4 Your Consideration: NBC’s Perfect Harmony And The Beauty Of Arthur And Ginny

Credit: NBC

The last episode of the year of NBC’s unique and darkly peppy musical comedy Perfect Harmony aired Thursday, December 12, and for me, it was a deeply polarizing and interesting experience. On the one hand, I love (and will forever love) this offbeat family I’ve met. Grumpy Arthur, peppy Ginny, sassy Adams, gentle giant Dwayne, off the wall Wayne, slightly neurotic Jax and mischievous Cash have all become such a big part of my life that I’m actually sad there are only three episodes left and NBC hasn’t said anything about a renewal.

On the other hand, I am tired. While I love this family, their chemistry and their hijinks, and probably will not miss an episode to come, I can’t get over Ginny and Wayne being a thing. Sorry, Winny shippers. Nothing against you guys, or anything, but there’s another, more perfect man right there in front of her and, bless her heart, she just can’t see it.

For those who missed “Merry Jaxmas,” Wayne and Ginny have been secretly hooking up behind Cash’s back, and I don’t mean like a one-time thing. I mean as a multiple-time thing. They’ve done it in the back of Wayne’s van, in a church supply closet, in Ginny’s bed twice and probably a couple of places I missed while watching the show. Of course, Wayne, despite somehow being endearing, hasn’t changed a lick since Ginny divorced him (are they divorced? The jury is still out on that one.) and Ginny decides to walk away from him. Again. Only, there’s one small problem: she might be pregnant.

The audience won’t know if she really is pregnant or not until Jan. 9 when the show returns from holiday hiatus. For me, and people do don’t ship Winny, it’s going to be one heck of a long wait. The next episode is titled “Know When to Walk Away” so there is hope? Maybe?

To soothe the burn this lovely show has given me, I have decided to list the amazing moments that show why Arthur and Ginny should be cannon. Of course, this also includes explanations of why each moment matters too.

Yes, I’m aware I’m probably a bit of an outlier with this ship, but there is no denying the chemistry between Bradley Whitford and Anna Camp. Not only that, the show has put Ginny and Arthur in each other’s orbit so many times and has given them so many richly textured and nuanced encounters that it is hard to deny that something isn’t going on there. Not to mention, beyond the nuanced encounters, there are cute little obvious gestures peppered in there too.

So, without further ado, let’s get started. It’s also important to note that these are not in any particular order.

1. “Eye of the Tiger” and The West Wing gesture – “Pilot”

One thing this show likes is its payoffs. Payoffs are incredibly important in the scheme of narratives and leaving enough connective threads through the plot for the story to make sense. The finale performance at the choir competition takes two of those narrative threads and runs with them, creating a gorgeous end to a stellar pilot episode. The first of those threads is, of course, “Eye of the Tiger.”

“Eye of the Tiger” first comes up about midway through the pilot as Arthur is laying flowers on his wife’s headstone. He talks about signs and how he needs them from her for him to keep on living.

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While Ginny is not the one who hears the wonderful story about how “Eye of the Tiger” came to be such an important thing in Arthur’s life, Jax is. Jax also might be the reverend of the Second First Church, but Ginny is the choir director and I have no doubt that when Jax suggested the mash-up, she knew what she had to do. She is a believer in signs, after all.

Ginny is also the one who replies to Arthur’s surprised question in the middle of the performance. This might be a bit of inference on my part, but since it was Jax’s idea to do the mash-up, shouldn’t he have answered instead of Ginny?

The second plot thread that comes into play during the finale is the reoccurring butterfly motif. I’ll explain this a bit more in detail in the next heading, but for now, let’s just say that Cash and Ginny worked together to manufacture a sign to keep Arthur around and to keep him alive. By releasing those butterflies at the end of the performance, they solidify themselves as the keepers of Arthur’s life and the keepers of Arthur’s soul. From that point on, they–though let’s be real, it’s probably mostly Ginny–are determined to make him a part of their family.

