Sunday, April 2, 2023

REVIEW: 'Lucky Hank' - Hank Pushes People to Leave Railton Even When That's Not the Advice They Need in 'Escape'

AMC's Lucky Hank - Episode 1.03 "Escape"

Hank spirals when a storage pod full of his father's belongings is dropped in his front yard. The professors spiral when rumors of budget cuts threaten their tenured jobs.

"Escape" was written by Adam Barr and directed by Dan Attias

Hank desperately pushes everyone he knows to leave Railton, Pennsylvania as quickly as possible. Anywhere in the world has to be better than this place. It's a feat he cannot embrace himself. The rest of the world belongs to his father. This is the one location where he isn't wanted. Hank has carried that fiery passion for awhile. And yet, his life is being invaded by his father whether he wants it or not. He still carries the sting of betrayal. He was abandoned. That could easily be seen as the cause for so many of his miserable ways. Russell believes it strikes much deeper than that. Hank was informed by more than his father's absence. He was raised by a cold mother who let him believe they were equally destroyed. For years, Hank's mother has been corresponding with his father. They had a relationship where they talked openly about everything happening in their lives. Hank channels his outrage. That drives him completely. He doesn't change at all after learning this information. Instead, he forces a confrontation. It's just a simple voice message. That's empowering to him. It's a way to lash out at his father without losing his backbone in the process. When it's simply interacting with his father's assistant, Hank needs Lily by his side to keep his nerve. He needs that constant direction and validation. A lot of emotional support is required. Meanwhile, he holds the fate of so many people in his hands. Dean Rose tells him to make a list of cuts. That includes staff. Every department has to be prepared for serious spending reductions. It's unlikely they will receive support from the state like they have in the past. That's not the direction the new official in charge would like to pursue. That conversation is important. Everyone is battling for their job. Hank plays a crucial role within that story. He doesn't engage with it. Instead, he's much more interested in his personal ventures of continuing to hate his father and forcing everyone to look elsewhere for their purpose in life. He can't believe anyone would want to stay in Railton. Julie is perfectly happy here. She makes mistakes and wants guidance from her father because she's a young adult trying to figure out how to function. The response he gives isn't what she needs. It's Hank selfishly prioritizing his own perspective. He shares that with everyone. He's frustrated how the world forces these bottled up emotions to be released. However, he wasn't doing a great job at containing them in the first place. Everyone knows about these underlying issues. It's what makes them suspect more is going on. The simple explanation can't be the extent of the story. Instead, Hank constantly feels betrayed by people and wants appreciation when he does the noble thing. He hasn't earned the praise offered mostly because he's a mess with no sense of identity. He's crumbling because that's the only way this story can force a confrontation of what truly bothers him.

Not everyone is willing to go along with Hank on this journey. He manipulates a situation so that Meg grows emotionally dependent on him. The adjunct professors aren't going to be touched by these cuts. Hank knows that. He also knows about a hiring freeze. No one is being placed on a tenure track. As such, it's futile for anyone to place their hopes and dreams of advancing through academia at Railton College. And yet, countless people want to make this environment better. The professors are desperately fighting for their jobs. They will make their cases for why they should remain to anyone who will listen. They don't trust Hank to behave objectively. They don't feel respected and supported by his leadership. They look elsewhere even though he is Chair of the department. They gave him that title. They must live with the consequences. Some are more engaged over this threat than at any other point in the series so far. Paul is even desperate enough to show up at Hank's house with his union rep. They believe the staff standing united in defiance to this policy will make a difference. Hank is not in the right mindset to engage with the conversation. Instead, he rambles off about feeling infantilized by being driven around. He doesn't feel powerful. He's stuck. He actually wields quite a lot of power. He uses it most viciously towards Meg. She is full of so much hope despite her mother's erratic and destructive behavior. Billie constantly requires others to support her. She maintains her position though. Her fears aren't immediately felt like the rest of the professors. Meg speaks on her behalf. Hank conflates the lives of mother and daughter. He doesn't want to see Meg follow in her mother's shadow. He understands that impulse because he too has often been compared to his father. He shares his name after all. He tries to differentiate himself in every possible way. And yet, people still view him as the son of the great William Henry Devereaux. Hank hasn't made peace with the actions of the past or how the world sees him. And so, he fixates on what he has control over. That's simply whatever he happens to notice. He doesn't engage with life frequently. That means those people he does appreciate are special. His interest simply takes on a new energy. The sexual attraction with Meg is there before she's half-naked in her bed. Hank is baffled by that sudden twist. It's incredibly apparent for anyone with the emotional maturity to understand the various feelings. Hank doesn't possess those skills. He's brutally honest with Lily when he returns home. She's annoyed because her day was difficult too. She seeks out control and a better life as well. The job in New York may not be a step up. She's at least focused on the future. It may not create a healthy family unit. Hank contributes to that dysfunction as well. He's central to everyone and the show works when it remembers that. If it gets too distracted by various side quests, then the overall effect starts to dampen. That's created a bit of a bumpy ride where the viewer may not know what to expect each week.