Saturday, September 12, 2015

REVIEW: 'Blunt Talk' - Walter Wants to Be a Better Father and Jim's Secret Is Exposed in 'A Beaver That's Lost Its Mind'

Starz's Blunt Talk - Episode 1.04 "A Beaver That's Lost Its Mind"

Walter makes a valiant attempt at being a better father to his youngest son, only to be crushed by news that his ex-wife is dating a rock star.

Walter is actually genuine in his pursuit to being a better person in "A Beaver That's Lost Its Mind." That's a very important moment of character development for the show. He can't simply say he wants to be and do better and then go about acting exactly the same. The outrageousness of the comedy has defined the character and the show so far. Last week's episode got into the nuances of the characters in a deeper way. This one continues that momentum in a way that does come across as genuine. Walter is actually trying to act better than he has over the past two weeks. Things still don't quite go as well for him and he still acts like himself afterwards. But an effort is being made to make Walter believe he needs to act differently than he has been.

This is another solid episode that builds on the character dynamics. Sure, some beats don't quite work either comedically or structurally. Harry's trapped in a weird running gag about dealing with a hangover while the explanation for another network picking up Shelly's story is weirdly resolved. But overall, the dynamics between the characters are starting to come out in a way that is enriching to the overall show. The audience's introduction to these characters has been chaotic. They are all defined by their various quirks that add up to a staff of people both well-equipped to produce and just as damaged as Walter. Rosalie tries to bring up the idea that Walter's staff is cracking right now because that's what he's doing. It's hard to make that argument without having seen how this team worked before Walter had his public breakdown. But Walter is trying to put himself together again while his staff only seem to be getting more outwardly damaged. It's all a way the story is being told. These quirks and problems probably always existed. Walter's arrest forced a change to come to the office which is bringing all of these things out in a more heightened way. It's all to derive humor and enjoyment for the audience. That does require some time. So while Walter is making progress, the audience is only now seeing what's going on with the rest of his staff.

But it's also very amusing to set an episode's conceit around the fact that one of Walter's children only knows him as Walter Blunt the newsman and not Walter Blunt the father. Sure, the action primarily takes place outside of Walter's interactions with Bertie. He deals much more with his ex-wife, Vivian, and her new boyfriend/Bertie's music teacher, Moby (in a cameo appearance as himself). It's his issues with the two of them that send him on his later spiral. He wants to be a better father but he's allowing outside factors to get in the way of that. It's a very Walter Blunt reaction. But it's one that is different than his previous spirals. He's still angry about the new car Harry got for him and wants to get spooned by Rosalie. But he is upset because things still aren't going well for him even though he actually put effort into being a better person. He volunteered for story time. Sure, his story probably wasn't the best for the preschool class. But he still got applause - which is more than he can say for other parts of his life.

Walter is only able to pull himself together because his staff is in crisis and needs him. The previous episode did a solid job of showing what their lives are like outside of the office. This one brings all of those issues to the office. Rosalie's husband and his memory problems stop by. The married magician Celia slept with also shows up. Martin learns that Rosalie has told her husband about their special relationship. But it's Jim whose secret is exposed more than anyone else's. Rosalie makes a passing reference that every man in her life is losing it while the rest of the office learns of Celia's new fling. But they don't know the extent of those stories. With Jim, they see his secret in all of its brutal honesty - which leads to a handful of really interesting comedic moments.

Jim is a hoarder. He takes stuff from around the workplace and stores it in his office which he locks at all times. He is forced into action when HR says he needs to allow the janitorial stuff in there after hours. Locking himself in his office probably isn't the smartest plan. But it's the only thing he can think to do. It's a hopeless pursuit to protect this secret the rest of the office doesn't know about. The staff just wants to worry about replacing the health segment on the evening's show. And yet, they all have to gather in order to get Jim's door open and see what's worth keeping from all of them. Sure, it was pretty easy to predict that he was a hoarder. There wasn't much else that it could be. But that still allowed for several amusing interactions from the characters.

And in the end, Walter actually succeeded at being a better person. It all came about because Rosalie gave him a pep talk saying he was like a father to the staff. That's probably not that accurate. But it's still something that brings him closer with Jim and his son. He is there for Jim in a way that isn't completely narcissistic. Walter needed to work on his listening skills and he did listen to what Jim had to say about his hoarding. Sure, the explanation isn't that great. But the two are able to help each other out with their various problems. Walter offers Jim his therapist while Jim sets up face-timing for Walter. It's that kind of push-and-pull dynamic that the show is surprisingly good at. More of that please!

Some more thoughts:
  • "A Beaver That's Lost Its Mind" was written by Reed Agnew, Eli Jorne & Jonathan Ames and directed by Michael Lehmann.
  • It's great that everyone knows who Moby is except Walter and everyone is just as surprised that he's teaching preschoolers music and dating Walter's ex-wife.
  • It's sad that this is unfortunately one of Windell Middlebrooks' last screen credits - as the head of HR - as he tragically died back in March.
  • Celia proclaiming that her magician boyfriend gave her a pearl necklace to explain to Walter that her relationship is something serious was a bit too expected. It felt like the easy joke to make given the situation.
  • Speaking of the magician boyfriend, he really is committed to doing so much close-up magic. It's an amusing character trait but people's reactions to him are much better. The highlight was Rosalie's husband asking him if he knew where his keys were.
  • Rosalie: "Jim, this is a fucking newsroom! Open the fucking door!"