And finally, at the end of the performance, Ginny initiates what I am going to call The West Wing gesture. The West Wing gesture is exactly what it sounds like. That little hand on the heart thing that Ginny does, and Arthur reciprocates, is something that got its start on NBC’s lauded political drama that Whitford also starred in.

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PH west wing gesture

The gesture is a silent symbol of understanding and gratitude. It’s a tender moment between these two opposites who’ve come together thanks to circumstances beyond their control. It’s also their way of saying thank you to each other. Ginny is thanking Arthur for staying and for helping Cash as well as thanking him for proving that she’s not a terrible mom for divorcing Wayne, and Arthur is thanking Ginny for keeping him alive for another day. If that’s not love, I don’t know what is.

Bonus: the butterfly sweater and helping Cash

As mentioned previously, butterflies are pretty important to the show in the pilot episode. They’re also important to Arthur because of Jean and what they meant to her. We don’t know what they meant to her specifically, but it must’ve been something deep and meaningful because Arthur’s houseboat is full of them and the pamphlet for her funeral had one on it.

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I Googled butterflies because I wanted to see what their symbolism was across different walks of life. In Christianity, according to https://cancerbutterfly.com/history-of-the-butterfly-symbol/, butterflies are the symbol of resurrection. They’re also the symbol of “endurance, change, hope, and life.”

I’ve already mentioned some of this in the heading above, but the fact that Ginny wears a butterfly sweater further solidifies her as, basically, Arthur’s saving grace. When we first see Ginny in the butterfly sweater, we aren’t aware of the significance, but it comes to light later when Arthur comes over to announce that Cash has dyslexia and that his acting out is the result of that and not the divorce.

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The scene at Ginny’s house has occurred after the audience has seen Jean’s butterfly collection, and it makes for an interesting parallel between Ginny and Jean, a parallel that I would love to see expanded in the final three episodes, mostly because of how it elevates Ginny to a level of importance in Arthur’s life.

Bonus #2: Ginny correcting Pastor Magnus

This is a tiny little gesture that I won’t spend much time on but come on. How adorable is it that Ginny is quick to correct Magnus at the Moonbow when Magnus calls him Mr. Cochran instead of Dr. Cochran? She is already so protective of him and it is legit the best thing ever.

Bonus #3: “Wayne is the jealous type”

There is absolutely no reason for Ginny telling Arthur this. It’s an odd bit of phrasing on Ginny’s part since Arthur didn’t know that Wayne and Ginny were married. She’s immediately presuming that Arthur will somehow make Wayne jealous. Let’s not even mention the fact that the conversation that immediately follows puts them on the same emotional playing field. To put it simply, they get each other and can read each other’s hurt in a way that no one else can.

2. Embracing the mud and embracing in the mud – “Fork Fest”

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I’m just going to let this picture speak for itself. You know what they say, “A picture’s worth 1000 words.”

3. Open Mic Night – “No Time for Losers”

The illustrious Lesley Wake Webster, showrunner for “Perfect Harmony,” wrote this episode that just so happens to be chock-full of beautiful and poignant Arthur/Ginny moments. There are so many of them, I could probably analyze the entire episode in one blog post. But I’ll try to keep my words to an acceptable length, seeing as I have a few more moments to talk about.

The entire sequence set at Pop’s Paddock is so important to Ginny and Arthur as characters. For one, Arthur is trying to help Ginny and by extension, Cash. This is a major growing experience for Ginny and Arthur is at the helm, pushing and prodding Ginny so that she can overcome her stage fright. This stage fright is brought up ten minutes into the episode and Arthur is the only one who supports Ginny. Adams flat out says, “If Ginny doesn’t want it, she won’t do a good job.” That’s some support there, Adams. But Arthur is the voice of reason and rationality amid all that gloom which leads them, of course, to Open Mic Night.

We meet Darlyanna Woodbeam, a startling and sophisticated alter-ego, but Ginny can’t quite gather up the courage to go out there and sing, even when Arthur pulls the choir together to support her. (He messages everyone and gets them to come to the bar so Ginny can get better. Arthur, be cuter with her, why don’t you?)

