'The Slap,' Episode 4: Foolish Are the Peacemakers

by Leigh Anderson
Originally Published: 

Manolis (Brian Cox), Hector’s father, a retired coffee salesman, pays a visit to an old friend, Thanassis, a sharp lawyer in a high-rise firm. Manolis asks if he’ll represent Harry in the dispute against Rosie and Gary, which Thanassis agrees to do. (Thanassis also encourages Manolis to find a mistress, saying that “pleasure and victory is all that matters.”) But hedonism isn’t for Manolis: He’s preoccupied with his dying friend Dimitrios and determined to fix his family’s troubles.

Koula and Manolis host Sunday lunch for the whole family, a rather tense affair. Harry asks Hector if Aisha is on their side or not, and Hector tells him that Rosie is Aisha’s best friend and that she probably won’t side with Harry. Sandy, pale and nervous, flutters in the kitchen; one wonders what her home life is like in the aftermath of the slap.

Thanassis arranges a meeting with Harry, Hector, and Manolis in which he unveils his plan to smear Rosie, Gary and Hugo: He’s dug up a DUI and a couple of arrests on Gary, a dispute with social services on Rosie. Manolis realizes that Thanassis is planning a full-on character assassination of Rosie and Gary. He tries to cancel the whole deal, but it’s too late: Harry is thrilled to have a down-and-dirty fighter in his camp and won’t fire Thanassis. (Once the sleazy-lawyer genie is out of the bottle, you can’t put him back in.) “I can fix this,” Manolis says feebly, realizing with horror what he has unleashed. “You already lost,” Hector tells him.

Rosie and Gary meet with the D.A., who points out that a single slap of a badly behaved child is not the crime of the century—unless they can make the case that Harry is regularly violent. All eyes turn to Aisha: Will she testify that Harry, her husband’s cousin, has hit his wife?

Manolis, mid-panic attack, goes to Aisha’s clinic for an examination. He quickly susses out Connie’s affection for Hector, but is interrupted by Aisha. He asks Aisha to ask Rosie to drop the case, but she tells Manolis that Harry has a history of abusing Sandy and that she won’t be complicit in covering for him any more.

Manolis goes to Harry’s car dealership to ask if this is true. Harry lies, entirely unconvincingly, but Manolis, blinded by his own faith in the bonds of family, believes him. Manolis’ tragic flaw is his dogged belief—his hubris—that he can keep his family safe from the dangers swirling about them; the irony, of course, is that he’s played a role in creating this tempest and is powerless to stop it.

Like Lear, Manolis can’t see the snakes in his own garden; his efforts to protect his family from harm only make the storm rage harder. He goes to visit Dimitrios, a dying friend. They share a glass and dance a little Greek softshoe on the kitchen floor; in a moment, the aging, impotent kings become fools. Dimitrios says, “You must act your age, Manu, and not try so hard. The idea of the wise head of the family doesn’t stand up to the reality.” It never has.

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