Monday, June 6, 2016

REVIEW: 'Angie Tribeca' - Angie Wakes From a Coma to a Changed But Familiar World in 'Fleas Don't Kill Me' & 'Miso Dead'

TBS' Angie Tribeca - Episode 2.01 "Fleas Don't Kill Me" & 2.02 "Miso Dead"

A man is found dead in a dog park, but a finally healthy Lt. Atkins doesn't think Tribeca's ready to take the case. Why? Because she hates dogs and also just woke up from a year-long coma. Tensions flame between Tribeca and Scholls after the skull of a missing sushi chef is fished out of the ocean. Why? Because they're in a love triangle with Geils. It actually has very little to do with the case.

Angie Tribeca is back for its second season tonight full of weird and outrageously stupid hijinks. The first season worked so well because it offered such strong and funny deconstruction of tropes and cliches of the police procedural genre. That built over the course of ten episodes. And yet, the partnership between Angie and Geils was very real and meaningful as well. Sure, it's silly and over-the-top that Angie has fallen in love with every single one of her partners. But that's exactly the tone this show is going for. When the finale put Geils' life in danger, it meant something to Angie to the point where she would risk her life just so another partner wouldn't be taken away from her. It was a fantastic ending for the season that left things unresolved heading into Season 2. Cliffhangers are a major part of the genre Angie Tribeca is spoofing. "Fleas Don't Kill Me" provides such wonderful resolution to that story while still being completely absurd and fitting with what the show does best.

So, Angie was successful in disarming the bomb that was strapped to Geils' chest. She saved the team and the two were able to make passionate love. That was something she never got to do with the numerous partners she fell in love with previously because they always met a tragic end. But something still happens between Angie and Geils that ensures this season will be filled with just as much awkwardness in their dynamic as the first season did. It's such a stupid and wickedly funny beat too. After the sex, Angie tries on the bomb vest and it suddenly explodes. She is blown into many pieces while Geils is flung out the window. But miraculously, doctors save both of their lives. Angie is just in a coma for a year. She wakes up to discover that she and Geils somehow had a baby during that time away and Geils has moved on and started dating Dr. Scholls. Those are some great plot setups for this season that have so much potential for outrageous and ridiculous situations.

Of course, Angie and Geils would have a baby. It's simply the next natural step after the two leads get together. A baby comes along to complicate that dynamic in short bursts of time. That's something that happens frequently in the genre. The show can't change from what made it appealing in the first place. But things also need to progress with the main characters' coupling to make sure that they remain interesting moving forward. A baby is nice. But it disappears frequently as well so that the leads can get back to police work. The job is their one true love and nothing can stand in the way of that. So, it's amusing to see Angie and Geils' baby pop up in random times throughout these opening two episodes. Again, he is important for a second. Geils is trying to make sure that Scholls doesn't figure out that baby Angie is Angie's son. Meanwhile, he also wants Angie to bond with her son even knowing all the issues she had with kids last season. It's an amusing subplot that basically peaks when Angie has to calm the baby down only to then put him in a random locker in the medical examiner's office so that the characters can get back to their jobs.

But the addition of a baby isn't the only trope being flung at Angie and Geils' coupling this season. No, now they have separate romantic interests who they are trying to date despite obviously still having feelings for each other. So, Geils is with Scholls. It's something that comes naturally out of the show's dynamic. Scholls was pining after him last season. With Angie gone, she was able to act on those instincts. But now, it's abundantly clear that he's largely interested in Angie and things are going to end badly with Scholls. He's open about that but it's also played as a comforting moment which is so ridiculous and wildly enjoyable. Plus, this changes up Angie's own dynamic with Scholls which is much more adversarial and more fun to watch - especially in "Miso Dead." Meanwhile, Angie finds herself haunted by her past love, Sgt. Pepper. It's great to have James Franco back on the show. His appearance last season was all too brief for a character who was apparently important to Angie's backstory. He disappeared under mysterious circumstances. She has moved on believing that Pepper died. But now, it seems that he may be alive but is only reaching out to her in very cryptic ways. It's a tease of a story that frustrates Angie because she doesn't understand why it's happening. Plus, why does it have to be a phone call? He can just as easily text her his cryptic message about seeing her soon. That was an amusing moment to end the second episode on.

These opening episodes of the new season are largely about the developing bonds between the characters. The investigations are important as well. In "Fleas Don't Kill Me," a man has been killed in a dog park. In "Miso Dead," the skull of a sushi chef is discovered in the river. But these cases really aren't the highlights of these episodes. In fact, the dog park murder builds to the reveal that the deceased as well as several others enjoy the sexual fantasy of being a dog. That skewed way too similarly to last season's episode where the police commissioner liked dressing up as a big baby. The payoff to that joke was much better in the previous episode too. So the dog park murder lacked a certain amount of spark. Conversely, the true intrigue of the sushi murder came from Busy Phillips as an animal rights activist protesting the restaurant's use of illegal whale. She was a fun character who didn't immediately understand that she was a suspect in the murder after Angie and Geils found evidencing connecting her to the scene. But again, her importance to the plot was all too brief with the ultimate reveal of the apprentice doing it much more formulaic. Though it was great to see Geils get lost in his monologuing and not realizing the squad had difficulty taking down the guy.

So again, it seems like the show is heading into its second season with so much confidence with its characters and tone. It should be great to see how Angie, Geils and the rest of the squad react to all the changing circumstances in their worlds. I'm sure they'll react in the same distinctly funny way they have in the past. I'm not sure this series demands episodic reviews. But I'm really glad that it's back for more episodes as things will only intensify more in this world. Angie has to juggle a new baby, a return to work, her shaky relationship with Geils who's dating someone else, her Lieutenant being a year away from retirement, and a possible drug addiction as well. That sounds like the perfect stakes for some wild and outrageous hijinks this season. I am looking forward to seeing more of this show.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Fleas Don't Kill Me" was written by Ira Ungerleider and directed by Ira Ungerleider.
  • "Miso Dead" was written by Matthew Harawitz and directed by Rachel Lee Goldenberg.
  • Atkins and Geils are both concerned about Angie returning to work so soon. And yet, they hand her a case right away and work it with her. Plus, they don't seem worried at all when she's popping so many pills right in front of them.
  • Angie's drug addiction really is a fantastic subplot. Its funniest beat comes when Dr. Edelweiss helps her by opening up a vending machine for horrible and addictive drugs.
  • So much great casting in these opening episodes. Busy Phillips as the animal rights activist. Vicki Lewis as the dog trainer. Tzi Ma as the sushi apprentice. But the best cameo comes from Jon Hamm who replaced Angie on the team and is literally the best detective the squad has ever seen - but leaves as soon as she wakes up from her coma.
  • Gotta love the idea that Lt. Atkins is a year away from retirement but he does not have the money to pay someone for a massage. 
  • Not a particularly notable start of the season for Detective Hoffman as he got suspended after getting into the evidence locker and eating something he should't have.
  • It's not surprising at all that Angie goes to bed in the same outfit she wears to work every day. That's just simply who she is. She isn't going to change now despite so many things being different now.
  • Angie calling in to the harpoon registry office and wondering if she is talking to a machine or a person is another really strong and effective comedic beat.
  • Geils to Angie: "I always wondered what you'd look like wearing my bomb vest."
  • Atkins: "God may believe you but a jury won't. Take her away. That may have been the coolest thing I've ever said."
  • Angie: "Any signs of a struggle?" Scholls: "Yes, people tend to resist when other people are trying to kill them."