Suburgatory 1.18 "Down Time" Review
One of the hallmarks of earlier episodes of Suburgatory is a certain type of comedic aggression that either raised the bar or brought things to a crashing halt. When the show could channel that energy and readiness to do anything for a laugh, it made the corresponding absolutely pop and easily differentiated it from other comedies of its ilk. However, when it didn't quite balance the ambition with the execution, it turned episodes too loud and too in-your-face; you had to admire their willingness to turn the volume up to 11, but there's a line between being quirky fun and garish for the sake of being garish. It's only in the last six to eight episodes that Suburgatory has learned to control its id, with "Down Time" notable for its reliance on reactionary storytelling.
Instead of sending a character (or several characters) on a mission like a bat out of hell, Suburgatory instead spent its return from hiatus letting its residents stew in and react to all the relationship drama that's been happening in Chatswin. After kissing at the end of "Fire with Fire", Lisa and Malik are now an item, basking in the glow of future body part touching and sexy, sexy fondue. Unfortunately, that leaves Tessa a little bit on the outside of the only friends she has at school, something that shakes her a little. So much of Tessa's struggle to belong dissipated once she found Malik and Lisa and revisiting that square-peg-round-hole dynamic through teenage relationship dynamics felt like a natural progression for the show to make. In a way, you could think about the sudden coming together of Malisa (Lililk?) as a mile marker for Tessa Altman, in that she's proven (to herself) that not all people from Chatswin are awful and she can indeed have friends here. Now, what happens when you feel like you don't belong after getting a taste of friendship? Luckily, the bond between the three has been airtight and Malisa's kind hearted attempts to set Tessa up (with a boy wearing a belt made of staples) kind of proved that. Lisa is not going anywhere, you guys, and if she has to throw Tessa to the nerd wolves to get her a boyfriend and soften the blow of Malisa, so be it.
I do weirdly enjoy Tessa and Ryan together, though. Initially, it could have come off as silly or easy humor, pairing the acerbic outsider with the hot, dumb jock, but the two have chemistry. Tessa's already had a boyfriend that she thought was perfect for her in his altruism/intellect, so maybe she needs somebody a little more spontaneous and fun. And Ryan's got a certain sweetness about him that plays against the dimness, so he's not a total lost cause. Tessa could even be a good influence on him in terms of making him more well-rounded, but anything that can make Lisa uncomfortable (and give Allie Grant more to do) is a-okay with me.
Dallas had to confront her own relationship stuff, as the realization that her divorce being final meant that it was final and she was alone threw her for a serious loop. It had to come soon and I'm glad it came tonight, since it gave her and George some time to build their friendship up. The main reason I like the will they/won't they of George/Dallas is how solid the core of their relationship is, even when they're not on the best terms romantically. It's been a while since the two had progression in their romance, thanks to an ill-advised kiss and the divorce, but they've been slowly coming to terms with the idea of being friends and once the awkwardness subsided, actually being friends. For any good TV relationship, you have to believe there's some reason these people want to be together, something about their dynamic that keeps bringing them together and Suburgatory has done a good job of that here. George and Dallas may not get together anytime soon, but they're important in one another's life and without having them work on their friendship, any romantic time would feel a little empty. Moments like their "pillow talk" tonight in the mattress store show that they relate to one another and that there's something believable about their chemistry, bonds from shared experience and being able to identify with one another's current situation.
The divorce of Dallas and Stephen also deeply impacted Dalia, to the point where she had to go to therapy. There have been little cracks forming in her mean girl armor over the past few episodes and tonight added another, with her comment about feeling alone and not having anybody to lean on. It was a quick, blink-and-you-missed-it comment, but it brought the touch of humanity that a story like this needed to really deliver. I don't need Dalia to turn over a new leaf and become a self-aware zen diva or anything; we're being asked to care about these people and while the jokes are funny, it's nice to be given a reason why. That being said, James Lipton as her therapist? And Yakult being the source of her problems? Genius. When Dalia kept negatively talking about someone and used "her" a lot, only for it to be revealed to be about Yakult, I may have almost died from a giggle fit. The rivalry between the two has been great for Carly Chaiken, giving her something awesomely absurd to play, and "Down Time" took it to the next level for me. It could have been goofy in the hands of other shows, but Suburgatory executes pretty much everything with Dalia quite well, just over-the-top enough to be signature Suburgatory while rooted in something emotionally relevant.
After several weeks off, it's nice to have Suburgatory back and they returned with a very solid episode, to boot. It may not have had a lot of plot advancement, but sometimes, it's nice to just be in Chatswin for 21 minutes a week; the delving into the main issues going on right now, though, was a fun way to ease back into this world. There have been times when you have to wonder just what's going through the mind of these characters and we got a little insight into Dallas', Dalia's, and Tessa's fear of being alone, an issue looked at through three very different perspectives. Although you have to admire the way Suburgatory goes for broke, this is an example of the value of slowing down, taking a breath, and really shining a light on who these people are.
Thoughts, Quotes, & Observations:
-"Are you in love with a drifter?"
-"I'm ravenous from all the intercourse."
-"We're like Thelma and that other ho."
-"You're just naming black people."
-"Take off that brassiere, my dear."
-"The two of them are total cohorts, if that's a word."
-"I want you to let me touch your boob instead."
-Jeremy Sisto spoke to Gold Derby about moving from drama to comedy.
-Next week on Suburgatory: George meets a woman he's interested in, Yakult's missing, and there's an announcement from Noah and Jill. You can check out photos from the upcoming episode right here.