Wednesday, May 16, 2018

REVIEW: 'Brockmire' - Brockmire Returns to His Hometown After His Father Dies in 'Retirement Ceremony'

IFC's Brockmire - Episode 2.04 "Retirement Ceremony"

Jim faces his dysfunctional family at his father's funeral. He struggles to mend his broken relationship with his sister. Brockmire must make peace with someone from his past.

Has Jim Brockmire evolved or matured at all since returning to America? That's the question he is forced to reckon with throughout "Retirement Ceremony." He is certainly more successful again. He is working his way back to being a baseball announcer in the major leagues. He wants to recapture what was once his. And yet, he can't just casually forget those ten years were he just disappeared from his life completely. His return has mostly been defined by him getting a new job while still indulging in the same habits he has always enjoyed. He's never going to stop being a man obsessed with drugs, alcohol and sex. That's simply the way he copes with all of the complicated and traumatic things that happen in his life. But he has been a bad person as well. Yes, he can frequently make everything better with one resounding speech that is able to tug at the heartstrings of even the most cynical person in the room. He has gotten successful again because of his skills in simply just talking. Charles has been able to make him a brand with him getting drunk and just telling wild and crazy stories from his past. That's captivating to a large audience and has given him new fans that don't solely recognize him from the viral video where he had a meltdown in the booth. But it's also important to recognize that that prior action has still caused a lot of pain and ruined lives. It has made his family ashamed to know him. The first season did reveal that he had a horrible childhood being raised by a father who simply didn't care about him at all. And now, the show pushes that even further once he returns to his hometown for his father's funeral. He believes he will return as a hero because he has found success again. He can just casually toss away a thousand dollars without it hurting him at all. But this episode proves that these bonds of pain are still just being processed with Brockmire not really being able to leave anything in the past.

Of course, Brockmire starts the episode believing himself to be happy and functional. He is able to deliver a eulogy for his father that completely forgets all of the horrible things he has ever done. He is able to forgive him in a way that he probably doesn't deserve. It shows that Brockmire certainly has a moral code where he doesn't like to speak ill of the dead. He wants to do his best to honor the people in his life who have died. Charles thinks it's strange that Brockmire just has a binder full of eulogies for everyone he meets. Brockmire sees it as a necessity in his profession because people will always expect him to say a few words because that is what he is known for. He has found success simply through talking. That's the gift he shares with the world. It also makes him prepared for the worst situation to happen at any point. He already has the eulogy that he would give at Charles' funeral should something unfortunate happen to him. It's a very solid and amusing joke because Charles gets to read it. He sees it as something incredibly beautiful and profound. It's Brockmire putting more care and intention into how he treats a person in death than how he does in life. Right now, Brockmire mostly relies on Charles to keep him on his schedule without any judgment for the amount of drugs and alcohol he consumes. But it's also key to see that Brockmire does care and is able to speak in a very profound way about the relationships in his life - whether the deceased would want him to speak or not. Brockmire believes he'll be asked to deliver this eulogy for his father. And yet, that couldn't be any farther from the truth.

When Brockmire returns to his hometown, his sister, Jean, doesn't see it as a moment of empathy where she can rely on someone else to process these difficult emotions. Instead, she just sees it as the selfish desire of Brockmire to make the event all about him. Sure, Jean doesn't want anything special or notable for her father's funeral. She was the one actually caring for him when he was dying. He was cruel to her as a child. He was cruel to her as an adult. He only got meaner as he was dying. It's clear where Brockmire gets his alcoholism and narcissistic sensibilities from. His father was a real piece of work who absolutely hated his children and needing to be responsible for them. He wasn't grateful that Jean stayed in town so that she could take care of him when he was dying. She still did it. It seems like she is the most emotionally mature member of the family. She has found a way to move on and build a new life for herself that she is proud to call her own. And yet, she believes Brockmire's presence will only send the family right back down. The ridicule will continue and the abuse will be just as painful as before. She's ashamed to have the same name as a man who was the laughing stock of the country. His new success hasn't changed the mentality of this community at all. No one cares that Brockmire is back with a new podcast and a rising baseball announcing career. They just remember him as the man who had a complete meltdown after learning that his wife was acting completely immorally. He caused pain simply by sharing this story. He ruined so many lives. And now, he's just starting to realize that his wasn't the only one affected by this crazy story.

