Review of Episode 9 after the jump. Previous reviews can be found here.
One of the biggest problems that The Game has had in its BET incarnation has been inconsistent tone. The show frankly got a lil beside itself and tried to up the ante in the drama department resulting in writing that felt more telenovela than dramedy as it was in the CW incarnation.
So it's interesting that Episode 9 plays just like an episode from the CW incarnation. It has more laughs per minute than all previous episodes combined and it manages to root nearly every joke in character. Most importantly, the drama is finely modulated and, as a result, actually packs a punch. I guess now that the show has wrapped up all the melodrama that was introduced in the season premiere, the writers feel free to get back to what was so lovable during the first three seasons.
I still can't stand Katelynn Smith, the new actress playing Brit Brat, but the story built around the character worked in every way. Jason has never been the best father so I liked that we got to see exactly what it would be like for Jason Pitts to be totally responsible for Brittany. I liked that he had Tasha watch her if only because watching Tasha watch her was a real hoot.
On one level, having Brit Brat steal Tasha's weed was kinda tedious because television children are always "acting out" by doing drugs. But it actually makes a lot of sense because, like Brittany taking sexy videos of herself upset Kelly, the idea of Brittany doing drugs is precisely the thing that would make Jason man up and be a father. Because we all know that Jason Pitts loathes anything that he views as stereotypical black behavior more than anything. He would totally give up his career to keep Brit Brat from turning into Tasha Mack.
But more than anything, this storyline showcased again how brilliant Coby Bell and Wendy Racquel Robinson are as Jason Pitts and Tasha Mack, both of whom have had too little to do so far this season.
Coby Bell's ability to be both funny and serious in his dramatic scenes is just astonishing. His performance in every scene is so finely detailed even when he's just gesturing as he was in the scene with Melanie and Tasha. That last scene with him and Smith was masterful, particularly because Smith wasn't really giving Bell much to work with. But he made you feel how serious he was about straightening Brit Brat out.
Robinson has the hardest job on the show because Tasha Mack is the kind of character that can come across as one-dimensional even when the writers are grafting some nice dimension onto her. In the CW version, the writers never lost sight of Tasha's heart and her determination to rise above her humble beginnings and that made it easier for us to really love the character. The problem with BET's version is that Tasha has very little heart and soul.
While the scenes with Brittany were laugh out loud funny, the writers missed a real opportunity to remind us why Tasha is the person she is. I bought everything she did in the scenes, but it would have been nice to see Tasha soften just a bit to try to relate to Brit Brat. It would have been a nice complement to how she often deals with Melanie, who we all know often acts like a spoiled adolescent too. Robinson does tremendous work in the role and she nailed every comedic beat of her scenes tonight but this Tasha Mack, funny though she may be, isn't quite the Tasha Mack we know and love.
The episode's other story wasn't nearly as funny but it did finally help us to better understand why Melanie isn't practicing medicine, even if her reasoning is completely stupid and somewhat out of character. Tia Mowry-Hardrict sold that scene where Melanie explains her rationale for not practicing medicine to her mother – a true feat since it is complete and utter nonsense.
One of the definining aspects of The Game has always been that Melanie is a woman who did not want to lose herself in Derwin's life. While I understand that she might ultimately do so, I wish the writers would give us something more than "I see the greatness in him." Can't she just really want to be a wife and mother? Can't she be terrified of practicing medicine so much that she just quits? In other words, can't the decision to not practice medicine be about her and not about Derwin?
With all we know about Melanie – how paranoid she was in those first seasons about marrying Derwin before finishing school – this Melanie is just not quite right. I feel like the show will have to explore more of why Melanie would give up all her dreams for her husband. Particularly because the decision, as currently rendered on the show, sends a really terrible message. There must have been something that changed in the two years between Seasons Three and Four that got Melanie to this place. We really need to know what that is to really invest in this new housewife Melanie.
That said, of course Melanie would lie to her mother about being pregnant. Melanie is the queen of creating problems out of nothing. I am not really feeling this one because it will veer Derwin and Melanie back into the melodrama territory that was so frustrating in the first couple of episodes. It was also poorly rendered in that final scene. I couldn't tell if she let her mom believe this because it saved her from having to rationalize not being a doctor fully or what. That last moment was a little confusingly blocked and written. I just hope they dispense with this fake pregnancy storyline quickly. There is no good there.
Couple of other thoughts:
- So many good jokes: The "house flat" water joke. "Move ya ass, Kizzy!" The blacked out passages of the Bible. "You left me with Madea." Melanie's father saying T.O is his guy crush. All hilarious. I also liked how Melanie thought the talented Wahlberg was Donnie.
- Nice touch with Derwin flinching when Melanie's mom reaches to hug him. Them five slaps she gave him in Season Three probably still hurt. LOL.
- Tasha Mack runnin around tryna whip Malik's ass is funny, but cheaply so. It doesn't make any real sense for the characters, but it's a nice sight gag I guess.
- Someone should really check Melanie every time she calls herself "Dr. Melanie Barnett-Davis" since she isn't practicing medicine. Where are Kelly Pitts and Tasha Mack when you need them, huh?