The Eddy is a show about characters who live for music and can’t imagine living without it — but not just any sort of music will do. As “Maja” opens we watch Maja working in a recording studio, recording some backing vocals for a new track for the veteran French pop star Daniel Perrin (Tchéky Karyo). First she sings like she wants to and is told it’s great but maybe should be “more ethereal, breathier.” When that doesn’t work, Daniel asks her to “make love with the snake. You know what I mean.” She does, and offers up an overtly sexual delivery that’s exactly what they’re looking for.
For Maja, it’s a gig, a one-off paycheck between work with the Eddy Band. Daniel, however, wants to lock down her services, even after she calls the music “merde” to his face. Even if he doesn’t agree, he does later admit he’s gotten tired of playing the same hits for 30 years. He needs new collaborators to keep it interesting. And maybe he has other interests as well. He keeps telling Maja about how he’s not a creep and he will not try to sleep with her, but he’s already proven himself unconcerned with boundaries by the time he makes the offer, having gotten Maja’s passport number from her agent. Then there’s the flowers, the unexpected Eddy drop-in, and the late-night calls. This offer couldn’t have more red flags.
On the other hand, a steady paycheck probably looks pretty good to Maja. She lives in a tiny apartment made tinier by sharing it with Julie. (And tinier still when Maja’s mom shows up unexpectedly.) Travel surely has its appeal as well, taking her away from the drama of The Eddy and whatever her relationship with Elliot has become. They sleep together but it’s strictly sleeping these days, when it happens at all. And professionally he keeps making demands she can’t seem to satisfy. And all that’s before Elliot fires Kat for reasons he can’t explain to her or anyone else.
They’re not bad reasons, however. Kat recognizes Zivko, whose threats hang over The Eddy, and Elliot knows she knows something about what’s going on. Turns out, she knows a lot, having introduced Farid to the gangsters who (most likely) killed him. Needing money, Farid asked Kat to find dealers to hang out in the club, then got in even further over his head. By Elliot’s reckoning, this is all Kat’s fault. By Kat’s reckoning, however, it’s Elliot’s. Farid knew he couldn’t bring this problem to Elliot and Elliot wasn’t exactly present toward the end of Farid’s life, even when he was around.
What Farid felt then, Maja feels now. Elliot might be there, but he’s not there for her, at least not in the ways she needs him to be. And in this episode we get some more glimpses of why she’s been sticking around anyway. Dropping in out of nowhere, Maja’s mom stirs up some old resentments, and some relatively fresh ones as well. Maja still remembers, and doesn’t forgive, her mother’s past behavior. (When Julie speaks admiringly of her, Maja informs her, “My school friends loved her too. She gave them vodka. Drugs. She fucked my boyfriend.”) Nor is she surprised that her mother seems to have come to Paris in pursuit of a man. But Maja also depends on her to pay the rent, at least part of the time, so she has to keep some of that resentment in check to survive. And maybe it’s the idea of her mother uprooting her life for a man that pushes Maja over the edge, making her decide to leave Elliot, the band, and the club behind to take a job as a backup singer after insisting to anyone who will listen that she’s not a backup singer. (I don’t speak Polish, but I would guess the words “I’m not a backup singer” found their way into her long rant to the overly friendly man coming on to her at the bar.)
Then again, there might not even be a club much longer. Elliot is persisting in playing a dangerous game. He accepts a young thug joining the staff as a bartender and doesn’t tell Captain Keiter about the forced arrangement. But he also, of course, doesn’t tell the thug about the cameras installed by the police. When he spots them, the kid starts pouring gasoline in the office, informing Elliot that his time is up and that the three days he thought he had to find the cache of counterfeit bills has been cut short. That, and the job of finding a replacement for Kat, would be problem enough even if he didn’t have to chase after Maja to try to stop her from leaving.
The Elliot we’ve seen so far doesn’t seem like a race-to-the-airport-as-a-grand-romantic-gesture type of guy, but maybe we haven’t seen every side of him yet. And the speech he gives Maja isn’t exactly of the I-love-you-and-can’t-live-without-you-variety. It’s more of the I-can’t-love-you-like-you-want-me-to-but-I’m-creatively-useless-without-you variety. And it’s not that persuasive, to be honest. It asks a lot of Maja for his sake and gives her little in return beyond the understanding that maybe they can create something great together. Besides, she knows he has artistic greatness in him, even if being around that comes with a lot of other baggage. “He was special,” she tells Julie earlier in the episode. “When you see really incredible people like Elliot it can destroy you.”
So, given the choice between potential destruction with the possibility of creative fulfillment and profitable mediocrity she chooses the latter. Briefly. When Elliot returns to his flat, there’s Maja with a smile on her face and some perspective on her choices. “Promise me it will be better,” she asks. “I promise,” Elliot replies.
Her response: “I don’t believe you.” But she’s there anyway. But should she be? In an otherwise fine episode, that final turn feels implausible, however welcome. Little of what’s preceded it suggests Maja would stay. Maybe what follows will clarify matters.
As with previous focus episodes, we learn a bit more about Maja with this outing. Where she first seemed like a self-destructive singer familiar from other jazz stories, her first-episode disappearance and tryst with a random pick-up now looks less like a pattern of behavior than the response to a particular development with Elliot. In fact, she now seems pretty close in personality to Elliot: passionate about art but prone to self-laceration and bad decisions (with one feeding into the other).
Around Maja’s story, the crime subplot continues to inch forward, even as Elliot gets pulled in many different directions at once. And just as he put the threat of the gangsters on his heels on hold for Jude last week, he does the same for Maja this week. Only this time it’s a little more self-serving. At the end of the episode, it still feels like he’s getting more out of Maja staying than she is. Maybe she won’t know for sure if she’s made the right choice until the final fade-out.
• Episode five welcomes a new director for another two-episode stint. This time it’s Laïla Marrakchi, a Moroccan-born filmmaker who stirred controversy with her 2005 debut Marok, the story of a Muslim/Jewish romance. She’s made four features since, most recently 2013’s Rock the Casbah.