Monday, December 21, 2015

REVIEW: 'F Is For Family' - Frank Takes Kevin to His Work While Sue Struggles with Her Own Reality in 'Saturday Bloody Saturday'

Netflix's F Is For Family - Episode 1.02 "Saturday Bloody Saturday"

Frank's attempt to teach Kevin a lesson about respect yields unintended results. Meanwhile, Maureen makes babysitting a nightmare for Bill.

With only six episodes for its first season, F Is For Family really doesn't have a whole lot of time to truly flesh out its main characters and tell the audience why their concerns should be so emotionally resonant. It takes some truly precise writing in order to establish that tone and earn those moments. F Is For Family isn't quite there yet. There are a number of key character building moments in "Saturday Bloody Saturday." But they aren't able to hit as well as they possibly could because the audience is still just learning about the Murphy family and what makes them tick. It's also being told in a way that drives the story forward. It's clear that there is a narrative arc across these six episodes as change comes to the family. But that change will only be a rewarding experience once the audience truly understands these characters.

At the start of this episode, it feels like it will once again feature a standard sitcom story of the rebellious teen failing out of high school only for his father to take him to his workplace to knock some sense into him. On a surface level, that basically is the story in this episode as Frank is so fed up with Kevin that he takes him to the airport to see how difficult his job really is. It backfires tremendously. Plus, it's in the execution that this story really becomes hilarious and builds the characters. Kevin was the sullen and rebellious teenage son of Frank and Sue in the first episode. They don't have high hopes for him because they simply don't understand him and don't think he connects to the world in a way that will lead to future success. Here, that's still a driving force with the character. He doesn't get a whole lot more nuanced. But it is amusing once Kevin is in the car and heading to the airport with Frank.

The two best scenes in this episode happen during the car rides to and and from Frank's job. In the first, Kevin is questioning where his father is taking him only for Frank to take advantage of the situation and truly make Kevin afraid for his life. The threat of having Kevin join the army instead of going to school makes for a very funny scene. Frank is just so blunt about it. He enjoys causing his son misery in that moment. He likes manipulating his kid's emotions because Kevin simply doesn't know any better. It's the first part of Frank teaching Kevin a lesson. He can't just fail out of school and be a loser. That path will lead him to the army where he'll have to do some truly horrible things just in order to survive and come back home to a job and a family that aren't always appreciative of all the hard work he has done. That's the life that Frank has accepted for himself and it's the path Kevin is currently on as well.

It's also a life filled with promise as Frank has gotten a promotion at work due to some incredibly tragic circumstances. It's because of this move to management that Frank really isn't able to supervise Kevin and make sure he gets the lesson he was suppose to get through this experience. In fact, things went even better than Frank had hoped because the loser employees who take Kevin in only scare him in a way that sends him running back to do the right thing for this dad. Kevin sees the video feed of Frank's former boss getting his head completely severed by an airplane blade. It's horrifying but it's enough to show Kevin's true humanity. He still hasn't been corrupted to the point where he sees this video as being funny instead of the tragedy that it truly is. He still has his youth.

But Kevin is still able to make fun of this experience at his father's expense. Even though he does the right thing in returning the stolen pills to an elderly lady from Boston, he gets to see just how crappy this job is capable of being for Frank. That leads to the phenomenal closing scene of this story as Frank and Kevin are truly able to bond as father and son. In that moment, they are able to share a laugh over how rude that women was. In that car ride home, Frank is able to relate to his son in a way that he hasn't in a long time. It's a scene where silence is key in understanding just how crucial this moment really is for the two characters. They have been moved and changed because of this experience. And then, it becomes completely irreverent with Kevin's epic speech about how horrible Frank's job actually is. It shows just how much of a relief it is for Frank when he is so frequently irate and angry at home with his family. He can't be that way at work. He just has to accept that it's his job and he can't be angry even to the rudest of customers. He has the responsibility to be respectful. That's a humorous scene because Kevin is able to laugh at his father while Frank can only silently and depressively agree.

The Sue subplot is also hugely significant in developing her character beyond the woman who has to keep her cool in order to keep the peace in this family. She's an individual with dreams and tragic depression as well. This is a life she has found herself in. She's happy to be a wife and mother. She gets immense pleasure from spending an entire Saturday working on her other job selling a knockoff of tupperware to the neighborhood. But the silence that comes from the moment where she can truly relax and enjoy her life is incredibly telling. In that moment, all she hears is the dripping of the faucet and the ticking of the clock. Even though she is all alone, she still feels the need to cover her head with one of her clear containers and sob to herself over this being her life. This is the only moment where she gets to promptly freak out because the rest of the time she needs to focus on making sure that everyone else is happy. It's an incredibly personal and depressive note for the character. But it also signals that she might not be willing to accept this as her reality for much longer. If Bill can get a change in his life at this point in time, why can't Sue?

Some more thoughts:
  • "Saturday Bloody Saturday" was written by David Richardson and directed by Laurent Nicolas.
  • The Bill and Maureen story was the clear, weak link in this episode. Their adventures with the hick kids from down the street really aren't that great and are very disconnected from the rest of the show. It is a key moment when Maureen says that she wants Bill to carry her home even though she could probably walk. But it's still a weird story compared to everything else.
  • Frank feels the need to be liked by everyone in his move to management. Both his gross boss and colorful employees want him to be on their side regarding a potential strike. That's a conflict that should be amusing to watch throughout the rest of the season.
  • The dog being the only thing able to give Frank and Sue comfort in their moments of exasperation and then only wants to hump them is a great recurring joke.
  • Frank: "Be nice to your sister. Someday you're gonna be sleeping on her couch after your first divorce."
  • Frank: "It's a win-win. You're done with school and we might get a nice folded flag out of it."
  • Frank: "Oh, we all wanna go home, Kevin, but sometimes you have to destroy an entire culture first before that's possible."

As noted in previous reviews from this series, every episodic review was written without having seen any succeeding episodes. Similarly, it would be much appreciated if in the comments section, the conversation would only revolve around the show up to this point in its run.