The show also loses tension by overlaying its wilderness drama with montages that reveal truths about nature and humans’ place in it. But these truths are hardly revelatory—think you realize you need to boil water after seeing a bunch of animals pee in lakes. It’s more silly than insightful, which makes how the show reveals Liv’s thought process unintentionally hilarious.
“Keep Breathing” also folds into a psychological thriller with flashbacks to Liv’s past that reveal a long history of emotional wounds, both given and received. The main cause of Liv’s trauma seems to be her manic, artistic mother, who charms and neglects her daughter before abandoning her. Some tough conversations with her father ensue, leaving Liv unwilling to connect with others, perhaps especially when they offer true companionship.
The show’s central conceit that it’s hard for some to ‘keep breathing’ carries some weight. The combination of physiological investigation and survival drama also makes sense – with no one else to talk to, it’s natural to take a hard look at yourself. And Liv comes to some revelations: that she was not to blame for her mother’s actions, but she is responsible for her own; that love is precious even when it can hurt; that her father was imperfect; so is she.
But “Keep Breathing” does its heroine a disservice by tying her quest to an unplanned pregnancy. Her reason to keep fighting to survive is because of a fetus inside her. In particularly difficult moments, she pulls out the ultrasound herself and stares at it. It’s cliche and frustrating. Why can’t she live by herself? To honor his father? To obtain? To love yourself, your friends and maybe also your partner? Women are more than wombs waiting to be filled by a baby. That career-driven Liv would be so completely upended – taking her first and extremely fateful vacation due to a pregnancy – seems both facile and unrealistic. Let her be more complicated than that.
“Keep Breathing” actually shies away from the complication it creates. Melissa Barrera is Mexican-born and arguably broke into American stardom via Latinx productions such as “Vida“and”In the Heights.” Her Liv is also Latina, though we don’t see much more than the fact of her identity. Yes, Liv and both of her parents speak Spanish, but how exactly Liv learned the language with parents who primarily speak English is unclear. When who speaks what and how well is so political in our society that this shortcut feels like a betrayal. Not to mention, “Keep Breathing” doesn’t so much as delve into Liv’s sense of being one of the few Latinas in a competitive law firm in New York, or how she was treated by her largely white Girl Scout troop, all go unexamined.