The paradox of “Bonding” is an underdeveloped story that somehow satisfies, but doesn’t quite stir the pot enough to make you want more. Which, considering it a tv show, creates a missed opportunity.
A psychology student Tiff (Zoe Levin) works as a dominatrix. One day, she recruits her college gay friend as an assistant in all her fetish-delivery service.
I’ll be honest – it took me some time to actually click on play button in the case of “Bonding”. A dominatrix, which means a profession of pleasing the most horrid, weird and disgusting erotic fantasies, seemed like a topic too close to a corny shockfest.
But every time I opened the website, this show kept on tempting me. Eventually, I gave up denying the part of me that wanted to discover the world of kitschy fetishes.
First things first, the running time of “Bonding” is quite a novelty. The show’s first season consists only of seven episodes, each one lasting about 15 minutes (after “Love, Death & Robots”, Netflix seems eager to try a variety of TV formats to try.).
Even in its extremely short time, “Bonding” delivers plenty of weird kinkiness to chew on. From a pissing fetish to being aroused by tickling, “Bonding” uses kinkiness in a light, humorous way.
While this occupies a fair share of the series, “Bonding” isn’t focused on becoming a BDSM version of “50 Shades of Grey”. Rightor Doyle, the creator of the show, sees the neon-imbued, sex-based world as the background for a story about overcoming fears. This refers to both Tiff and Pete, but in slightly different ways and with various results.
While it’s clearly Tiff who pulls the strings, the show’s real protagonist is Pete (Brendan Scannell), a ginger-hair friend of hers. Just like the viewer that tunes into “Bonding”, Pete discovers the world of sex dungeons, and quickly gets sucked into it. Each step further brings a whole new bunch of dildos and leathery costumes, but also new ways for him to fight his own, withdrawn nature.
The dominatrix job builds a contrast to what Pete struggles with. Bad kids from a 90s movie would call Pete a complete loser. He’s a shy student, working as a waiter and renting a room from a sexoholic (which is a bit too much of one-dimensionalism to be frank, as if everyone’s that obsessed with sex). Pete’s afraid to speak openly about his gayness, as if his sexuality was tying a knot around his confidence.
The therapy that Pete goes through includes breaking every “that’s disgusting” line possible. And that’s the whole point of “Bonding” – to make you feel weirdly freed. Watching people submit to all kinds of humiliating activities (like an office worker aroused by comments about his small genitalia) is not only funny, but also peculiarly uplifting. It feels like every weirdo can find something to satisfy his needs without hurting anybody.
A less convincing arc belongs to the dominatrix herself.
Tiff’s changes are hastily executed, and this character needed more attention to feel believable. As Mistress May, Levin lacks spicier scenes, but also a bit more context to fully resonate. A few leathery costumes aren’t enough to buy Levin as a fully dominant female – more than that, she comes comes out to be just a bratty individual.
As a duo, Zoe Levin and Brendan Scannell are matched nicely and they do their best to be fit for Doyle’s zany jigsaw.
As a format experiment, “Bonding” proves it’s highly underdeveloped. The short-length template doesn’t favor in-depth characters or handling difficult topics. As a kind of sitcom, “Bonding” needs a span of dozens of episodes before gaining any kind of character depth. This clearly causes problems for Doyle. The transitions of Pete and Zoe aren’t smooth enough, which is why they both feel forced to act accordingly to the storyline. As a result, neither of the two protagonists fully spreading wings (a huge bummer considering the chemistry between Scannell and Levin).
It’s all as if “Bonding” was, indeed, like a basic intro into the topic only – a pilot season to a whole deeper, weirder world awaiting. While it delivers plenty of fun for a ride between bus stops on your way home, “Bonding” can’t keep one truly bonded with the concept for longer. What a paradox, huh?
Creator: Rightor Doyle
Hate Grade: 5.5/10