Read my review of the second episode of The Game's fourth season after the jump. This review discusses every aspect of the show's storylines, so if you haven't watched bookmark this page and come back after you've watched.
So I was totally wrong that BET had given Mara Brock Akil the go-ahead to turn The Game into a one-hour dramedy. I misread the New York Times piece. Apologies.
And whew…it is a good thing that the show is back to its original 30-minute format. Akil and the writers are just more comfortable – and skilled – writing comedy that occassionally have dramatic elements than they are at writing a dramatic show.
This second episode felt more like the show that we all know and love as nearly all of the problems that plagued the one-hour premiere were resolved pretty quickly. Most specifically, the characters largely feel like the characters that we loved on the CW's version and they are finally sharing scenes together that are rooted in the relationships that have been established over three seasons.
While the actual scene that ends the pointless feud between Kelly and Tasha was a little ridiculous, it was truly a pleasure to see all three women in a scene that featured Kelly and Tasha's blunt commentary on Melanie's actions. Kelly and Tasha have always functioned as mentors to Melanie as she continually makes incredibly stupid decisions for selfish reasons and then is shocked and awed that it was the wrong decision and made things worse. Having Tasha and Kelly comment on these dynamics and share a laugh at Melanie's expense was a nice touch. The scene with the fellas talking Derwin down after Jason's over-the-top anchor scene worked in a similar way and reminded us all just how flawless Coby Bell's comedic timing really is.
Speaking of Coby Bell, he was a real trooper in this episode. Which is admirable because Akil is doing him no favors with the way Jason is being written. Perhaps Akil is pissed that Bell didn't just quit Burn Notice and so that's why she's overplaying Jason Pitts' hurt and anger at the end of his career. But constantly undercutting one of the two strongest performers in the cast* is a mistake.
Jason has always been an asshole and he's always been self-destructive – taking steroids is the most obvious example – but his ego and vanity would never really let him behave the way he's behaving as a sports anchor**. We are supposed to believe that he's so hurt by the Sabers' betrayal that he'd do what he wouldn't ordinarily do, but it's just written a bit too broadly to be totally believable. And watching Bell struggle to sell those scenes is really painful to watch, particularly because he's so very good in his two scenes with Hosea Chanchez and Pooch Hall.
The writers are still not making the drama work and the reason for that, as I mentioned in last week's review, is that the dramatic scenes are written in such a way that the characters behave in ways they wouldn't otherwise. The "DJ is not Derwin's baby" storyline is just a mistake all around and it does Pooch Hall, who is probably the weakest dramatic actor in the cast, no favors.
And that last scene? It fell completely flat because it was based in Derwin's supposed deeply spiritual nature, which is the most glaringly underdeveloped aspect of his character. I never bought Derwin as a spiritual character – shit they never even bothered to bring his beloved grandmother, the supposed reason for his spirituality, to Derwin's wedding – and so the entire last speech just sounded like bullshit.
That said, the show's treatment of Janay is really the hardest pill to swallow (with the possible exception of the way Jason Pitts is being written). I think it undercuts Janay as a character and turns her into a plot device in a way that reinscribes one of the worst contemporary black woman stereotypes – the "irrational baby mama."
I didn't buy for a second that Janay would go after Derwin's money. Her father invented the coffee sleeve and she owns an upscale boutique. The entire reason they got together was because she forced Derwin to see her as a woman who is more than capable of being his partner. Sure, she now has a child and so has to think about the child's interests, but I just don't think that even that situation would turn her into a vindictive character.
It would have been much more interesting to watch Melanie just struggle to deal with her insecurities and her jealousy. Maybe we could have had a whole storyline about how she resents the child (like she did when Janay was pregnant), which would put a strain on her marriage. Or maybe after two years we could have seen her mature enough to be both civil and unthreatened by Janay (as in the opening scene of last week's episode that turned out to be a fake-out). Either one of these proposed storylines would play better to the characters as they've been developed and would provide a different way to think about blended black families. Right now, we just have stereotype.
But all that said, this really was a strong episode that felt more like the show that fans wanted back. I am a lot less worried about this season than I was after last week's premiere.
*The other being Wendy Raquel Robinson, who thankfully did not have any scenes with Terrence J, but of course that means she didn't have anything to do. Sadly.
**Not to mention that I can't see any sports show letting him say the things that Jason said during that show.
Great review my friend I agree on all your points, mostly the stereotyping of Janay! She was always a strong woman and it would have been refreshing to see her handle any of Melanie’s drama with class not like a money hungry baby mama! Thanks for the review, I read the first one also and it was on point 😉 Looking forward to the third review if possible.
I stumbled upon your blog somehow last week, and I must say that I am enjoying your reviews very much. That being said, I agree with much of what you said. I’m hoping the show does continue to improve, while this episode was better than the last one, it still leaves a lot to be desired.
I think the writers just rushed everything, especially the Kelly and Tasha make-up scene.They should just let things flow and slowly reveal what has gone on in the lives of these characters the last two years. While, I’m glad that the friendship of these women (and the men too) was showcased, because that was always the heart of the show, I don’t think the way they did was effective. I also agree that it was painful to watch Coby Bell’s scenes, but I am always impressed at his range and his ability to make such an unlikeable character, endearing. He is truly the breakout star of this show and I look forward to seeing what he does next.
I’m still holding out hope that the show gets better, and I won’t give up on them because this is truly one of the best ensemble casts I’ve seen on t,v in recent memory. I look forward to reading all that you have to say throughout the season.
Thanks Avie. I’ll definitely be reviewing every episode.
Agreed. I feel like the jump in quality from the premiere to this episode means that the show will likely find its footing over the next couple of episodes. I can imagine that it is difficult to pick up something that you let go of a few years ago and get that old rhythm back, so I’m willing to stick it out. Thanks for stopping through.
I definitely agree with some of your points here, I was scared too when the premiere came out that this would be it. I was hoping that it would all be a prank by second episode and I’m glad to say that after watching the second episode I’m a lot less worried, it seems to be getting there, not there 100% yet, but i think they will get around to it in future episodes. I know they never went into depth with Derwin’s religious side, but the fact that he still acknowledged God in all of this I’m sort of satisfied with, I know he’s not completely a holy person, but i do like that they added God back to his life, so many shows now completely either leaves the idea of God out, or degrades Him, I’m glad they didn’t do that here.
I agree that it is important to have God out there on these kinds of shows, but I feel like The Game is just paying lip service. Nothing about Derwin is terribly religious to me. It doesn’t feel organic and intrinsic to his character at all. Often, the show has used his spirituality as a punchline and that is deeply problematic.
that is true