Saturday, September 5, 2015

REVIEW: 'Blunt Talk' - Walter's Staff Enjoy Their Weekend Away From Work in 'All My Relationships End in Pain'

Starz's Blunt Talk - Episode 1.03 "All My Relationships End in Pain"

Walter is ordered by the court to attend AA meetings while his staff goes about their peculiar weekends.

There's a simplicity on display in "All My Relationships End in Pain" that's a welcome change of pace from the two previous episodes. The oddities and peculiarities are still on display in the storytelling. But this episode isn't as obnoxious and over-the-top in its pursuit to get a laugh as the opening episodes of the series. This episode wants to be about the characters - not the extravagant and outlandish circumstances they find themselves in. The characters have been the weakest part of the show so far. Walter Blunt and his eccentricities have taken up so much time and space that it's been difficult for anyone from the ensemble to truly break out as a meaningful voice also present in this narrative. Sure, every beat in this episode is very introductory but at least an effort is being made to find depth to the characters who are listed amongst the series regular cast.

Of course, Walter Blunt is still a very big part of the show. But his storyline isn't overwhelming. His personal life is chaotic and that affects everyone he comes into contact with. But the producers on his show are also capable of having lives outside of the job. They will keep running to help when the show is in danger. But none of them are all that personally connected to Walter outside of work. That's a very important distinction to make. These characters are able to have outside lives. Sure, it may create an episode that feels like it's a bunch of small stories connected together with a very thin theme. But that's also a necessary hassle for the show to deal with in order to make this more than the Walter Blunt show.

Walter still manages to get caught up in some new crazy plot though. Despite the offbeat comedic sensibilities and rhythms of the show, the stories still tend to have a predictable feel to them. That has been present in all three episodes so far. It was easy to predict that Walter and Harry would get into trouble when Walter is ordered to attend AA meetings as a part of the deal his lawyers have arranged for him. In fact, he doesn't even have to go to the meetings. He just has to have a paper signed that he went from someone else there. It's miraculous that he gets lucky with those loopholes without having to do any work. It could come across as things going too well for him in a time where he needs to take life more seriously in order to save his show. But instead, he's just having a good time trying to do what his therapist has recommended: finding a new woman to be with.

First of all, Dr. Weiss' advice continues to be so infuriating. He's the kind of therapist that only exists in order to keep Walter the broken and eccentric man he has always been while operating under the illusion that he is making progress on his psyche. It's a weird construct for the show. But nevertheless, it created a situation where Walter got to seduce Sharon Lawrence at a sex addicts meeting and then go back to her place. Of course, things continue not to go Walter's way in the end. It is very appreciated that the show doesn't reward Walter's behavior. His show has survived and the legal charges have gone away. But his various antics onscreen don't really allow him much happiness or joy. He hasn't gotten anything he has truly wanted. He hasn't worked hard for it anymore. So all of that does work well. But again, the episode opens and ends with Walter and Harry doing amusing activities together. It starts with a sword battle in Walter's mansion and ends with a boat ride accompanied by a song. It's amusing but it's not over-the-top in a way that is reaching too far for a simple laugh.

Elsewhere, the producers of Walter's team are all given their own individual storylines. It's literally just a brief snippet into their lives outside of work. But it does inform who these people are, what their lives are like and how that will affect their performance at work. That's a smart idea for this episode to explore. The weirdness is still more amusing than anything else. But that works in a handful of the scenarios here. Martin and Rosalie have a weird relationship that's basically Martin enjoying her smell after work. But that sets up the tragedy of Rosalie realizing her husband's memory is starting to fade. That's much more real than anything the show has done before. Plus, it's told in the context of their open marriage. But it's still a sensitive story that could end up becoming something real for Rosalie and the show in the future.

The sadness and melancholy of the real world creeps into Jim and Celia's stories as well. Jim is out shopping for high heels. He has a specific shoe he wants to buy in a specific size. But he has no woman in his life to give them too. That's odd. But it also highlights the loneliness that accompanies him outside of the job. Meanwhile, Celia is focused on her personal health and exercises much more than her colleagues. But she's also actively on a mission to find a man. The only one who appeals to her is a close-up magician. It's because he reminds her of her dead father though. Again, the tragedy of the situation doesn't take away from the humor. It's a very deliberate storytelling device that this show is able to utilize well here. In fact, it should use it more often in the future.

Some more thoughts:
  • "All My Relationships End in Pain" was written by Jonathan Ames and directed by Michael Lehmann.
  • I continue to enjoy Bob being the only person who doesn't care what Walter will think. He uses Walter's bathroom so that Walter will notice. It's no big deal to him because he owns the show. That's a fun dynamic the show should explore more of.
  • Dr. Weiss encouraging Walter to live a fun and wild life like Elizabeth Taylor is so out there and unconventional. It does produce results. But not healthy ones. Again, why is this man a therapist?
  • Speaking of therapists, Jim's dad is also one apparently and he's very concerned about Walter following his big scandal.
  • It's also important to note that Celia doesn't care that her suitor is apparently married. She caught him and still wound up having sex with him.
  • Shelly continues to pitch stories and they continue to get shot down.
  • I doubt Sharon Lawrence will pop up again as the sex addict, but this will probably be a recurring role for Ed Begley Jr. as Rosalie's husband simply due to how prominent he is to an important character.