Tuesday, December 9, 2014

REVIEW: 'Ground Floor' - Brody Tries to Win Back Both His Job and Mansfield's Respect in 'Unforgiven'

TBS' Ground Floor - Episode 2.01 "Unforgiven"

When they return from Paris, Brody has to face the music for abandoning Mansfield and Jenny has to deal with the fact a spurned Harvard has fired almost everyone on the ground floor. Getting back in Mansfield's good books will be harder than Brody thought - especially since he's already been replaced.

Ground Floor was one of my favorite comedies from last season. It was a wonderfully produced show shot in the traditional multi-cam format. It did feel retro but in the absolute best way possible. The dynamics and stories were easy to understand but also felt edgy and current without ever becoming too crass for the sake of shocking the audience. More importantly though, Ground Floor was able to dig into interesting emotional material especially in the relationship between Brody and Jenny.

The concluding moments of the first season finale hinted at an all-new dynamic for the start of the second: Brody getting fired by Mansfield. That decision to go to Paris with Jenny instead of Hong Kong with Mansfield was what the first season had been building towards. His relationship with Jenny was the primary focus. The season carefully developed them from two strangers starting a relationship to two people who truly love each other. So, of course, he would choose love in the season finale.

And now, Brody has to deal with the consequences of that decision. Yes, it was rash but as he explains in the premiere: he would make that same decision every single time. He is not ashamed of that. Now, he is more determined than ever to be working for Mansfield. His resume is so strong that he could get the same job he had at any financial firm out there. He has chosen to stay at Remington Trust because it is his family. He could go off and be successful elsewhere while still dating the wonderful Jenny. But that's not all he wants out of life. His roots are at Remington Trust. Mansfield's methods at times can be crazy and irrational. But he has learned so much from the man. To the point that he is willing to start all over again to rebuild that trust. He is hoping that level of commitment impresses Mansfield yet again.

But Mansfield feels nothing towards Brody now as Brody found out in a wonderful rapid-fire back-and-forth interaction. Brody was Mansfield's number two guy at the office. He threw away this amazing opportunity for a girl. That's a betrayal that Mansfield just can't easily forgive and forget. Brody has always been like a surrogate son to him. He can't simply give Brody his old job back. This is a place of business after all. The first season liked to push the lines of that description for the sake of having the entire cast interact with each other. The separation between the top floor and the ground floor was important at the start of the series and got more lax as the season went along. And yet, a separation still exists.

The people on the ground floor do things so differently than the folks on the top floor. It's a place where Harvard can be left in charge and fire just about everyone who works there and refuse to hire anyone new because they all look like Brody. Yes, that's essentially just a set-up for when Brody actually does apply for the position. But it's still an energy style that separates the two environments. Threepeat can be silly too - making multiple references to Frozen and using Mansfield's office when he's away. But he has an authority figure that can intimidate him and enforce the consequences of such actions.

And then, there is Jenny who wants to support Brody no matter what he decides but isn't going to let his decision effect the way she views their vacation or their relationship. She loves him but she also realizes that this was a decision that he made by himself and that he needs to deal with. She also knows that the two of them working together in the same office could be very dangerous for their relationship. Sure, it's played as a joke for how long the people on the ground floor actually work. But it is still a valuable concern for her to have that gets undercut a little bit.

But the focus in the season premiere is on Brody and his reinvigorated energy to get back to work. He is fighting for something that he is really passionate about. He has the girl and now he's trying to get the job back too. That is a perfectly fine narrative spine for the show to be about at the start of its second season. I'm especially looking forward to how Brody's work ethic mixes with the rest of the people on the ground floor.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Unforgiven" was written by Jeff Astrof and directed by Gail Mancuso.
  • Briga Heelan was the true revelation from the first second and it takes less than a minute into the new season to be reminded why. That dream sequence at the top of the episode was just so good. It was just whimsy enough while still being deeply rooted in Brody's fears about returning home from Paris.
  • I didn't especially enjoy the running joke about Jenny misunderstanding The Louvre. It made her seem almost too dim.
  • I like the idea that Harvard did a lot of work on himself while Brody and Jenny were away and their return undid all of it.
  • It seems that Alexis Knapp is no longer a part of the show. Tori was one of the people Harvard fired and she is no longer listed amongst the regular cast.
  • Also, Emily Heller joins the cast as Lindsay, Brody's replacement at the firm. That atmosphere definitely needed more female energy and she seems like a nice addition. I especially enjoyed her pulling out a crazy hat from underneath her desk.
  • Mansfield does have the face for a beret.