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Netflix Gets Kinky With New BDSM Show

Theres a scene in the second episode of Bonding where dominatrix Tiff (Zoe Levin) shows her best friend Pete (Brendan Scannell) the ropes. Everyone thinks dom work is just about sex work. Its really just liberation from shame, Tiff says, tying the nylon rope tightly around his wrists. She promptly exits the apartment for night school, leaving Pete to free himself physicallyand for the rest of the season, sexually and professionally too.

Bonding, Netflixs latest foray into short-form content (each episode runs under 20 minutes), is one of its most impressive shows in years. Initially, it doesnt seem so radical. Orange is the New Black and even The Crown show more skin than this BDSM tale. Its also not as raucously funny as Grace and Frankie or Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.

But Bonding excels at doing something different. Once the modern-day arbiter of originality, Netflix largely lost its their groove in favor of revivals and superheroes. Fortunately, Bonding (alongside fellow new short-form comedy Special) are a welcome return to form.

Rightor Doyle, best known for bit roles on Barry and Youre the Worst, is behind the dark comedy. He loosely based the series on his early days in New York working as a doms assistant. (Given his former fame as young Hollywoods gay best friend, Im wishing for a world in which pals Carey Mulligan and Zoe Kazan once moonlighted in BDSM.)

Doyles script is admirably tight, with quippy one-liners and a swiftly-moving plot. Sure, most of his characters are stereotypes. Aspiring stand-up comic Pete is newly out as gay but hasnt shaken his internalized homophobia, even exploring a friendship of butt stuff with his flirtatious, hyper-masculine bro of a roommate. Likewise, Tiff, for all her sex positivity, struggles to be open and honest with her endearingly aloof grad school classmate and maybe boyfriend Doug.

The surface-level similarities to shows like Comedy Centrals The Other Two or HBOs Girls (Doyle appeared on an episode of the latter) work to the shows advantage. What people do in the bedroomor in Tiffs basement office of plush carpet, wall-mounted dildos, and red lightingis different than who they are on the street. And Bonding, another comedy about millennial New Yorkers, also sometimes acts as a noir-thriller.

The series messageeveryone has something to hideisnt subtle. Tiffs clients, whove acted out their shame, are the freest. Men come to me to escape this crippling societal prison. Once the sexual patriarchy dies, then all gender will be equal, she explains. Fred, clad in a business suit, is proudly into pee play and gets off to The Flintstones, while Joe has Happy Feet when ordered around dressed up as a penguin.

Its people like Pete, believing hes living his best life now that hes out, who are in fact the ones still harboring secrets. As he tells Tiff in a tender heart-to-heart about why he stayed in the closet for so long, Its the only version of myself Id ever known. And if I told everyone, who would I be? the self-reflecting question forces Tiff to acknowledge her own secret history of bad things and bad men in order to move forward as, of course, a psychiatry student.

Thankfully, Scannells Pete and Levins Tiff keep the show from becoming an afterschool special. By just shifting the tone of her voice from commanding to hesitant and back, Levin successfully balances the series light and dark tones.

Though Scannell is the true breakout star. Its a welcome success story after the false start that was his role as the genderqueer Heather Duke on the fraught Heathers TV remake. While Pete isnt quite as proudly queer as his HeatherPete leaves a date at a gay bar threatened by a room full of go-go boysScannell is a breath of fresh air when it comes to what gay male identity looks like onscreen. Plus, hes seriously funny. While trying his best to understand a clients penguin fetish, he mistakes March of the Penguins as the film about the one where they, like, urban dance. That is, of course, Happy Feet, the animated 2006 film thats really quite bonkers upon reflection.

By the final episode, Bondings harnesses start to come undone. Storylines about Tiffs relationship with her classmates and not-so-perfect professor arent fully fleshed out, while The Good Places DArcy Carden, who delivers some of the best jokes as a housewife cautiously exploring the world of BDSM, is left on edge. All could be solved with a solid second season and full 30-minute episodes.

But the explosive final scenea nod to American Psychocements Bonding as so much more than an edgy comedy. It doesnt last long (you can binge all seven episodes in under two hours), but the series will leave you oh-so satisfied and wanting more.

Read more: https://www.thedailybeast.com/inside-bonding-netflixs-sexy-and-sweet-new-bdsm-show

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