Episodes, “Episode Three”

Sorry for the slight delay in this review. I’ve been a bit sluggish this week for some reason.

Anyway, Episodes! This third effort is not quite as strong as last week’s episode, but compared to the pilot, it’s a glorious improvement. I tweeted this last night but I honestly have no idea how the Episodes from the pilot and the Episodes from the second and third efforts are even the same series. Seriously, I’m not convinced that the same people who worked on the pilot worked on these last two episodes. The differences are basically staggering. I can see why critics who have seen the whole season are much higher on it than I was after the pilot or am even right now. It’s hard to get that awful taste out of your mouth.

This third episode is sort of weird in that it mixes in some of the annoying aspects of the pilot but somehow figures out how to cover them up with the good stuff from last week so that the overall result is fairly good. The series is continuing to steer away from the awful Hollywood humor that made the pilot so insufferable and so even though John Pankow’s Merc is more involved this week and still moderately annoying, he isn’t as stupid or obnoxious as he was in that first half-hour. The contradicting messages that he gives to the Lincolns and everyone else are still present, but here he seems more like a typical studio suit that talks out of both sides of his mouth instead of a flat-out idiot who just happened to stumble into this high-profile job. There are moments where he toes that stupidity line, particularly when he’s alone with Carol, but for whatever reason I find general, sexually-laced stupidity less offensive than angry, bitter Hollywood stupidity.

Additionally, the most obvious crime this episode commits is the LeBlanc penis thread, which drags along for a shocking amount of time. I don’t want accuse Matt LeBlanc of anything in particular, but it does seem a little odd that an entire subplot of this episode is dedicated to how humongous his penis is and how open and excited he is to share that information with other people, men or women. It could have been part of his contract, the writers could have just thought it would help make the LeBlanc comeback stories seem easier, I don’t know. What I do know is that these sorts of stories don’t really seem to belong amid the fairly interesting relationship developing both Lincolns and LeBlanc. That kind of humor is so elementary and immature and misplaced here, even considering my terrible opinion of some of the Hollywood jokes. In the end the penis stuff doesn’t harm the episode as much as it could have, but it scares me that the series is already resorting to those kind of jokes in episode three.

But despite that, “Episode Three,” just like the second effort, is very watchable. The three leads are working up a nice chemistry and the pacing of their conversations is both funny and natural most of the time. Although I think starting the pilot with a in media res opening was flat-out stupid, I appreciate that the last two episodes have done a nice job of backing away from the obvious pillars of tension that the pilot suggested the series was going to go for. Sure, LeBlanc takes Sean to Vegas, gets him into cool clubs and lets him drive his extremely expensive and rare car, but it feels less like an overt bribe that things like the house or the car in the pilot did.

In that respect, these last two episodes have done some good work in making sure that we see the fissure between the two Lincolns is going to happen over time. Starting with that in media res opening made their relationship struggles feel more broad and stereotypical — and I still think it harms my perspective of their arguments now — but Episodes has nicely established their relationship in such a way that makes the slow deterioration of it seem more natural. It makes sense that Sean would be charmed by LeBlanc, just as Beverly was last week and it’s going to continue to be a process where the Lincolns need to stick together or the town is going to slowly chip away at them.

And as long as Episodes continues down that path, it will continue to improve in all the right ways. Just less penis jokes, please.

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