Because of her fear, the two of them argue. I don’t know about you, but the entire argument scene reads like a couple’s argument. They’re standing close together. They’re challenging each other. They’re bouncing off of each other insecurities and doing so in a way that makes them feel like they’ve been married for ten years instead of simply knowing each other for a couple of weeks. As I’ve said before, they get each other in a way that no one else does.

Of course, the argument spills into the bathroom scene which is the second darkest Arthur moment in the show. The things he says to Ginny are things he hasn’t even told Jax, who so far, has been made the spiritual center of Arthur’s journey in Conley Fork. (See the “Eye of the Tiger” story from the pilot episode.)

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ph bathroom scene

Ginny, in this moment and the next heading, serves as something more than the spiritual center. She is his light. She is someone he can confide in, and he does and it’s dark and it’s emotional and it’s telling. He hides from everyone, including himself, but he doesn’t hide from Ginny. He can’t hide from Ginny. It’s physically impossible for him to do so. To do so would go against who this man is. What Ginny needs, he’ll provide, even if it opens wounds.

Then, there’s the actual performance. I don’t know who’s in charge of song selection, but I’d imagine it was Ms. Webster herself and she couldn’t have picked a better song and a better sequence to showcase just how important Arthur and Ginny are to each other. “Here You Come Again” by Dolly Parton is the perfect song. It’s so perfect, it’s almost sinful.

The first thing that’s telling is the dedication that Ginny makes before her performance. She says, “This one’s for the people who find you, even when you lost your way” all while looking pointedly at Arthur.

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Where would Ginny be without Arthur? Stuck on the sidelines and playing piano in the shadows instead of being the star that she is and that he knows she is. Where would Arthur be without Ginny? Dead. She asked him to help the choir. She brought him back into this world. At this precise moment, Ginny is Arthur’s muse and his source of light and hope (see the butterfly heading again) and no one can tell me otherwise.

Then the performance hits. Here are some of the lyrics of “Here You Come Again” if you’re interested:

All you gotta do is smile that smile
And there go all my defenses
Just leave it up to you and in a little while
You’re messin’ up my mind and fillin’ up my senses
Here you come again lookin’ better than a body has a right to
And shakin’ me up so that all I really know
Is here you come again and here I go

Listen, this entire episode mirrors these lyrics flawlessly. Arthur is destroying her “perfect” world. Granted, her world is far from perfect. It’s perfect in her mind, but she’s wrong and he’s making her better. They’re making each other better. He is softer with her around, and has anyone noticed that Arthur genuinely smiles whenever Ginny is around and pretty much only when Ginny is around? Because, yeah, that’s a thing, by the way.

Bonus: the cave/boulder metaphor

Back on the whole idea that Ginny is Arthur’s light, this conversation is the prime example of that. Ginny is the light on the other side of the boulder in this metaphor. Of course, the conversation is framed in a way to help her and not him, but that quickly turns sideways when Arthur tells Ginny that cave is real to him.

What’s important about this entire exchange is him telling Ginny that it’s perfectly normal to feel the way she feels, but that it doesn’t always have to be that way. She can help herself.  Again, it’s important to note how he admits the darkness so readily to her. He’s in that cave and he doesn’t know how to help himself, but then there’s Ginny who’s in the same cave, who knows how it feels, and who can help him get back to that light. It’s poetic cinema. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Thank you, Ms. Webster.

Bonus #2: that ending

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Okay, listen, if the metaphor and the entirety of Open Mic Night weren’t enough to solidify the gloriousness that is Arthur/Ginny, then the ending of “No Time for Losers” should. There they are. Ginny in her nice, warm, orange and white shirt standing shoulder to shoulder with Arthur in his cool, blue shirt and grey jacket and blue scarf. She gives him a can opener and they quip to each other like they’re, again, an old married couple. The only other person Ginny stands that close to is Adams and Arthur never, I repeat, never stands that close to anyone else. Then they’re over there being adorable and talking about Bert and Ernie, and it really is the perfect ending to an overwhelmingly brilliant Arthur/Ginny episode.

