A common reaction to Donald Trump’s presidency has been a sense that reality has outstripped even the most feverish fiction. The only thing to do when the world has come to feel like the implausible output of an ambitious but not particularly talented television writer is to cover it that way. Welcome to our recaps of “The Trump Show.”
If there’s anything we’ve learned on “The Trump Show,” it’s that characters are rarely gone for good. Paul Manafort may have only served as Donald Trump’s campaign manager for a few months, a tenure we learned about mostly in flashbacks, but he has risen from exile to play a major role in the show’s ongoing Russia investigation subplot. Michael Flynn was barely national security adviser; he has since reemerged to plead guilty to one count of lying to the FBI. Anthony Scaramucci has parlayed his 11 tumultuous days as White House communications director into a recurring role as diviner of the White House mood.
Normally when a television show does this, it’s a little annoying. Repeated fake-outs about whether a character is actually dead make it hard to take acts of violence seriously. An inability to resolve character arcs in a satisfying manner can reveal the threadbare nature of a show’s writing staff. But on “The Trump Show,” things are a little bit different. The churn of characters is so frequent that a player may sometimes exit the main cast before their full potential has been realized. Knowing they’ll likely return in some capacity is often a relief.
Such was the case with one of the biggest developments on “The Trump Show” this week, the resignation of Hope Hicks. In contrast to many of her more volcanic co-stars, Hicks was quieter, practically enigmatic. “The Trump Show” is designed to encourage speculation about characters’ motivations and future courses of action, which Hicks’s reticence only fueled, sometimes to the extent of spawning absurd fan theories about her motivations and cast of mind. Even though “The Trump Show” is frequently given to byzantine turns of events, the truth of Hicks’s character is probably simpler than anything viewers could dream up: She was another good surrogate daughter for Trump, a contrast to his bad sons and the source of some of the few moments of romantic drama on “The Trump Show,” given her relationships with Corey Lewandowski and Rob Porter, both volatile figures who have themselves been expelled from leading roles. (Lewandowski is still hanging around, looking increasingly pathetic in his attempts to stay relevant.)
Hicks presents an interesting opportunity for “The Trump Show.” She could be its most credible opportunity for a spin-off: She’s a character everyone’s eager to learn more about, her departure from the show represents an opportunity for a truly new chapter in her story, and Hicks’s trajectory back into the private sector would allow the producers of “The Trump Show” to prove that they could tell a genuinely different kind of story. But she could also recur on “The Trump Show” in a variety of ways that would expand the series’ emotional palatte: as a confidante to Ivanka Trump, whose role in the series’ second season has been somewhat-reduced; as a sympathetic ear to Trump himself; or as a lesson that you can never really leave the administration. What happens to Hope Hicks next will say as much about “The Trump Show” as it does about her as a person.
Of course, this being “The Trump Show,” Hicks’s departure was hardly the only story line, though it did come late enough to give the show a dramatic twist.
Trump himself pulled one of the sudden reversals that so often make it briefly seem like he’s a straight-talking character who has somehow escaped from an Aaron Sorkin show or movie, taking on the National Rifle Association and suggesting that government officials could “take the guns first, go through due process second.” It’s difficult to believe that this moment of conversion and conviction will last, or even that Trump will cop to having embraced gun-control measures in next week’s episode. If “The Trump Show” has taught us that no character is ever really gone, it has also demonstrated that almost no deal will ever actually last long enough to get legislation implemented, no matter how frequently Trump muses that “It would be so beautiful to have one bill” that breaks through any given area of gridlock.
This episode, in other words, was the best and the worst of “The Trump Show.” It can race through a million plot points without us ever worrying that a character is gone too soon. But its protagonist repeats himself enough that we also know when a story is unlikely to go anywhere.