Suburgatory has to achieve a pretty difficult balance in order to create a quality episode. They may be tied to be a pretty classic fish-out-of-water theme, but the tone of the show is anything but classic, very energetic with an admirable amount of weirdness to it. If the show doesn’t get the formula right, keeping itself grounded without being rote and quirky without being over-the-top, it can be doomsday for that particular episode. Promisingly enough, the show has managed to hit the target amount of humanity and surreal moments more frequently as its season has developed; however, after last week’s episode felt extremely dated and overly broad, I began to worry about a possible backslide.
Thankfully, though, Suburgatory managed to right the ship in “The Great Compromise”, the penultimate episode of the show’s auspicious debut season. Most notably, the “Eden is carrying Noah’s baby” plot came back down-to-earth after being launched on a rocket into Hack-y Sitcom Land last week. Though I like the fact that the show is showcasing a different kind of parenting in surrogacy, it didn’t have remotely the amount of pathos and weight needed to have an impact before tonight. The entire point of Suburgatory is that there’s more to a person, place, or situation than meets the eye, that there’s hidden depth to things that you wouldn’t expect there to be; tonight, the depth in the Eden/Noah/George plot got teased out a lot more and it hit a lot harder as a result. Instead of focusing on how ooey-gooey George felt for Eden or the awkwardness that he felt in the situation, it expanded and included more nuance to such a delicate ordeal. Granted, Suburgatory is still a sitcom, but it’s best when treating its characters like three-dimensional people; for example, having Noah break his manic, emotional facade to show off vulnerability at the thought of his child not knowing him that well brought a nice amount of reality to the situation. And it made the character, one of the loudest in volume, writing, and color, a little more human and relatable, a man that gets the way he does because of how deeply he cares about something. Keeping him tethered like this makes his behavior in general a little more understandable; rather than simply have him come off as overbearing or melodramatic, we know there’s a reason behind the intensity, a source for the behavior that is rooted in insecurity and pain.
George and Eden moving in together came off a little too sitcom-y, but it gave us a chance to fast track their romance and cut through the gushy stuff to get to some real issues. They say you never know someone until you move in with them and it showed here, Eden’s outspoken attitude and rank diet clashing with George’s lone wolf tendencies. It may not have been the ideal way to get to that conclusion, but having your new girlfriend pregnant with your friend’s child isn’t exactly ideal, either; I do like that George may have found somebody to be happy with and tonight gave more insight into their actual dynamic, not the dynamic they have at the beginning of a relationship. It also hit on underlying issues, particularly for George, as Mr. Altman just isn’t used to sharing space with somebody else. His wife has been gone for so long and there hasn’t been another serious relationship yet, so George is having to adjust to three major life events at once: pregnancy, a new(ish) relationship, and someone moving into his house. As expected, it made him feel smothered and bore upon, especially once it related to Tessa. She resented having a new pseudo mother figure and I think on some level, George resented having to bring a pseudo mother figure into the mix, due to the amount of control he’s had on parental decisions being disrupted and the reminder that Tessa’s mother left the family and neither has quite healed from it yet.
Tessa may be resistant to change on the home front, but her aspirations took a big leap forward with the introduction of a possible summer internship at the Village Voice. It hit back on The Chatswin Chatterer, introduced early in the series, as well as gave the character something to do and a device by which to crack Eden and George’s faberge egg of a relationship. Tessa has had major ambition ever since the pilot; she wants to do big and exciting things, things that don’t take place in Chatswin and get her closer to the city. I kind of wish that they had touched on her writing more often through the season, since her time at the paper has been over for a while and her poetry didn’t exactly have a warm reception, but a summer commuting in New York can only enhance Tessa Altman in season two. Elsewhere, Lisa and Malik (or Malisa, as I referred to them earlier in the year) are figuring out their summer plans in a fun, silly D-plot that highlighted one of the best pairs on Suburgatory. Having this run concurrent with Tessa’s quest for a ticket to New York made for a nice contrast, the nerves and exasperation from Tessa not really effecting Lisa and Malik. Rather, the two just got a chance to hang out and play off of one another, weighing the decision of macrame camp or lacrosse camp, culminating in a rather sweet moment at the end of the episode.
“The Great Compromise” was an episode about the give and take of life, about how it might not matter what you do as much as who you do it with. That those that push the hardest may be the softest on the inside, hiding their vulnerability for fear of being rejected. That living with a significant other can bring out things you didn’t know existed but that needed to be addressed to move on. It was a definite step up from last week, in terms of tone, storytelling, and general funniness, an episode that highlighted the similar journeys that its characters are undergoing. Luckily for the, they each have somebody there to help them get to where they want to go, one step at a time.
Thoughts, Quotes, & Observations:
-“I can’t feel my own goodness!”
-“She’s worried about the baby having babies?”
-“She’s got that baby wrapped around her uterus.”
-“This is it, Dalia! This is how the monkeys rose!”
-“Knot up, Malik, and find your weave.”
-“That rude ‘roo ruined my rooms.”
-“I’m gonna weave you a macrame bikini, girl.”
-My favorite gag of the entire episode was Dallas watching The X Files at the end and begging Mulder to kiss Scully. How meta.
-Second favorite gag: Eden doing a crossword on Noah’s head.
-Again, what is Sheila’s motivation here? Her own sick joy? Bitterness over her surrogacy perils? I don’t quite get her pot stirring yet.
-I loved Penuche destroying the entire house.
-Next week on Suburgatory: On the season finale, Dalia goes to Israel without Dallas, the baby shower for Noah’s baby raises a red flag for Eden, Fred surprises Sheila with a gift, and Lisa makes a discovery about her paternity.