Thursday, November 29, 2007

"Keep it in New York City time, that way we're always in sync": Dirty Sexy Money

First off – I totally called it. This was my comment two episodes ago on which of the Darling children was going to face some questions of parentage:

“My money is on Brian - after the Brian Jr. arc sadly ends in the future, he'll need something else to do. He also appears to have the most bad blood with Nick and his father, so I figure it would serve as the most dramatic.”

And, sure enough: just as Brian learns that he is the bastard in “The Watch,” the child who sprung from the loins of Dutch, Brian Jr. is whisked off to Brazil (I’m still in denial about this particular development, though). We can all breathe a sigh of relief that it wasn’t Karen, which Lisa even pointed out. Thanks, Lisa, but that isn’t enough to prove your relevance to this series, even if you had more to do in this episode than…well, ever.

This week’s episode was bizarrely paced, and I’m honestly kind of confused by it. Central to the plot was the ripple effect of Brian Jr.’s departure, Brian’s parentage, and Nick’s reaction to it all. This storyline was extremely meaningful, and had some great acting from all involved. However, the rest of the storylines were oddly wholly different in their pace: Karen begins an affair with Simon Elder, Patrick is hopped up on morphine and quipping like a mad man, and Jeremy gets Lisa’s help in hoodwinking Sofia. None of this fit in with the rest of it, and rather than a balance of comedy and drama it was a schizophrenic hour of television.

The unraveling of truth present within the episode was extremely well-handled. Brian lost his custody battle, not surprisingly, and was promptly arrested for attempting to bribe the arbritrator. We get a whole lot of content here: Tripp trying to keep the family from helping Brian, Nick finally getting the information from Tish, and Brian’s dramatic confrontation with his mother. These scenes were built based on a series of flashbacks featuring Dutch, which were certainly able to resonate within the rest of the story. Somehow, it all comes back to Nick’s relationship with the Darlings (Specifically in a scene between Nick and Tripp), and it all works: a nice, strong, cohesive whole.

And let’s call special attention to the beautiful scene between Brian and Brian Jr. pictured above: the little guy was a great influence on his character, and their goodbye was a poignant coda for the episode. Sure, his mother’s a hussy for taking him away, Gustav incident notwithstanding, but I think that this will do good in allowing Brian’s character to grow now that he is aware of his true parentage.

But with nothing to do with that whole, really, we’ve got three separate side plots of a varying quality. My personal favourite was Jeremy and Lisa’s little fling. Based on next week’s preview, it is clear that there is something more here. But, for this week, it was just Lisa playing Straight Man to Jeremy’s hilarity. My personal favourite was definitely “Jeremy Babeson likes his NUDES!” I don’t know how I really feel about where they’re going with this, but it really did feel like Lisa was finally relevant. It also contains the irony of Lisa, always critical of Nick for falling into the family, doing quite the same herself.

And then we have Karen and Simon Elder’s little affair. Blair Underwood remains wholly unexciting in my view (Although I am extremely excited for Gina Torres (Firefly, Alias) to play his “Ghana Princess” ex-wife), but Karen was great until she became pudding in his hands. Specifically, Natalie Zea’s line reading of “Death! I’m coming for you Karen! Here I come!” It was oh so close to making the title, as most of Karen’s lines are, but the storyline really didn’t resonate in the episode itself.

And the other storyline was certainly even more irrelevant, if humorous: Patrick hopped up on morphine and doling out his own brand of humour. For example, to Karen and Simon: “I got your charitable giving right here.” He basically served as comic relief, and then quasi-reconnected with Carmelita, but it really didn’t seem to matter. His character has oft been marginalized, and turning him into a punchline really didn’t help matters.

And yet, if we were to remove those three subplots, we have an emotional and meaningful story of lives turned upside down. Brian’s farewell with Brian Jr. was heartbreaking, his relationship with Nick certainly more complicated, and the next episode appears to promise further developments with Brian’s character. It just seemed like the show, in an attempt to keep its reputation as a somewhat satirical drama series, failed to strike a balance and just threw comedy and melodrama into a pot and forgot to stir. I think that there’s a better mix possible with these parts, and I think this episode could have been better (not that it was bad) because of it.


Carrie said...

This was probably my least favorite episode so far, because of the reasons you mentioned. Parts of it were very good, but it didn't come together as a whole.

Still, the entire end scene with Nick and Brian at the church was GOLD. Also gold was the Tripp/Nick confrontation. Donald Sutherland for the win. At life.

page said...

The stuff with Lisa and Jeremy was great, really funny, and I FINALLY saw something to like in her. Patrick was pretty hilarious. I agree with what Carrie said up there about the church scene, those two actors were hitting it hard, fantastic scene.

Uncle Ira said...

First of all, congratulations on correctly anticipating the identity of Nick’s secret sibling in our exchange a few weeks ago. I share your relief that it wasn’t Karen...

I also found the pace of this episode to be off. It almost felt as if different production teams were handling the different story-lines, and then they were just cut and pasted together. My hope is that now that they know they’ve been picked up for another season, (at least I think I read that...), they’ll be able to take a more relaxed approach to their storytelling. One good thing that seems to be coming out of the strike is that shows like this, that might have been sent to an early grave last year, are getting some breathing room and a chance to find their voices.... I hope it’s a lesson that the networks remember in the post-strike world.

But I somehow doubt it.