Friday, November 16, 2018

REVIEW: 'The Kominsky Method' - Norman's Grief Becomes a Slight Burden on Sandy in 'Chapter 2: An Agent Grieves'

Netflix's The Kominsky Method - Episode 1.02 "Chapter 2: An Agent Grieves"

Sandy helps Norman organize an event with complicated arrangements and invites Lisa on an unusual date. Norman is a hit with Sandy's class.

In 2018, it makes no sense to provide full-length reviews of each individual episode for shows released all at once on the streaming services. Sure, there are some shows out there that value the power of the episode. They do make a point in differentiating each episode to ensure it's not just one big slog to the finish. However, the ability to watch the entire season at one's own viewing pace has largely changed the way we consume and discuss these shows. So, some brief summary thoughts are really all that's actually necessary with these seasons. As such, here are my latest thoughts on the next episode of Netflix's The Kominsky Method.

"Chapter 2: An Agent Grieves" was written by Chuck Lorre and directed by Andy Tennant

Even though this show aspires for a melancholy tone, there are still some broad jokes that are clearly being delivered in order to get the audience to laugh. Norman complaining to Sandy about him using Eileen's death as a way to teach emotional pain to his students. Lisa responding to a funeral being her second date with Sandy. Every ridiculous performance from a celebrity playing themselves at the actual funeral. And finally, Norman and Eileen's daughter showing up late to the funeral and immediately interrupting her father's eulogy. All of these are broad plot points that are meant to amuse the audiences. It also shows a somewhat divided tone where it's clear that the show is pursuing these genuine, heartbreaking moments while also needing to make it painfully clear that this is a comedy after all. That is a very tricky balance. Chuck Lorre sitcoms have sometimes been able to mine drama and laughter incredibly well. Mom does this on an almost weekly basis. This show has the cast to handle such a variation in tone as well. It has actors who are interested in the drama of the pain that comes from getting older as well as the ridiculousness of the situation. Right now, the balance just feels a little bit off. It's burdened because the audience doesn't know exactly what to expect. Norman makes a big deal about needing to plan Eileen's funeral exactly as she wanted it. And yet, it seemed insane that Patti LaBelle and Barbra Streisand would perform while Jay Leno would serve as an emcee. And yet, both Patti LaBelle and Jay Leno actually show up to sing and deliver a monologue of jokes. They do exactly what they are known for. As such, that presents this show as very much in touch with the inside showbiz satire that is predominately on display with the acting class. However, it also wants to laugh at the idea of Sandy hiring a Barbra Streisand drag impersonator because he couldn't get the actual legend to perform. It's clear that Eileen had an impact in this industry. She was beloved for more reasons than simply being married to a powerful agent. However, the absurdity of the situation feels a little out of place. It's much more meaningful when Sandy and Norman just get to the podium and start talking about how meaningful their relationships were with Eileen. Sure, they run the risk of becoming too crude as well. That is low brow and unoriginal humor because it treats old people having sex as a punchline. But it's also just great and so informative to listen to these two characters talk about how important this relationship is and how much they will miss it moving forward. Sandy may not like death but he respects Eileen so much. He always trusted her opinion. And now, that is lost even though he has a promising dynamic with Lisa. Meanwhile, Norman has lost the greatest love of his life. He doesn't know how to move forward without her. He knows he has to because that's what she wanted for him. But right now, he's afraid of what his daughter will do. And then, she does make a mess that distracts from the powerful eulogy that he is giving. As such, all of this runs the risk of becoming too big of a mess to handle. It can show the agony that comes from losing a loved one and the many ways it can bring people together. It's still mostly establishing its premise in that regard though. So, it remains unclear if these tonal issues will persist throughout the remainder of the season.