Before getting to the climax of John Paul Getty III’s kidnapping, Trust takes some time off this week to dig into the history of the Getty family, offering insight into how John Paul Getty Jr. grew so resentful of his father, and further proof that the Getty patriarch was a true monster. But seven weeks into a dramatic series that started with so much momentum, “Kodachrome” feels a bit too slow. We know John Paul was a monster and that his son had reasons to hate him. So, while this was a well-done hour of television, it was also repeating material we had seen in a different context already. Flashback-heavy episodes are difficult to pull off at any point, but especially when we’re all itching to see poor Paul reunited with his mother.
(This week is heavy on scenes with all three men named John Paul Getty, so here’s a quick reminder: Donald Sutherland’s King of the Getty castle is John Paul, his son is Junior, and the grandson is Paul.)
Before we get to all the flashbacks, there’s an opening scene in which the mafia gets ready to hand over Paul. After the negotiation with John Paul and the Don at the end of last week’s installment, the two numbers that have opened every episode finally match: The Ransom Demand and Getty Offer are both $5 million. But no one knows what we learned in the final beat last week: John Paul expects his son to pay it.
Speaking of the black sheep of the Getty family, Junior is watching old home movies, many of them taken by Paul himself. He’s mired in misery about his awful father, not yet aware of the deal and remembering how the silver spoon he was born with turned poisonous. It started in Italy, when Junior was called to Italy to see his father for the first time in 15 years. That was also the first time that John Paul met Paul, instantly taken with the boy. He showed his grandson how to do shadow puppets — which Paul would repeat to his captors years later — and lectured his son about the allure of power. “A bit of it makes you want a lot of it and a lot of it makes you want all of it,” he says.
The Junior flashbacks are paralleled by another series of flashbacks instigated by Gail Getty in Italy, as she speaks to Fletcher Chase and prepares for the return of her son. However, the structure — interchanging Junior and Gail flashbacks — is poorly done because the episode wastes the opportunity to really present us with two different narrators. They should remember things differently, don’t you think? Instead, it’s essentially the same tone in these connect-the-dots series of flashbacks, only intercut with two different people remembering them.
The history of the Gettys continues by revealing how much John Paul basically set Junior up for failure. After first suggesting he take a job in Saudi Arabia, he decided to hand him the Italian branch of his empire, only so he didn’t have to get his hands dirty. On basically his first day, John Paul made Junior fire people as he jetted back to England. He gave his son a job that he knew he couldn’t handle. He called him every night, amplifying the pressure. He gave his son a great job just so he could gut the company and be the bad guy, and the decision pushed Junior to drink and rage. And it helped to pull his marriage apart.
Over a series of flashbacks, we see how Junior and Gail eventually ended up in an open marriage and then a divorce. Gail goes out on the town and meets a smooth-talking actor, while Junior finds another woman as well. Paul is left stuck in the middle, filming the Italian dissolution of his family. To make matters worse, John Paul sees how far Junior has sunk into stress and drugs and basically fires him. “Nobody who takes drugs works for me,” he says. Like another flashback when he threw his grandson in the water to make him swim, he pushed Junior off the ledge of life and then didn’t jump in when he drowned.
Eventually, “Kodachrome” develops a third narrator as Paul tells the story of his father’s other wife — and this one does distinguish who is actually guiding the flashbacks. Clearly, Paul thought his father’s second wife was someone magical and mysterious, almost having a crush on her. And then she overdosed. As any son would, Junior reached through his grief to take his father’s hand, and John Paul hung up on his crying child. He’s as cold and heartless as they come.
Back in the “present day” of 1973, John Paul is skeet shooting when he hears the truth about the other man in the life of his favorite wife, Penelope. He orders that she be cut out of the will, left only a single dollar. Meanwhile, Paul gets into a car in the Italian countryside. John Paul goes to meet his son and tells him that the ransom will be paid out of the trust. At first, Junior is excited … and then he reads the fine print. He’ll have to repay the trust with an interest of 4 percent. His father will profit off the kidnapping of his own grandson. It’s disgusting. Junior flips out, crying and tearing the contract apart. As the projection of home movies that Junior was watching burns up, so does this latest chance to get Paul back. Primo and the gang in Italy realize that they’re not coming with the money. “Where the fuck are they?” Primo says. And Chase gets a call as Gail preps a cake. It’s Paul’s birthday. But he won’t be spending it at home.
• Do you think Junior would really tear up the contract? Why not just get your son back from murderers and work out the fine print later? Make sure your son is safe and then leave your old man behind forever.
• Tons of music cues this week, but surprisingly not Simon and Garfunkel’s “Kodachrome,” even though it premiered in 1973. Caterina Caselli’s version of “Paint It Black” plays as Junior spirals out of control, “Torero” by Renato Carosone plays during Paul’s first flashback to his father, “Black Magic Woman” by Fleetwood Mac plays as Paul remembers his dad’s second wife, and “Comin’ Back to Me” by Jefferson Airplane plays over some of the final flashbacks.
• There are only three episodes left. Are you happy so far? Presuming you don’t know this story, what do you expect from the final three? What do you want more of? Less? I’ll start: More Brendan Fraser. Less flashbacks.