4. Ginny not wanting Arthur to leave/being worried about him – “Hunting Season”

This episode is Ginny/Arthur light as Ginny takes a back seat to Adams and Arthur’s rivalry, but what is included is important.

In this episode, we get more of the wonderful dynamic that is Arthur and Cash, and by extension, Arthur and Ginny. Another one of Perfect Harmony‘s glorious story arcs is the relationship between Arthur and Cash. It’ll be interesting to see what happens when, inevitably, Arthur discovers he now, basically, has a son. Not only does he have a son, but he also has a woman who cares about him and appreciates him in a way that no one else (but Reverend Jax) does in Conley Fork.

This care and appreciation are most obvious after Adams makes Arthur “a Yankee pinata” by kicking him out of the deer stand, but the subtle moments come before that when Ginny is talking to Adams about respecting Arthur. Her immediate thought is Adams absolutely cannot push Arthur away because she needs him. Yes, it’s primarily because he is so good with Cash, but I don’t think we can deny that he helps Ginny as much as he helps Cash. Before Arthur came and helped with Cash, Ginny thought she was a failure. She thought she ruined Cash’s life by doing something that will benefit them both in the long run. Turns out, all she needed was an outsider coming in and, barely even knowing her, proving she was a perfectly capable mother. Facing the thought of losing someone so important in her life, she asks Adams to be nice first. It’s an endearing moment that proves just how much she already cares for him.

This caring extends to after the “Yankee pinata” moment when she realizes that Arthur is lost in the woods. Granted, I don’t think anyone would leave an outsider in the woods to fend for himself, but the way Ginny immediately takes charge when Adams is set to leave and go home speaks volumes about their relationship and how it differs between the other characters and the community Arthur is now a part of. She accepts him when everyone else–save for Reverend Jax–would rather see him fail. Yes, one could make the argument that this is a bad example seeing as Adams was already upset with Arthur so, of course, she wouldn’t want to help find him, but I think there’s something more there.

5. Singles Night – “It’s Electric”

I’ve already mentioned that Arthur only manages to genuinely smile when Ginny is around, and Singles Night is no exception.

The very beginning of the episode opens with Arthur vehemently declaring that he will not be at Singles Night. He just lost his wife a month ago, there is no way he would do that to Jean’s memory. He’s still grieving, but lo and behold, he shows up anyway and immediately hates every minute of it.

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Seriously. That’s the face of a man who can’t believe he showed up, but guess what, he did because Ginny mentioned it and he can’t disappoint the new light of his life. So, he shows up, immediately tries to run away from all the people (who, we can guess, have all gossiped about him in some way since he arrived), and runs into Ginny who is outside drinking.

It’s important to mention here that Arthur’s father-in-law, Tinsley, has shown up at the venue at this point and Arthur is at another low point. He just insulted Tinsley for not caring about Jean while she was alive and he’s obviously tired of dealing with the man. He’s defeated. And lo and behold, look at who’s there to pick him up. Ginny. Ginny and her flask that Arthur immediately takes and drinks from some minutes after grumpily declaring that he hated people, or at least hated the people at Singles Night.

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Guys, I can’t make this up. The trope is there. An older man and younger woman are so comfortable with each other after only knowing each other for a month that they give each other advice and share a flask. The chemistry in this scene is palpable. This is another instance where Arthur, in addition to giving Ginny advice to be a better version of herself, Arthur is prodding her, hoping that she takes the bait and accepts the challenge. AND SHE DOES. Moments before this above cap, there’s a split second where Ginny quirks her eyebrow and silently says “You don’t think I can do this. Okay, I’ll do it, so by god, you better hold up your end of the bargain.”

So, she gets up to face Dwayne, but not until she steals a drink from this shared flask in a moment that shouldn’t as adorable as it is.

