“The Sweet Smell of Success” gives Halston a much-needed jolt of energy and empathy, resulting in the Netflix series’ best episode in its limited run.
This recap of Netflix limited series Halston episode 3, “The Sweet Smell of Success,” contains spoilers.
Read the recap of the previous chapter.
Something special happens in Halston’s third episode, “The Sweet Smell of Success.” We gain a grain of empathy for the fashion designer who’s been morphing into a celebrity over the course of Netflix’s series. Focusing on Halston’s first fragrance, the episode reminds us of his roots and the smells that created the monster he’s slowly becoming.
After an opening sequence focused on Elsa and her misshapen necklace, the episode jumps one month into the past, settling at a meeting between Halston and Mahoney, an agreement that the designer needs to make a fragrance. Over the course of the next 45 minutes, he meets several times with Adele (Vera Farmiga), a fragrance specialist, someone with a keen nose and a therapist-like tongue. She gives him homework, bends him to her demands, and brings out Halston’s inner, broken child, a recurring theme the more the series progresses.
They discuss different scents and the memories connected to them. His fascination with orchids, a largely smell-less flower, persists, though he comes prepared with a scent-induced moment from his childhood: spring grass. He starts crying, not for the first time in the episode, giving McGregor more opportunity to flaunt a wide range of flamboyance. The two of them have conversations surrounding the items Halston’s nose continuously comes back to, including Victor Hugo’s jockstrap, which Adele buries her nose into in a scene of overindulgence that actually lands with a bit of tenderness.
Episode 3, “The Sweet Smell of Success” turns towards Halston’s personal relationships with Liza and Victor, his best friend and his lover. Liza’s getting married, telling Halston the news after giving stories of Burt Reynolds and Gene Hackman in Mexico during the filming of the 1975 comedy Lucky Lady. Krysta Rodriguez remains a bright and soft spot in each episode, drawing attention away from the often soul-sucking and unsentimental demeanor Halston starts developing.
Victor becomes Halston’s main source of comfort and intimacy, with words of affirmation, “I love yous,” and an excess of cocaine and soon-to-be partying. Their relationship contains fire and passion, unseen in Halston’s representation outside of his initial moments of genius earlier in the series. Again, Halston cannot repeat those words back to Victor, further proving an emotionally stunted heart buried inside of the designer, who watched his mother be abused time and time again as a child.
Regardless, the fragrance and the misshapen bottle designed by Elsa are a massive success, leading to a high-rise office and high-end lines of carpets, suitcases, airline uniforms, and cocaine, the last of which stakes its claim once again at the opening of Studio 54, a place inhabiting entirely different scents that signify success.