Thursday, September 11, 2014

REVIEW: 'Married' - Russ Gives Lina a Piece of Candy While AJ Has a Public Meltdown in 'Halloween'

FX's Married - Episode 1.09 "Halloween"

Russ and Jess take an unwilling AJ to rehab.

There's actually some really great stuff about lying and intimacy within the structure of "Halloween." It's more subtle than the show's past attempts at showcasing Russ and Lina drifting apart in life. And yet, it is immensely powerful. Lina has often been seen as the shrewd wet blanket wife who's always putting a damper on Russ' wacky shenanigans. It's important for a series like this to show that she wasn't always that way. The show has also gotten progressively better all season long at focusing on this unique marriage and how they've fallen into these specific roles and yet still feel nothing but love to each other. Right now, he lies to her about why he's out so late every day because he doesn't want to hurt her or her image of him. And yet, she feels like she's not being a good wife because he snaps at her so easily at the end of his day. They've fallen into these roles because of circumstance and repetition. She doesn't quite know what to do to get out of it. And yet, it's the simplest thing to show that they truly appreciate one another. Russ gets a piece of Halloween candy for her because she both wants and desires it. In that moment, she couldn't love him anymore than she already does and it was for the smallest of things. But the smallest moments can also often be the most powerful ones.

Similarly, Jess and Shep have never really seemed like they were on the same page. The love is there but a gap is also present - and no, I'm not referring to their ages. She's a tad bit more honest by saying she's going out for "work drinks" except no work is actually taking place. She's not doing anything wrong and yet she's been choosing to put distance between herself and her family. That makes the ending gesture of her wanting to be there with them while trick-or-treating a nice sign that improvement is on the way. Sure, she's still inappropriate but it's a step in the right direction for that couple.

But all of this action is also framed around Russ and Jess attempting to take AJ to rehab. What I'm struck by the most in this plot is how low-stakes it plays. Russ and Jess just casually walk up to his house to pick him up and he knows he's going to rehab. Yes, the inevitable freakout does occur and the two chase him throughout town. And yet, it never plays as the most important thing in the world to the character. As you all know, AJ is not my favorite character. The weight of his going to rehab to be a better father would have played better if we had ever actually seen his child. When his ex-wife mentioned their offspring a week ago, I was taken aback. I didn't know he too had a child. It ultimately gives this story too narrow of a focus. Similarly, I have no clue what he does for work. It's a firm of some type - but that has never been a major characteristic or detail for him. He's always just been the slightly-off and annoying guy. The best part of this entire story is Russ basically just throwing his hands up and saying he's walking away from it all. That's ultimately what gets him to go. Not some big moment of self-realization after creating a scene at his workplace. Hopefully this development will lead to a better focused character in the future.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Halloween" was written by Dan O'Keefe and directed by Huck Botko.
  • I also loved that Russ was able to get all the girls ready for Halloween and it wasn't a big deal. Lina rushed home to be with them and she wasn't necessary which only makes the small gesture later even better.
  • I wasn't too sure on Lina's friend who didn't quite have enough time for her. But I appreciated that the bulk of that story was on Lina.
  • Russ and Shep is always such a unique pairing. What would happen if they were forced into an extended period of time together?
  • AJ's assistant-type who was also in love with him just didn't really work at all for me.