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He looks at the flask like he wasn’t expecting Ginny to take a drink of it after he’s drunk out of it, but she does, and it surprises him so much.

Of course, this amazing scene is followed up by Dwayne and Ginny’s dance and we need to talk about how the editing of this sequence sets up some truly amazing moments between the two of them. First thing’s first, here’s that genuine smile the dance gets out of him.

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For the rest of the sequence, the editing cuts back and forth between Ginny and Dwayne and Arthur. Arthur’s reactions are the most important thing the audience sees. Everyone else’s reactions are just a bonus. Remember, this is a man who, at the beginning of the episode, wanted absolutely nothing to do with Singles Night. He didn’t want to be there; he didn’t want to be around the people. I really mean nothing when I say nothing, but then there’s Ginny. It’s always Ginny. He spends the entire sequence positively impressed with not only Ginny and her moves but her bravery and her gumption and the fact that she took his advice and tailored it to something that is inherently her. He is constantly enamored with her gumption and that she always listens to him in some way.

It’s truly adorable on so many different levels.

6. Throwing Ginny into the managerial deep end – “Halle-Boo-Yah”

“Halle-Boo-Yah” is the second-best Arthur/Ginny episode of the season so far. The third being “Rivalry Week” down below. This episode showcases exactly the type of relationship that they have between each other. He cares about her and cares about her success. He also cares about elevating her when she’s too scared to do so for herself. He’s still cocky about it though and that’s adorable on its own. In fact, I think that the best lines in the whole episode are when he comes to the Halloween party and says, “It’s okay. I know the manager. She’s a friend of mine. I’m actually more of a mentor slash personal hero.” Then Ginny immediately quips back, “She thinks of you as equals.” In my mind, that means that they’re both each other’s mentor and personal hero. Not that she’d ever admit that. She’s too modest for that. So, she deflects.

Anyway, when Ginny is, as I’ve said, too modest for her own good, the first thing Arthur does is throw her into the deep end with Adams. While some people might think this is selfish on Arthur’s part, it’s anything but selfish. He has always seen the potential in Ginny, save for maybe when he’s drunk, but that’s beside the point. Just like he knew she would be able to handle the solo when it came down to it, he knew she could handle something like this too. She, obviously, doesn’t think so, but in the end, even Adams realizes just how capable she is, and all it took was a push from Arthur.

For me, it’s a great little role reversal because for the entire run of the show thus far, Ginny has been Arthur’s ray of sunshine, his light. This time, he returns the favor.

It’s also important to note that as soon as things go wrong, she immediately turns to him for help and he is quick to give in and help her. Again, anything Ginny asks for, he delivers, and he does so with little complaint because to disappoint Ginny would be tantamount to catastrophe.

I mean, just look at his face when he’s disappointed her. Bradley Whitford is the king of micro-expressions, but this expression says it loud and clear.

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Bonus: Sexy Apocalypse Mr. Peanut

Speaking of Arthur delivering for Ginny, the entire sexy dance the audience is treated to is specifically for her. Okay, granted, it’s not to impress her (though, maybe if we’re being real, it is) but it’s to win the costume contest so she doesn’t potentially lose her job. I mean, come on. Arthur willingly cuts up his tails and embarrasses himself in front of a packed Moonbow to prove that he will do anything to help her.

And I do mean anything.

Although Leanne is clearly disturbed and Ginny is shocked that he would even do such a thing, she is clearly impressed. I have to give Anna Camp kudos for this scene.

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This is a woman who is trying not to smile even while looking shocked. She also looks a couple more times than is necessary in the scheme of things, especially considering how she reacts when she pulls the fire alarm.

She is so important to him; this scene cannot be overlooked. Yes, it’s hilarious. Yes, it’s out of the norm for a show about a church choir. Yes, Whitford’s thighs are distracting, but that’s not the point. The point is this extremely proud, Northern man will make a fool of himself to try to help this Southern belle who has captured his heart.

