As FX’s Trust hits the midsection of its ten-episode arc, the directorial reins are finally passed from the great Danny Boyle. The result is a handful of very strong scenes that develop the season’s larger themes, but do so in an inconsistent way that runs a lot longer than necessary. Still, there’s a lot to like here, especially in Harris Dickinson’s impressive performance and the likelihood of Brendan Fraser’s stealing more scenes in future episodes.
Narratively, “That’s All Folks!” is a bit tough for a show that started with such propulsive momentum because it’s basically an episode about waiting. After all, the opening credits end with “Ransom Order: Pending” and “Getty Offer: Pending.” It’s hard to make an exciting episode about “pending.”
We begin with Primo, the man who basically kidnapped John Paul Getty III from the restaurant owner Berto, as he approaches his superiors with the news about their new acquisition. With the help of his Don and the more conservative Mafia accountant, they decide to ask the Getty family for $17 million for the return of their golden hippie.
While that plan is put in motion, the elder John Paul is going about his lavish life. He’s walking with Penelope, his No. 1 wife, but also the one who seems to have the most life of her own. It’s likely that John Paul knows Penelope is getting bored with him, but it’s interesting that both need such constant affirmation. She mentions she’s tired and he instantly says, “Of me?” He’s like a child who needs to be told he’s loved. When she complains of the “permanent competition” of their arrangement, he notes that she takes his days, so who cares who gets his nights? And then he unleashes the hounds, Monty Burns–style, on the poor gardener. Getty’s harem of women finds it entertaining; Bullimore and Penelope do not.
Back in Italy, Primo goes to a lawyer’s office and hires a man to be the negotiator. He suggests that he bypass the family and go directly to Gail. She’s the boy’s mother, so surely she’ll be responsive. Primo gives the new middle man a photo of a scared Paul and a dead Berto. When he first calls Gail, she basically ignores him, even after he says, “We have Paul.” She’s been getting a lot of these calls, and she’ll need proof. So the negotiator calls the newspaper to drop the ransom demand. The receptionist at the other end barely cares, yelling at him to “Keep his hair on!” Is that a real Italian insult? Awesome.
Everyone is chilling and waiting, both in the Italian mountains and at the Getty estate. The telegram comes in from the paper about the demand, and it finds its way to John Paul’s breakfast table while the master of the house notes the times his wife has checked in and out of the “gulag.” John Paul still doesn’t believe that his grandson has been kidnapped. He crumples up the telegram and drops it in his eggs.
The key development here isn’t really the ransom offer, but the younger Paul grows closer to his kidnappers — especially a translator to whom he can speak openly without Primo knowing their entire conversation. The bond starts to form as they try to catch fish with their hands in a river. Paul talks about his love for Italy, and one of the men actually grabs a fish. Paul lunges the gun and smashes it, but doesn’t take the chance to point it at his captors. He’s still a peaceful young man and believes this will all work out in the end. He’s told that Primo is asking for $17 million, which he knows his grandfather won’t pay. Dickinson is very good in this scene, conveying melancholy and fear without getting melodramatic. The tone continues later that night when Paul tells his captors a story using hand puppets. Does Paul consider himself to be Jojo the Dog? The one who was once too scared to jump because he would be alone, but now believes anything is possible?
Gail Getty gets the call that convinces her that Paul is really kidnapped. It takes her to a movie theater that’s playing Dario Argento’s underrated The Cat o’ Nine Tails. (If you’re unfamiliar with Argento, seek out his work ASAP. He’s one of the best filmmakers of all time.) Before she can get into the movie, the negotiator hands her the ransom demand. She doesn’t have $1,700, much less $17 million. He gives her the scary photo of dead Berto. Will this convince people? Gail tries to get Paul’s girlfriend Martine on her side. She balks at first, but eventually goes to the police. A creepy officer basically tells her to go back to Berlin or she could die. Creepy.
John Paul finally sees the photo while he’s watching a film of protests holding up one of his projects. Fletcher Chase believes it to be real. “Whatever it is, it’s not a hoax anymore,” he tells John Paul. It’s time to open negotiations. Good: This show needs more Chase. Bad: John Paul’s counter offer is $600 plus expenses. Chase takes the counter all the way to Italy and hands it to Primo’s man in person. As Primo is celebrating what he expects will be a life-changing payday, John Paul’s stingy offer finally comes to him.
A defeated and furious Primo makes it back to the mountains, looking for blood. He takes it out on the translator who has grown closer to Paul. It will likely scare both of them. And then he tells the man to dig a grave. Will they really kill Paul? Primo has already proven he’s insane enough to kill. The translator goes to get Paul, but he doesn’t take him to what could be the grave for both of them. Instead, he tells him, “We need to get out of here.”
• Music corner: “I’m a Man” by Chicago, played in the opening scene and later when Primo is putting his plan in motion; “Sunny Afternoon” by the Standells, played while people wait around for something to happen; “Hurry Sundown” by Little Richard, played as Primo gets the worst counteroffer ever; and the still-awesome “The Letter” by the Box Tops, played over the end.
• If you’re wondering, $17 million in 1973 is close to $100 million in today’s dollars when adjusted for inflation. Meanwhile, $600 is just over $3,000.
• Was Penelope Kitson really the top woman in John Paul Getty’s harem? If it’s any indication of her status: When John Paul died, he left her 5,000 shares of stock (valued at $826,500 in 1976, or $3.6 million when adjusted for inflation) and a monthly stipend for life.