Wednesday, June 20, 2018

REVIEW: 'Brockmire' - Brockmire Goes on Another Epic Bender That Forces an Important Realization in 'In the Cellar'

IFC's Brockmire - Episode 2.08 "In the Cellar"

Jim goes on a bender with his new nihilistic friend, Elle, who pushes him towards a new level of destruction. Brockmire ends up in the hospital again and finally takes rehab seriously. Charles approaches Jim with a new opportunity.

Jim Brockmire has gone on quite a journey during this second season. It has been a wonderful season of television as well that pushed the central premise to some really dark and uncomfortable places. It wasn't afraid to change up the formula even though it also risked changing a lot of what worked last season. Brockmire was in a new environment with new challenges as he was attempting to make it back into the major leagues. The story highlighted his selfish desires and his tendency to hurt and betray everyone who got too close. His friends and family staged an intervention for him last week. It was them trying to knock some sense into him before he winds up dead because of all of his vices. But it was notable because it didn't work. Brockmire's closest personal connections couldn't get him to see the error of his ways. He was simply a man who doesn't know who he would be if he was sober. He has gotten all of this love and support simply from being a drunk man his entire life. He has kept getting new opportunities to succeed even though he doesn't deserve chance after chance to prove his worth to the world. As such, the actions he did against Charles and Jules hit the hardest. It made it so that Jules didn't even want to come to New Orleans again for this intervention. She no longer cared what happened to him. She was his soulmate and he twisted their relationship to the point where she could no longer stand him. Charles was willing to be there for Brockmire and use him to expand his own business. Even though he has his new projects to work on, he still wants to be a supportive friend. But the entire world understands that Brockmire will only accept help and truly change if that is something that he wants to do. In the moment, he wasn't convinced because he couldn't take his friends and family seriously due to their own problems and vices in this world. As such, he ended back on the doorstep of Elle, a mystery woman he met in a bar who also personified every dark impulse Brockmire has ever had in his life. She represented somewhere else to go in order to keep the party and the despair going. As such, that set up "In the Cellar" to be a very brutal and dark finale for the season.

And yes, the finale absolutely starts with some of its darkest and most tragic moments so far. In the first half of this episode, Brockmire and Elle are simply getting high and drunk all of the time. It's all that they are doing. She is so furious with Brockmire as well. She can't stand how much he is talking. She knows his entire life story about him being on this path of despair because his wife cheated on him and his father never loved him. She doesn't see that as a true pain. She knows what that kind of deeply traumatizing agony is actually like. And yet, it's interesting that the show doesn't decide to share that pain. It would be easy to sympathize with Elle if we knew how she was hurt in the past and who did it to her. It would make her a palatable character who represents a new perspective that Brockmire may need in his life right now. But she doesn't believe that anyone is entitled to her story. She would rather just be in her own self-destructive world knowing that she is an immense burden to everyone who ever loved her. She still has the money and means to disrupt the world while still being fairly well off. She can enjoy her time with Brockmire while still absolutely hating him. She encourages him to have sex with her in the middle of a crowded theater playing a children's animated movie. But she also encourages someone to stomp on Brockmire's privates once he gets into a bar fight. She has no concern for him whatsoever. He is simply the latest companion on this journey of nihilism and chaos. This is the life she wishes to be living because she believes she doesn't deserve any better than this even though it is so completely isolating.

That's what makes it so emotionally harrowing once Elle pulls out a gun. Brockmire immediately has the rational fear that his new friend is about to kill him. He is enticed by her apparent offer to have sex again. Then, he's terrified once she returns holding this gun. He fears that his life is about to end. And yes, this is an incredibly close brush with death. Elle suggests playing Russian roulette. She wants to tempt the fates just to see what their reactions will be after they pull the trigger. She is able to entice Brockmire into going along with this crazy idea because she makes it sound exciting. It will serve as confirmation of whether or not they actually want to die. If they have remorse for pulling the trigger, then they don't want to kill themselves. If they are disappointed that the gun doesn't go off, then they do want to die. Elle makes it sound as simple as that. But she has actually rigged the game. She has them playing with a full gun. That makes this absolutely terrifying once she pulls the trigger and it goes off. Brockmire is trying to make sense of the odds. He's looking into the statistics. He is fortunately not the one the gun is pointing at once they spin it. That's good because it would have been a death sentence for him. But he's trying to determine if the bullet loaded is near the firing chamber or at the bottom. He is too busy talking when Elle pulls the trigger and shoots herself. It immediately fills Brockmire with panic. His one friend in this world has now died. And yet, she isn't dead yet. She survives getting shot in the head. She is taken to the hospital where she is put on a mandatory psych hold for trying to commit suicide. It may be useless. She clearly wants to die and is angry that Brockmire called the cops and is forcing her to do all of this over again. As such, she kicks him out of her life as well because he just doesn't get the kind of pain she is currently feeling at the moment.

