Review: I Know This Much Is True Episode 1

If the unending quarantine has turned you morose and you want to spend some time watching a feel-good show, then you should most probably stay away from ‘I Know This Much Is True’. HBO’s latest offering is emotionally draining and a relentless hour-long heart-rending story of two brothers who find themselves at a tug-of-war, with each other as well as individually. You need to prepare yourself for this because it will leave you with a hole in your heart, and you will need a ton of feel-good shows to make up for that. They still won’t be enough.

I Know This Much Is True Episode 1 Recap

Dominick and Thomas are twins, but they couldn’t have been more different. Thomas suffers from paranoid schizophrenia, and Dominick finds himself in all kinds of difficult situations with his brother. The episode begins with Thomas cutting off his hand in a public library. While this is an act of sacrifice- a protest against the Gulf Wars- it is interpreted as violence on his part.

We also go back to their past and get some glimpses into their relationship with their mother and step-father. Never having known the identity of his birth father, Dominick hopes that he will someday come back to rescue him from the tyranny of his step-father. His mother never divulges anything about the man, so Dominick indulges in his fantasy. Later, however, he gets a hint of why he never got to meet him.

The timeline also jumps back three years before Thomas cut-off his hand. Their mother discovered a lump in her breast, and despite all efforts, her cancer metastasized. The brothers and their step-father cope with this situation in their own ways. She gives Dominick a manuscript of his grandfather’s autobiography, but it is in Italian, so he spends a lot of money to get it translated, but faces problems there as well.

I Know This Much Is True Episode 1 Review

The first episode of ‘I Know This Much Is True’ is packed with tense scenes on every turn. We meet Dominick and Thomas and witness their relationships with the people around them, all of which are fraught with one complication or another. Starting with their childhood, we see a divide in which the way they are perceived. Thomas is considered a weakling by his step-father, Roy, who thinks that the only way to mold a child is to beat them into shape. “Suck it up,” he tells Thomas, and that’s what he does, years later, while cutting off his own hand.

Thomas’s illness further distorts the views of others about him. They treat him like he is always out of his mind. “I’m lucid,” he has to explain to them. They say he is violent, and Dominick desperately tries to tell them that he is anti-war and non-violent. Perhaps, they would understand that if they tried to, but they don’t treat Thomas like a person- someone who needs to be understood, just like anyone else. It is scenes like these that give you a hint of the cruel perceptions, and hence acts, which people suffering from mental illnesses have to deal with.

This gives powerful weight to the episode, which is maintained from its first scene to the last. Thomas’ unpredictability is put on display right away, and after that, every scene with him keeps you on edge. You wonder what he’ll do next, and when. It is like he is walking on a precipice, and at any moment, he will tumble down. If you feel that with him, you know what Dominick feels like, what he has been feeling his entire life.

Dominick has been the good one, especially because his brother got himself tagged as the black sheep early on. However, the comparative normality of his life does not give him any reprieve. He has to take care of his brother, and a responsibility like that can be consuming. Then there is also the case of his failed marriage, his dying mother, and the secret that he unknowingly stumbles upon. He has to keep all of that inside, but there are times when he explodes.

The blunt differences between Thomas and Dominick allow such distinct character portrayals that are treasure troves to the actors who get to play their parts. In the case of ‘I Know This Much Is True’, Mark Ruffalo gets to inhabit both of them, and he does it marvelously. It is not just for their different appearances (for which Ruffalo lost and gained a significant amount of weight), but the way in which the actor has caught the nerves of both of them. You easily forget that you are seeing the same person struggling against the bondages on him and the one who is trying to free him of them. He is so convincing as both, the soft and fragile Thomas and the vulnerable and patient Dominick, that even if, somehow, you lose interest in the story, you will have to stay for Ruffalo.

Read More: Is I Know This Much Is True a True Story?