revolver is very interesting. Also the fact that they are against Kogami’s plan and feel guilty over the things they have to do. I like this development and how it gives the characters human feelings and motivations instead of leaving them as one-note bad guys. Plus it’s understandable that in such a big organization there are those who doubt or dont agree with the leader’s ideas and want to stop him. I suspect the reason Revolver is so caught up with this plan (unless he is also just playing along in hopes of preventing whatever disaster his father is planning) is because of whatever personal tragedy he and his dad went through which is probably clouding his judgement. Or maybe he knows something we - and maybe other knights like Faust and Baira - dont know about the ignises and what they are capable of which might make their plan seem justifiable. Either way, really looking forward to see how things progress from here on out.

2) the convo between Emma and Aoi was a-fucking-mazing. Amen. I love how Emma tried to provoke/encourage Aoi to get back into fighting and how it touched on maybe the most important aspect of Aoi’s character so far - the existence and purpose of Blue Angel and Aoi’s struggle of what to do now that that purpose is fulfilled. Because just like she admitted Blue Angel was never about other people or pleasing other people, protecting/fighting for other people. Aoi created her avatar with one very specific and arguably selfish reason in mind - to get her brother to notice her. And now that that’s been accomplished, what is the point of continuing to be Blue Angel? I think that is what Aoi is struggling with right now (rather than simply being torn between doing what Akira asked of her - which I think is completely reasonable given the situation - vs going to fight) - she’s trying to find a new purpose for herself and Blue Angel, a new reason to fight. And if she cant find it, does it mean she should just stop being an idol? I think Emma was trying to get her to reflect on those things and finally make a decision one way or another - either commit herself 100% to this new battle or quit altogether. Because just as she said, if Aoi just keeps going the way she did before but without any true desirereason to fight, keeps fighting half-heartedly and isnt fully committed to the cause, she’ll just end up getting herself and others in trouble. And I believe this duel against Baira will help Aoi figure those things out and decide she wants to join the fight against the KOH for real. We already saw her deciding to defeat Baira so that other people wont suffer like she did which is pretty much the beginning of her new purpose to duel. To protect innocent people.

3) the new ending (apart from killing my shipper heart) has some interesting meta bits too - most notably for me are the Greek-looking (or Roman maybe? I’m no expert on the classical period so could be wrong either way) statues. Like I said in another post, I think very much confirms that Vrains will be using Greek mythology along with Revolver talking about Prometheus in his duel with Playmaker and the name Ignis having Greek/Latin?, if I remember correctly, origin. I cant wait to see where all of this will lead to. I love that each spin-off uses different mythologies so it creates the feeling of… connectedness? Like instead of each story being stranded and isolated in its own little part of the world and you’re left wondering so what was the rwst of the world dong during all of this, this way it’s like ah, so while Zork was blowing shit up in Egypt, Atlantis was dealing with brainwashing evil stones and up in the Norse countries they were dealing with Ragnarok and in North America some Earthbound Immortals were causing chaos, etc. And now we can add Greece to the list of places card games have fucked shit up. Nice. XD