Sunday, September 30, 2018

REVIEW: 'Rel' - Rel's Plan to Go to Brunch With His Family Is Interrupted by a Local Gang in 'Laundry Room'

FOX's Rel - Episode 1.02 "Laundry Room"

Rel finds the motivation to get off the couch and invites his Dad, Brittany and Nat to brunch. But his big plans are placed on hold when all of his clothes are held hostage in his laundry room by a local gang, The Lords.

In 2018, it has become very difficult to keep up with every television show out there. It's even more difficult to provide adequate coverage on this site about the episodes that air every week. Not every show can get full coverage because of my busy and hectic viewing schedule. As such, some reviews will now be condensed to give only some summary thoughts. But it also affords a space for me to jot down my thoughts on the various episodes. And so, here are my thoughts on this week's episode of FOX's Rel.

"Laundry Room" was written by Lil Rel Howery, Kevin Barnett & Josh Rabinowitz and directed by Gerry Cohen

The core premise of Rel focuses on a man after his wife cheated on him and then moved with his kids out of state. Those two events aren't connected. But it's a series of traumas that have hit Rel. And yet, they can't be used to describe his motivations for everything. Even in the second episode, it starts to become a little tiring because those characters largely remain offscreen - even though the show has since casted two young actors to play his kids. The show needs to continue exploring its identity beyond this relationship that occurred before the show started. Of course, it's not bad to bring it up again in this episode especially given the way that FOX has schedule the show. The network aired a special preview after a football game a couple of weeks ago. There are probably some viewers who are watching the show for the first time with this episode. They may not have known it was airing or that there was a previous episode to this one. This episode still functions as a solid entry into this world. It also starts to explore the ensemble around Rel. Sure, it has to restate that Rel's mother passed away recently and that his brother, Nat, spent time in prison. Those aren't new developments. There is nothing new to say about them here. And yet, the show also reveals that Brittany has fashion ambitions while Dad used to be in a band/gang called The Dragons. Those are amusing details especially with the ways Jess Hilarious and Sinbad play them. They have already become quite reliable as comedic relief characters. Things still seem a little flimsy when they come to Nat, but there is still time for him to develop into more of a presence as well. Right now, the situation is mostly about Rel trying to restart his life again. It's achieved just through the simple goal of being able to go out for Saturday brunch. It's a plan he makes with his family. It's a way for him to get out of his apartment. And yet, he spends the entire episode in his apartment building. He never makes it to brunch. Instead, his laundry is kept hostage by a gang that is holding a meeting in the laundry room. It's infuriating to Rel. The family just wants to leave him behind. The first half of the episode is all about the broad comedy that comes from each person taking a turn trying to get into the laundry room and retrieve Rel's clothes. They all come up empty. The situation with Dad is the funniest solely because it's not depicted for the audience. As such, it's easy to see that he loves playing the big, tough guy but was actually afraid for his life in this situation. That is a very telling moment. And then, the second half of the episode plays things very dramatically. Rel just goes into the room and confronts The Lords. In the process, he discovers cocaine and believes he's about to be killed. He wants to reach out to these gang members and appeal to their inner humanity. There has to be a better way than to just constantly be killing one another. He wants to believe the world is bursting with opportunities. He only finds resistance from a group of people who don't believe there is any other way because of what life has given them. It's a rather tragic ending. One that is bittersweet because it highlights the collateral damage that has further plagued the streets of the city. It offers a sense of identity for the show even though it is still jarring seeing the story go from drama to broad situational comedy in such an extreme way. Of course, that fear goes away with time as well if the show keeps pursuing things from an honest and compassionate place.