All of this presents a wonderful way for Lucy to return to Brockmire's life. Yes, it's unexpected for her to show up for this funeral. She isn't any more welcomed than Brockmire is. Everyone in this town judges her for her behavior and sexual impulses. They don't understand a woman who is simply horny all the time and lives from orgy to orgy. It's just not natural to them. It's not the way they were raised in this world. They see Brockmire and Lucy as the outcasts who don't desire to be in this room for this funeral. Of course, none of them want to be there honoring the man who caused so much pain and grief throughout his life. They just want to get it over with as quickly as possible. They are only having a funeral because it's the expected and traditional thing to do for the dead. This town basically lives their lives by conservative standards. It's no wonder that Brockmire and Lucy are shunned to the extent that they are. They are still delusional as well. Brockmire wants to force these complicated emotions to his father at the service even though he no longer recognizes him in his old age. Meanwhile, his father had no great epiphany when he was dying either. He left letters beyond for his children to let them know just how much he hated them. Those are words that will forever be imprinted on Brockmire's mind. It's tragic that nothing changes and that Brockmire can't escape from his past. And yet, he learns how to be content with that even if he's unwilling to change. He and Lucy are able to be close and have a conversation again even if they couldn't possibly navigate the minefield of having sex once more.

In the end, Brockmire still gets up and delivers a eulogy for his father. It's much more meaningful and unique than the one that the priest was giving. Brockmire feels the need to do so in order to give his father exactly what he deserved in this moment. Jean didn't want him to speak and cause even more controversy in this town right before he left. She doesn't want him to ruin her life once more. But Brockmire still delivers a heartfelt message that actually conveys what his relationship with the rest of his family was like. He can't blame his mother for abandoning the family because he did the exact same thing when he was old enough. He has such admiration for Jean and the strength it took for her to stay and build this new life and family for herself. He wouldn't change places with her at all. He is happy with what his life is like at the moment. He delights in the obvious lie that Raj is struggling as his replacement at the baseball game he is currently missing. He wants to get back to his life in New Orleans as quickly as possible as well. And yet, it's this speech that sums up everything about this character and his unique view on the world. He has evolved since the beginning of the show. It took him coming back to America and interacting with his family again for him to actually confront these feelings. He's not in a great place with Jean yet. But that was also the case with Lucy last year. And now, he is able to rely on her for emotional support through this trying experience. There's the hope that he and Jean can have that kind of relationship one day soon as well. Right now though, they will have to settle with simply holding hands while Brockmire gets wet in the pouring rain.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Retirement Ceremony" was written by Alex Reid and directed by Maurice Marable.
  • It's perfectly fine that the show allows last week's brief glimpse of Jules to be her only appearance for the moment. Brockmire is able to return to his life in New Orleans while processing the damage that he hurt her and won't be able to win her back so easily. It's understandable even though I'm eager to have Amanda Peet back on this show with more regularity soon. Jules is a fun character who would have fascinating observations about Brockmire's world this season.
  • Becky Ann Baker plays Brockmire's sister, Jean. She's a wonderful addition to the recurring ranks of this universe. Again, it's unclear just how often she'll continue to appear in the series. But it also seems inevitable that she'll pop up again because she is family. There will only be a few reasons for Brockmire to return to his hometown though. So, he might have to become very successful enough for her to dramatically see him differently again.
  • Jean also serves as the example that this family doesn't need to be crippled by their dependence on alcohol. She was able to get clean and sober 10 years ago. She has a dry house which Brockmire is absolutely horrified by upon learning. He thinks the siblings can only tolerate each other when they are drunk. And yet, Jean has matured enough to realize that it was an addiction that was only creating more problems with her life.
  • Brockmire ultimately appreciates Lucy coming to the funeral to help him through it. He doesn't think he would do the same to her. As such, it's amusing when she points out that he didn't. Both of her parents have been dead for years now. His viral video did serious harm to those relationships as well. She was being outed for who she truly was. In the end, they were the ones who were heroic because they found a way to accept her. Brockmire can't take the praise when the story is over either.
  • It's so smart that the show addresses that Brockmire and Lucy have sexual tension throughout the events of this episode. They can make fun out of that too. Brockmire notes that he has learned a lot sexually since he was last with Lucy. She has the desire to be with him again because she is always horny. But it's also important that they don't hookup because that's one more complication that Brockmire simply doesn't need in his life right now.