Check out my review of Episode 6 after the jump. Previous reviews here.
This week's episode is an interesting one. As pure entertainment, it works. It is probably, on balance, the most consistently funny episode of the season so far. It features terrific work by all six principal actors. And it's very well-paced, important since the episode balances three stories.
But the stories are where the problems lie. If you look even a little closely at what is actually goin on onscreen, some of what occurs this week just doesn't work on a story-level. And that's because so much of it is built on shaky foundation established in the season premiere.
Let's get the Malik story out of the way because I've discussed it in previous reviews before so we don't have to dwell for long. Bottom line – at this point, we need to know what the fuck precipitated Malik's issues. The show keeps kicking the can down the road. The writers seem to think the spectacle of this story is sufficient enough that we don't have to know why this story is occurring. They are wrong.
The last scene where Jason and Derwin convinced Malik to go back to rehab was well-written and incredibly well-played, but all I kept thinking was: "what the fuck is wrong with Malik?" The characters don't even know what is goin on with Malik. Jason and Derwin even say in that last scene that they have no idea what is bothering Malik. Shouldn't someone – six episodes in – know? It would have been nice to hear in that moment, from Malik as he's breakin' down what the real issue is. It was the perfect opportunity. But we didn't get it. I just can't get emotionally invested in Malik's story – as well-acted as it is, particularly in this episode – without knowing why I am supposed to be invested.
The Tasha-Donte story was the least successful for me, because I have a real problem with what this story is conveying. I'm sure there are people out there who loved seeing a brother tell a sister that he's a good man for putting up with her bullshit. Except, I don't know that Donte is a good man. Donte is not a fully developed character. He's just a 24 year old who we are told is reponsible, who we are told is a good man, and who we are told to accept as a man who can "straighten Tasha out."
But since we don't know what he does, or his background, or his bank account, presumably his just being a man is sufficient enough to run Tasha's life. I'm just not feeling that subtext at all. I think it's dangerous and offensive – and it's a kind of narrative shorthand that is just lazy writing.
Sure – Tasha's behavior is ridiculous at times and running off to see Rick Fox without telling Donte is a big no-no, but Donte's reaction – though underplayed nicely by Terrance J – is just melodramatic.
And now this relationship is over. I don't even care because the show didn't let me get to know Donte enough to care.
Good thing we had the "Kelly is lost without the Sunbeams" story, which worked on every level. It was believable, well-written, funny, and it was resolved in a believable way. Kelly really is the one character who is now completely unconnected to this world and, having spent so much time in that world, it made sense that she would hang on for dear life. The Sunbeams was also her only other identity outside of her marriage to Jason and to lose that as a result of divorcing Jason had to be traumatizing. Brittany Daniel brought the right amount of pathos to her usual manic energy in her scenes that really sold the emotional undercurrents of the story.
That said, the writers do have a real challenge with the Kelly Pitts character. She is not a part of this world anymore and they could actually write her out of the show and still tell the main stories. But Brittany Daniel really is an integral part of the ensemble and it would be ill-advised to get rid of her. Mara Brock Akil will have to find a way to connect her to the other characters and service the character in a way that fully utilizes Daniel's strengths.
The reality show though is not that story. In a way, it does makes sense. Kelly Pitts is a white trash girl who married her way into the lifestyle of the rich and famous. I could see how a character like that would do a reality show to maintain her lifestyle. But Kelly, though comfortable with money, never seemed to be driven by money. She was reasonably level-headed and down-to-earth. She was never written as cheap or desperate so her behavior now as a reality show star is just completely out of character and grating and, ultimately, quite insulting to the character and to Daniel.
It is not that I don't believe that Kelly Pitts would make the choice to do a reality show, it's that the way the story is playing out erases all of the qualities about Kelly that are endearing. It makes her into a caricature of a reality show star that is just an instance of the writers trying to be current and trendy and ruining a perfectly great character in order to do it.
That said, Kelly felt more like the Kelly we know and love in this episode. And the show was better for it.
But like I said at the top of the review, this was a pretty good episode and it really does seem like the show has regained its footing for the most part. Any lingering issues really are just a result of the stories that they started in the messy season premiere. It is entirely possible – especially given how well-written these last two episodes are – that the show can get back to its Season Three greatness once these stories all run their course.
Ok, enough of my yakking. You guys have read all of my reviews and are watching the show.
What do you think about The Game Season 4 at this point?