Parsing Full Circle’s Premiere: A Recap of Episodes 1 & 2

“Something Different” & “Charger”

Mrs. M leaning over to complete a circle of salt in the premiere of Full Circle
Photograph by Sarah Shatz / Max

The following recap contains spoilers for the premiere of Full Circle, S1E1, “Something Different” and S1E2, “Charger” (written by Ed Solomon and directed by Steven Soderbergh)

Full Circle presents several mysteries in its two episode premiere that are worth highlighting.

Episode 1 begins with the murder of Quincy Mahabir at the behest of Edward Chung, and as we move forward everyone seems to know that Edward Chung was behind it. But since Mrs. Mahabir (CCH Pounder) seems more concerned with dispelling bad juju than doing anything like taking revenge on Chung, we might almost lose sight of the question as to why Chung killed Quincy. His henchman steals a large amount of money, sure, but the most interesting part of the scene is in Chung pawing through the bag, looking perplexed, and saying there’s too much cash in it. Too much in comparison to what? One might speculate that there was something specific about the money that Chung was trying to steal (or recover?) and that this wasn’t a simple matter of robbery.

It’s hard to say whether Full Circle will return to that question because there is so much else going on, but I have the feeling it will. The game through two episodes seems to be to weave a complex web that gets increasingly complicated as individuals make unforeseen decisions, but it is a web nonetheless and we get a sense of how things hang together by the end of Episode 2.

Garmen talks to Louis and Xavier inside of a shop
Photograph by Sarah Shatz / Max

We also get a lot of questions, and perhaps I should do a bit more to recap the events of the premiere before highlighting them. This is a little bit difficult because Full Circle lacks a clear protagonist. It is composed of multiple parts that form a whole, but don’t do so in a linear fashion. This is part of what the title of the series should clue us into, and perhaps I’m not wrong to want to invoke the notion of a hemeneutic circle in approaching it even if I’m not quite sure how to cash that thought out yet.

Regardless, there is an idea of a circle at play within the narrative of Full Circle, and this may be as good of a place to start as any with a show that tells us in its opening line of voiceover that it never begins and it never ends. Mrs. M tells Garmen (Phaldut Sharma) late in Episode 2 that an opening in the circle (clearly taken here in something like a spiritual or mystical register) is an opening to misfortune, but she believes that by killing Jared (Ethan Stoddard) inside of a chalk circle in Washington Square Park, they’ve made the circle full. She thinks they’ve dispelled the curse, and even goes so far as to suggest that the death of her brother-in-law Quincy might have been a good thing insofar as it led to this result.

Of course, they didn’t actually kill Jared. He snuck out of the house to meet with Nicky (Lucian Zanes), who had stolen his belongings, but seems to be obsessed with Jared in what might not be a terribly creepy way. We don’t get to find that out, just that Nicky is kidnapped in Jared’s place because he was wearing Jared’s hoodie and riding Jared’s bike.

Aked stands off with Louis inside of the van
Photograph by Sarah Shatz / Max

Aked (Jharrel Jerome), Louis (Gerald Jones), Xavier (Sheyi Cole) and Keesen (Shemar Jonas) thus mistake Nicky for Jared. At the end of Episode 2, it would seem that no one inside of Mahabir’s crew knows this, and indeed they seem to all think that Jared has been killed. Except for Louis, that is, because he swapped food carts with his sister Natalia (Adia) in order to save the boy’s life. So they think they’ve saved Jared’s life when they’ve actually saved Nicky’s, but they don’t know who either of these kids are.

Xavier dallied with cooperating with Mel Harmony (Zazie Beetz), who is pursuing an unauthorized investigation into the Mahabir operation for the US Postal Inspection Service. That itself might be a hint as to how the scam Mahabir is running operates, but the crux of it clearly involves killing indigents for insurance money and I’m not sure getting clear on the details of that is going to be important.

Regardless, Xavier gets cold feet but Garmen finds Mel’s card and Keesen ends up getting killed over the whole thing even though he wasn’t the one who talked to the cops. This leaves the others to dispose of his body in addition to Jared’s body, but the key point is that in the process they’ll discover that Jared’s body is actually a mannequin and things will just get even more complicated.

