Thursday, December 31, 2015

REVIEW: 'Mozart in the Jungle' - Hailey Figures Out How to Leave Rodrigo in 'Nothing Resonates Like Rhinoceros Foreskin'

Amazon's Mozart in the Jungle - Episode 2.02 "Nothing Resonates Like Rhinoceros Foreskin"

A near disaster during a live performance forces Rodrigo to make some changes in how he conducts not only himself, but his orchestra. Gloria extends an unusual invitation to Hailey. But, as the young oboist will soon find out, there is no such thing as a free dinner.

Lizzie is such a weird character on Mozart in the Jungle. She exists solely to be the best friend to Hailey. And yet, that role isn't completely necessary. Lizzie does nothing that the rest of the orchestra can't also do. She's also not directly connected to the classical music world. That's the focus of this show. It's in that atmosphere where it's the most compelling. Lizzie does have connections to it. Hailey is her best friend and the new substitute in the oboe section. Her new boyfriend, Bradford Sharpe, hosts a classical music podcast. But all of these are just connections to that world. She has no aspirations to be a part of it. In fact, she doesn't really have a whole lot of aspirations. She's simply Hailey's roommate with money. She doesn't have goals and ambitions which keeps her from feeling like an understandable character in this world. Her entire purpose is to underline just how chaotic Hailey's life is at the moment. Something that Hailey was doing just fine with in the season premiere by herself.

Hailey is finally successful in finding Rodrigo a new assistant so that she can focus on being the best oboist she can be. It's all because Lizzie gets her to look at the world with a different perspective. Hailey needed this change to happen after how close she and Rodrigo have gotten. That closeness isn't healthy for either of them - even though it can be just as scary and uncomfortable to be alone and isolated. She recruits Mike for the job. Mike has been a very minor character so far. He's largely just appeared in party scenes to show just how weird Hailey and Lizzie's friends can be. But he is committed to understanding the beauty and genius of classical music. He's not like all the other potential hires. He actually has an appreciation for the music Rodrigo is trying to produce at the Symphony. He's not just someone sent to Rodrigo in order to keep the donors happy. He is different from Hailey. That's an adjustment that Rodrigo will have to get used to. And yet, Rodrigo is willing to embrace this independence. That's growth that is meaningful - even though it leads to him spiraling a little bit later on.

Early in the episode, it's established that one of the donors is upset with Rodrigo because of what he does in the apartment paid for by the donor and the fact that he fired his daughter on her first day as his assistant. Rodrigo promises that he won't continue to upset this major donor. Later on though, he just needs to embrace a culture that's familiar to him. He is struggling with being the stern conductor that the orchestra needs. He lays down the law - saying that the musicians need to be more punctual and respectful of the profession. He establishes those boundaries. It's upsetting to the musicians. But this is what he feels that he must do in order to pull greatness out of them. However, it continues his alienation. He still doesn't feel at home in New York. He knows that the Latin America tour is coming up quickly. But he's still homesick and alone right now. Those aren't qualities that he wants to embrace. So he happens upon a drum circle and then brings them back home. He doesn't care about the consequences. He just wants the energy of this crowd to keep him from feeling lonely. But those consequences should be major in the next episode.

Meanwhile, the tension between the union and the board is still full of rising action. Both sides are strategizing on what to do. Edward seems to be taking charge of the board's strategy more so than Gloria. He has the most influence which the union's lawyer, Nina, promptly takes note of as the rest of the union just wants to cede to the board's terms. However, it's a story that once again becomes completely about the sexual tension between Cynthia and someone else - in this case it's Nina. The show really isn't being subtle at all about Nina being interested in Cynthia. During their aside in the meeting, Nina spends the entire time flirting with her. It's aggressive and cute. But it also undercuts just how effective she is suppose to be at her job. She's allowing herself to be easily distracted. That doesn't create the necessary weight of this story in a powerful way. It's simply saying this flirtation is the most crucial element right now. The breakdown in these talks could be important later on. But right now, it's just more exciting to watch Cynthia and Nina flirt.

It's also slightly weird that the show brought back Wallace Shawn to reprise his role as this brilliant pianist. His one episode last season was by far the weakest one because the show made no effort to explain what his character was. He's still largely just amusing because Wallace Shawn is playing him. It's fun to have him spar with Malcolm McDowell's Thomas. But that scene was largely expositional than anything containing true substance. Thomas is planning on debuting his composition in two months. Winslow says it's derivative. It does feature an interesting conversation about the transition from conductor to composer. But it doesn't go anywhere. It just establishes urgency for this story as it builds to this grand performance. That's a lot of what this episode is about - just continuing to feature rising action without making sure the episodic details are compelling to watch in the moment.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Nothing Resonates Like Rhinoceros Foreskin" was written by Roman Coppola & Jason Schwartzman and directed by Adam Brooks.
  • Jason Schwartzman is always an amusing actor to watch because he's always sporting a different hairstyle. Now, he just has a full beard. That's cool. Though Bradford is such a Jason Schwartzman character. In fact, this episode is just an excuse for him to say "rhinoceros foreskin." It's even in the title! That joke really didn't work at all.
  • Thomas really can't handle criticism well. I wonder how he'll react once Rodrigo gives him notes.
  • Gloria and Pavo seem to be getting close. He checks to make sure that the floor is okay when she looks upset following her conversation with Rodrigo.
  • Want more proof that Lizzie is an unnecessary character? There wasn't even an excuse in the premiere that explained her absence. Here, she just returns from a months long trip with Bradford - who is now also moving into the apartment.
  • Alex is still lingering around. He and Hailey are still a couple but they don't interact at all. Plus, Hailey wants to end things. She just doesn't know how since he's a very good guy. Ugh, it's being drawn out way too long for no understandable reason.
  • Also, Gloria asks Hailey if the Symphony can use her picture to appeal to a younger audience. That also gets Hailey a ticket to the party that happens in this episode where she promptly meets a cute, younger guy.

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.