Thursday, January 22, 2015

REVIEW: 'Mom' - Bonnie and Christy Visit a Bar and Crash a Funeral in 'Three Smiles and an Unpainted Ceiling'

CBS' Mom - Episode 2.11 "Three Smiles and an Unpainted Ceiling"

An unexpected death rocks the Plunkett household.

From the very beginning, Mom has been about three generations of women caring for each other despite the youngest always making the same mistakes as the previous ones. Violet broke that cycle last season when she gave her baby up for adoption. Both Bonnie and Christy are sober. And now, their lives are changing. They are trying to do better not just for themselves but for the entire family. This season the Plunketts have fallen on hard times. Both Christy and Violet have had bouts of depression and the family left their home because they couldn't afford the rent. But things have been looking up for them again. Bonnie found this great new apartment for the family to live in and both Christy and Violet are trying to grow and be better people than they were.

One of the most stable elements throughout the second season so far was Bonnie's relationship with Alvin. As Christy's father, Alvin presents a deep history and connection to this family. He left Bonnie in the hospital and he only reentered their lives a year ago. He was the first male character to actually be an important part of the show. Since then, the show has figured out what to do with Baxter. But Alvin's continued presence made a lot of sense and added value to the ever-changing family dynamic.

I thought it was suspicious, however, that Kevin Pollak wasn't promoted to series regular status at the start of the second season. His character easily became a core part of the family with the final few episodes of the first season focusing on his relationship with both Christy and Bonnie and his subsequent heart attack. The show locked down Mimi Kennedy to appear in the same capacity as Marjorie, family friend and sponsor to Christy. I thought it was just a contractual thing. Pollak continued to appear in the majority of episodes this season. But it was all building up towards the rather dark twist in "Three Smiles and an Unpainted Ceiling."

Alvin dies in the middle of sex with Bonnie. That is obviously played for a few jokes. Bonnie thinks he has just fallen asleep and Christy says he died doing something he didn't do much with his ex-wife, Lorraine. And yet, this is a very big thing that has happened. The character has largely been utilized this season as a romantic interest for Bonnie. His relationship with Christy and the rest of the family hasn't been as frequently on display. Just a week ago, he and Bonnie promised each other to have fun for the rest of the time they have together. It's just no one expected the time remaining would be this short.

A threat of death was always hanging over Alvin. He did have a heart attack after all. And yet, that event was never on the forefront of our memories with him. It would result in a few jokes every once in awhile. His lifestyle didn't really change all that much after he recovered from it. But he was in a relationship with Bonnie. It was a committed relationship too. She wanted to do things differently with him this time around and she was the happiest she has been in a long time. She could see a life of stability with him - but one that also provided plenty of adventure. They were a very sexually active couple. That's ultimately what did him in - as tragic as that sounds.

There's a bluntness to Alvin's death in this episode. The first third acts like any other typical episode of Mom. Alvin is planning on moving into the open apartment across the courtyard from Bonnie and the family. That is a big deal and would impact how frequently the rest of the family sees him. The episode is about that move and then transitions to the tragic twist that is his death. It set up connections so the entire family could have a reason to grieve. Alvin really didn't have that connection on screen to either Violet or Roscoe. So, the episode established things early on that they could grieve over - Roscoe not being able to talk to him with the walkie talkie anymore and Violet blowing off the last dinner he offered to have with her. Both of those are nice connections to have even though his relationship with his grandchildren really wasn't the strongest thing about his character.

His relationship with Bonnie and Christy though was very powerful. They have the hardest grief to deal with because they were so close to him in the end. They only had this relationship for less than a year. But it was a bond that both cherished. Neither of them know how to keep on living without him alongside them. He was the love of Bonnie's life and she's not even invited to the funeral. It's an event thrown by Lorraine that doesn't accurately depict who he really was as of late. Yes, he did have a life with his other family. But Bonnie and Christy were important to him as well. They needed to attend the funeral in order to properly say goodbye and tell the truth about Alvin's life.

But both of their lives are in flux right now. Bonnie easily wants to act out. She wants to hurt Lorraine for telling her not to come to the funeral. It takes a good slap to the face by Marjorie to get her to calm down. Even with support from a meeting, she still ends up at a bar again. The show has already done an episode featuring Bonnie falling off the wagon. This time though it packs so much more importance because she has actually been sober and trying to turn her life around. Meanwhile, Christy isn't really allowed to have a reaction to all of this because she has to keep the family together. She has to make sure that Bonnie, Violet and Roscoe are all okay. She has to be the one to make sure that Bonnie doesn't drink again. But Christy deserves to grieve as well. She barely had any real time with her father and now that connection is just gone. I don't expect anyone to get over this loss anytime soon. At least everyone got to shed a good tear. Now, they just have to figure out how to pick up the pieces.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Three Smiles and an Unpainted Ceiling" was directed by Anthony Rich with story by Chuck Lorre & Eddie Gorodetsky and teleplay by Chuck Lorre, Eddie Gorodetsky & Nick Bakay.
  • Alvin's two sons have been recast - with Greek's Clark Duke and We Are Men's Chris Smith taking over the roles. That must mean they will play more important roles in the future.
  • Everything with the walkie-talkies was pretty funny. It's a nostalgic idea but, of course, Roscoe wouldn't understand the appeal of it right away.
  • Doesn't it somewhat seem like Violet keeps learning the same thing over and over again this season? There doesn't seem to be much driving the character forward. She's in this weird stasis.
  • Every scene between Allison Janney and Anna Faris was terrific.