Thursday, May 4, 2017

REVIEW: 'Superstore' - The Cloud 9 Employees Prepare for Layoffs and Natural Disasters in 'Tornado'

NBC's Superstore - Episode 2.21 "Tornado"

Everyone in the store is on edge as Glenn tries to figure out which employees to lay off. Jonah struggles with the fallout of an admission he made to Amy. Garrett and Dina spar. Mateo forms an alliance to keep his job. A tornado warning goes into effect at the worst possible time, forcing the staff into uncomfortable pairings.

Superstore went into its second season finale under the threat of pending layoffs at Cloud 9. It was a threat that was introduced a couple of episodes ago. The order came down from corporate and further showed how heartless this institution can be. Glenn has really struggled to make a decision over who should be fired. He has always been this upbeat person who always wants to make people happy. He has never been good at firing people but it's his job to do so. He is a people pleaser and this demand goes against his very nature. It's amusing to watch as he continues to struggle with this decision. But that's just the first half of this finale. The stakes are raised even further in the second half when a tornado watch goes into effect and traps everyone in the store. It amplifies the personal stories and dynamics by placing them under an extreme amount of life-or-death pressure. So, it's a finale of big moments that happen without the characters truly thinking about them. So, that means all the potential consequences will have to wait until the already announced third season. But that's perfectly fine because this disaster brings a lot of funny moments out of this strong ensemble while never shortchanging the personal emotions. It's a really effective finale for a show that got more confident this season - though not everything completely worked either.

It's fun to see Glenn continue to spiral as he decides who to fire from the store. It never feels like anyone in the main cast is in danger of being let go though. Those who are series regulars worry a little bit, but the pressure isn't really on them. However, the show has done a strong job in expanding this ensemble with tertiary characters who have been important in the past and whose departures would mean something. If Sandra, Marcus, Brett, Myrtle, Justine or Carol were let go, it would be a meaningful loss because they've had amusing and funny moments in previous episodes. Of that group, Sandra was probably always going to be safe as well because she has always been a reliable punching bag for the other characters. She's more like a series regular than a recurring player. And yes, some of these characters are more important than others. It's then funny when Glenn sees all of his employees as great. A 1-10 scale doesn't do them justice. It's an effective system for Amy but it doesn't help Glenn at all. Nor does asking the employees who they think should get fired. They can agree on Marcus and Sandra but that's about it.

In the end, the pressure is all on Glenn to make a decision. He needs to do it for his job. No divine intervention is going to stop him from naming six employees to fire. He's a man of devout faith but he gets no signs of what to do. Nothing stops him. That's what makes it so funny to watch when the tornado sirens start blaring just a few moments after he made his final decision. Of course, the people he singled out really aren't all that important in the rest of the finale. It just reveals who he likes the least in the store. That list includes Marcus and Justine. But no one is able to react to the firings because of the tornado. A lot of fun could be had with Glenn being trapped in a room with the six people he has just fired. But instead, the story presents an interesting new direction for Glenn moving forward. He's praying to every God he can think of to stop the storm. The tornado is destroying the store. It stops the moment Glenn starts praying to Allah. That's a religion he normally would know nothing about. But he will more than likely take this as a sign that he's been praying to the wrong God all this time. That could be a fascinating story in the future.

Of course, the tornado also completely destroys the store. It makes the layoffs seem like nothing. Now, all of them could potentially be out of jobs. It's a precarious future for them - even though it's very likely the store will be completely fixed by the season premiere in the fall. A time jump will easily allow that to happen. It also means these characters may spend some time away from each other and return with new perspectives. But that's all speculation for the future. Right now, it's all about the actual storm. In some aspects, it's very clear that this is a low budget show. There are green screen shots where the seams can be seen - like when all the employees emerge in the aftermath and look up at the massive hole in the roof of the store. This storm was intense and the thrills during the worst of it are very effective. However, it never felt likely that the show would actually kill off one of its characters. It's perfectly fine poking humor at the customers still shopping despite the storm. But in the end, it's all about the employees coming together during this disastrous time. They all emerge safely. The first responders marvel that no one was seriously hurt. However, Brett's fate is still up in the air (pun intended). He was still doing the job in the parking lot as the tornado approached. After that, the windows were smashed and the store was torn apart. He's missing in the end. So, it's unclear what happened to him. Though it could be really fun if he just shows up next season and no one comments on how he survived this.

And finally, Jonah and Amy share a kiss while huddled together during the storm. It was such a predictable plot beat. This season has been building to a big moment between them as a couple. Right now, they are dealing with the awkward aftermath of Jonah calling Amy sexy at Cheyenne's wedding. His reaction is still deeply rooted in cringe comedy. He's calling everyone and everything sexy so that the word has no power when it comes out of his mouth. But it's still completely obvious to everyone involved what he's trying to do. And yet, it still builds to the two of them kissing. Amy says it's because he was being so comforting in the moment. However, he wasn't that great at it. He just kept talking so that Amy would be distracted. Apparently, that was enough. Of course, they don't talk about it afterwards when they are safe. Instead, Amy goes back to her family and Jonah gets drinks with a couple guys from work. It's a fine way to leave them for the season. But it once again brings the main issue of them being a romantic couple to the forefront. Amy is married but acting on this attraction to Jonah. That would be fine if she had an open marriage or was actually getting a divorce. But the show has it much more complicated and paints Amy in an unflattering way. It justifies her actions because she and Adam have been having problems. That's still not good enough for all of this to physically happen with Jonah and Amy. It largely just confirms that's it's going to continue being a major complication next season. 

Some more thoughts:
  • "Tornado" was written by Justin Spitzer and directed by Matt Sohn.
  • Garrett and Dina have a big romantic moment as well. Their relationship has always been sex with no emotion whatsoever. But here, they both have to admit that they are glad that the other is still alive. That's small but huge.
  • Several characters get to talk to their loved ones before the storm hits. Cheyenne makes it clear to Bo that she wants Harmonica to be an actress. Dina says it's fine for her birds to free themselves from their cages. And Amy has an awkward moment saying that she still cares about Adam.
  • Sandra got her big and happy romance in last week's episode. It's fun to see her and Carol spar over Jerry here. Carol shames Sandra over her sexual looseness while Sandra closes the door on Carol when the storm hits.
  • Cheyenne is once again a very minor character in this finale. But her reaction to this intense situation is very funny. She is just laughing through all of it. Faced with her own death, this is how she apparently reacts.
  • Mateo has to deal with the fact that he's a very selfish and mean person. He tried to form alliances to protect himself from being fired. But he had no intention of acting on it. However, he does call Jeff to say that he loves him during the storm. 
  • Yes, Superstore has already been renewed for Season 3. It didn't even come down to the wire. It was renewed months ago. It's one of NBC's only comedy hits at the moment. This season had quite a lot of comedic and creative growth as well.