Mel leans against a wall in the Full Circle premiere
Photograph by Sarah Shatz / Max

Aked is Mrs. M’s nephew, but Louis, Xavier and Natalia are immigrants being exploited by the organization, so there are some dynamics there that could be really interesting as things move forward.

Meanwhile, we have the whole arc with Jared’s family that I could have put front and center with just as much narrative justification. Sam (Claire Danes) and Derek (Timothy Olyphant) are Jared’s parents, and they clearly work for/with Sam’s father, Chef Jeff (Dennis Quaid), who is releasing a book. They get the call that their son has been kidnapped, but quickly learn that he wasn’t actually kidnapped when he comes home.

Derek nonetheless follows the instructions he’s being given, as he and Jeff clearly agree that they should do what they can to save this child they don’t know, while Sam wavers on that a little bit. Regardless, it’s made somewhat clear to them that the reason behind the kidnapping involves Jeff, though he’s at a loss as to why. Also, Derek figures out that the dollar amount being asked for ($314,159), is the first six digits of pi.

Derek, Sam and Jeff stand near a table
Photograph by Sarah Shatz / Max

Alas, Derek doesn’t get to the place with the money on time, and since his phone dies on him he doesn’t even know where the exact place was supposed to be. We know that this didn’t matter, but he doesn’t know that.

Indeed, given how clear it is that Mrs. M intended to kill the boy no matter what, one has to wonder about the point of the ransom. It could be that she was just looking to also get some money out of the whole deal (because why not), but given the relation between the amount asked for, pi, and the notion of a circle, we’d probably be right to be thinking about whether there’s some relation to the wrong she thinks she’s redressing.

And that, I think, is the biggest mystery coming out of Full Circle’s premiere. We know that Clarence (Ted Sod) is the one who wants Jared to be killed, but we don’t know why. There is a clear indication that it has to do with paying back some past wrong that involved the death of Clarence’s grandson, or something like that, but Jeff does not seem to know who this guy is.

He plays chess with him in Washington Square Park before he gets the call about Jared being kidnapped, and he mentions towards the end of Episode 2 that Clarence flew into New York to see him, as he continues to make the argument to himself and his family that he’s a good guy. But he seems to think Clarence is just a fan.

What happened between these two in the past?

Jeff on the phone as he sits at a chess table at Washington Square Park
Photograph by Sarah Shatz / Max

As Derek says, Jeff doesn’t have to be an asshole for someone to think he is one, so we shouldn’t lose sight of the possibility that Clarence is blaming Jeff for something that wasn’t his fault. At the same time, though, we shouldn’t jump to that conclusion. Maybe Jeff did do something really heinous a long time ago.

But what in the world does this have to do with Mrs. Mahabir? How does it relate to the curse she talks about, or how does she think it relates?

In Episode 2, after he cryptically tells Aked that 1:11am is the deadline because that’s the time it has to happen, Clarence apparently has a heart attack. It’s not clear if he’s dead from what we see, but he certainly might be, and I tend to think he is.

Through two episodes, Full Circle is most compelling because of its structure, which continually introduces new wrinkles to the story. This never seems contrived, however; it’s a matter of the characters involved making decisions that you could see them making, or things happening almost by coincidence that are nonetheless plausible.

It will be interesting to see how Mrs. Mahabir reacts when she learns that Jared isn’t dead, because I presume she must learn that even if she isn’t told by her underlings. Even if Clarence is dead, one could easily see her becoming hell bent on carrying the murder through due to whatever she believes about “the circle.”

And, again, I think that’s the biggest question coming out of Episode 2: not whether there’s anything to her mystical way of thinking (though that could be interesting to think about), but what lies behind it in more mundane terms. What grounds does she have for thinking there is a curse on her family? And how does that relate to something about Clarence and something about Chef Jeff?

In the meantime, I’m certainly invested in the fates of all of the other characters, from Louis and Xavier to Sam and Derek, who’ve gotten caught up in something they don’t understand. And Jeff himself seems to actually be a good guy. Does he have dark secrets?

I can’t wait to find out. See you next week.

Written by Caemeron Crain

Caemeron Crain is Executive Editor of TV Obsessive. He struggles with authority, including his own.

Caesar non est supra grammaticos

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