It's in that moment that Brockmire comes to his big realization that he needs to get sober. Brockmire doesn't even know who this loved one of Elle's is who shows up at the hospital. He just wants to provide some clarity after bringing her into the hospital. Instead, this guy just wishes that Elle would succeed with suicide already in order to stop putting everyone through all of this pain and suffering. That appears to be Brockmire's wake up call. He believes that he is a complete burden to everyone he has ever loved. And now, he has accepted that if he succeeds in killing himself that will be the permanent feeling his loved ones will feel every single time they ever think about him and their relationship. He cares about these people too much to put them through that. And so, he does take Charles up on his offer. He checks himself into this sober living community. Within a year, he is actually working there and trying to help other people remain sober. The show skips past all of the hard stuff for Brockmire. He is on the verge of death and tempting fate with Elle one minute. Then in the next, he is in complete recovery trying to do his best to help other individuals with the disease. It's a startling transition. But it also proves that there is still so much that Brockmire needs to do in order to make up for his past actions that hurt so many people. He has retreated to the safety of this environment. He hasn't wanted to face the outside world just yet. He hasn't even told Charles that he was here working the program. He hasn't delivered his list of amends because he doesn't want to cause the people on that list even more pain simply through him showing up. He believes that Jules and Charles deserve much better lives than caring about the friendships that they have with him. And yet, that's what makes it so special and meaningful once they show up at this facility ready to love and accept him once more.

Charles even comes with news of a new opportunity for Brockmire. It's completely baffling that he would get yet another chance to call games in the major leagues. And yet, that's exactly what is happening for him. He is going to head to Oakland where the team can promote him as a story of redemption. The destruction of his career wasn't as permanent as he feared because Art was soon caught putting video cameras in women's restrooms and paying his black employees thirty percent less. Of course, the country cared more about the first one then the second. Again, that's such a bitting comment about how racist America still is. Brockmire is surprised by that too. He sees Charles as a trusted friend. Even though he won't be going to Oakland with him, he will still be a friend in his life that he can rely on for advice. Plus, someone will be helping Brockmire make the transition to yet another new town. This time it's going to be Jules. Brockmire has feared reaching out to her because she's the biggest regret of his life. He doesn't want to hurt her again simply by bringing up the past and apologizing for all of his past mistakes. Moreover, she could be a trigger for him if he wants to keep his sobriety going in the real world. It's going to be so difficult for Brockmire out there. He doesn't know what to expect in that unfamiliar environment. He now believes he has the opportunities to cherish the world around him and experience the beauty that can be found in the world. Of course, that just leaves Brockmire disappointed because it's boring and time-consuming. Yes, it's so much fun to see Brockmire, Charles and Jules once again together at the end of the season. They are the heart of this show even though much of this season was about Brockmire's personal journey to destruction and sobriety. And now, it should be very fascinating to see how things develop in the future with Brockmire as a sober man.

Some more thoughts:
  • "In the Cellar" was written by Joel Church-Cooper and directed by Maurice Marable.
  • Hopefully, this new job opportunity for Brockmire in Oakland means more of Jules in the third season. She had some very memorable and important appearances throughout this season. But her absence was also notable after being the female lead of the story last year. And now, it seems like she and Charles will be flipping positions with Jules being the one taking care of Brockmire while Charles is living his life in New Orleans. That should be fascinating. Though again, I hope they find ways to keep Charles coming around as well.
  • It's funny how Brockmire is trying to get other people sober mostly through taking them through a journey of Ann-Margret's career. That's so completely random and so fitting for Brockmire to do as well. It's also no surprise that his favorite movie of hers is the one where she appears topless. Of course, the junkie hoping to stay clean is bummed when it's taking too long to get to that point.
  • Will the show ever provide more resolution to Elle's story? Or is this going to be the last she is ever seen? She is such an important figure in helping Brockmire realize that he needs to get sober for his loved ones. It's the change he needs to make in his life. And yet, her story ends with her on suiciede watch. That's very dark and depressing. It would be amusing to see her pop up again in the most unexpected place especially if Brockmire finds himself at a low point in his new job.
  • It's such a twisted joke for Jules to sneak alcohol into this sober living community as well. She doesn't see how she could be expected to stay sober in a place this depressing. Yes, it's a very amusing moment that shows that she won't change one bit despite Brockmire now being sober. But it should be interesting to see how that will change their character dynamic. They used to be able to match each other drink for drink. And now, they won't.
  • IFC has already renewed Brockmire for another two seasons. As such, the creative team will continue having the confidence to tell this story exactly as they want to. They already had the confidence to completely shake up the formula this year. So, I'm confident that they will continue to surprise the audience and subvert our expectations. Now, the show just needs to get some awards buzz and nominations because it really deserves it.