7. Arthur standing up for Ginny and The West Wing part Deux – “Rivalry Week”

The entirety of “Rivalry Week” is a shipper’s dream come true, and honestly, it’s a bit of a trope trap and I am here for it. Basically, the grumpy man defends his bubbly ray of sunshine from her petty rival who makes her life hell. Of course, in Perfect Harmony’s world, there is a lot more to it and the trope kind of gets twisted around.

Of course, Kimmy Bell is played by Broadway star Laura Bell Bundy who has the voice of an absolute angel. Of course, Arthur is pulled in by said voice and the opportunity to get a hairstyle that makes him look younger. Not to mention the fact that Kimmy is “cultured” and knows the great composers, unlike the rest of the choir. As a result, poor Ginny is shafted. Her solo is given to Kimmy and when Ginny tries to retaliate Arthur tells her she’s being ridiculous. Even Adams tells her she’s ridiculous, but Kimmy turns out to be the devil with the voice of an angel. Even Arthur admits that.

And Arthur gets turned into the “worst tasting Starburst” as a result. (Side note: Arthur doesn’t like pink Starbursts? Those are the best!)

Arthur standing up for Ginny is one of the best things to happen in this episode. After spending the entire time trying to make Kimmy appealing to Ginny, he realizes the error of his ways and fires Kimmy from the choir, even though her voice was great and would guarantee that they would win Regionals. It’s so cute and endearing. Not to mention that in the church, after Arthur’s hair has been dyed pink, Ginny stands up and says that she’ll go only if he goes. It’s a stand of solidarity that is further amplified by the rest of the choir showing up to perform with pink hair. (Which was obviously Ginny’s idea, don’t message me.)

This great little stand in solidarity results in The West Wing gesture part two.

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It’s a cute little interlude and it’s meant specifically for Ginny. As I’ve said before, you can’t tell me that the pink hair wasn’t Ginny’s idea, and this just proves it to me. Not to mention that her whole “solidarity” line confirms it too. She’s there to lend support for Arthur because he’s done it so many times for her before. It’s what best friends and people in relationships do for each other.

Now, I know I could talk about episode eight and how it gives us the adorable sight of Ginny and Arthur and a baby. I could talk about how Ginny makes the comment that she loves “a man with a baby” and the first man she saw with that baby was Arthur, but I won’t. It deserves to be seen, yes, but then my post will be way over 5000 words long and if I’ve kept your attention this long, I commend you. I won’t make you read any longer. (But seriously, just go and watch “Any Given Monday.” Arthur and Ginny are cutie patooties and Arthur is the best secular pastor in Conley Fork.)

The fact of the matter is, Arthur and Ginny aren’t canon beyond simple friendship (albeit it’s a super intense friendship that could easily be turned into something more), and we don’t even know if NBC will commission another season. If they don’t, this will all become a moot point. I simply wanted to share just how integral their relationship to each other is.

Beyond all the symbolism and the butterfly motif and the cute little The West Wing gesture, their narrative situations parallel each other so well. Arthur has gone through a tremendous loss. He’s a widower. He’s grieving and he’s trying to fit into a place that doesn’t understand him or fully accept him. Ginny is going (has gone?) through a divorce and has no idea how to handle it. It’s a different type of grieving, but she’s doing that too. The divorce and the fallout are a whole other kettle of fish, but she’s still dealing with loss. Not to mention, she is a bit of an outsider in their community too. Yes, her story has taken a bit of a turn, but it’s an interesting way to parallel each other in a lovely ensemble sitcom that has taken tropes and familiar molds and thrown them all out the window.

I can’t praise this show enough. Seriously.

Perfect Harmony returns to NBC on Jan. 9, 2020 at 8:30/9:30c and then premieres on Hulu Jan. 10. Everyone should watch this show and support it. If anything, it’s worth it to see Bradley Whitford on network TV again. (When are we getting a West Wing revival? Inquiring minds want to know.)

Shelby Arnold
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