There are a lot of ways to unfortunately turn a holiday-themed show or film formulaic: a person’s sudden change of heart for the generous, timed conveniently around Christmas; any showy display of true love, forgiveness, or kindness, also right around Christmas; or pretty much anything with an element of surprise that comes just in time for–you guessed it–Christmas. While all of these subplots took place in some form within this week’s episode, none of them seemed terribly formulaic. It’s partly related to the inherent originality of the show’s premise, but quick writing, witty, relevant quips and realistic yet absurd character development is what truly makes Speechless shine like the lights on the DiMeo’s tree.
While Jimmy is simply trying to be a great boss by hoarding turkeys using others’ receipts, Kenneth, whose side job is to manage the grocery store, keeps sabotaging him and is mainly confused. Of course, it’s understandable to wonder why Jimmy is so focused on getting the turkeys, even jumping in a dumpster at one point (gross). It’s not revealed until Kenneth discovers him in there, though, that Jimmy’s motive is simply to be in the good graces of his employees and to emulate his dad’s behavior at his workplace back in the day. Meanwhile, Ray tries to navigate a sticky situation between two feuding moms–his own and Taylor’s. It’s uncomfortable to say the least. Melanie Hertzel (Sarah Chalke) allegedly manipulated the application process to a special needs school for her son to get in over J.J., and Maya is most definitely still not over it. When the two confront each other at last in person, after Maya fails at dodging her completely, it of course does not go well. However, Maya’s show of generosity comes when she is able to apologize to Melanie for exploding at her, and Ray feels betrayed by Taylor when she doesn’t call her mom out for attacking Maya, especially after apologizing.
However, the best storyline comes from Dylan this time–typically the most selfish, deviant, and mischievous character of all, and maybe the sweetest character development we’ve seen is in focus. After Dylan annoys J.J. by using his identity to try and get a service dog (both Maya and Dylan so desperately want a furry buddy as part of the family), she decides to sacrifice her speech in an effort to understand him better. With very few actual lines, Dylan still manages to steal J.J.’s, and our, hearts. She buys J.J. a camera for Christmas so that he can film from his perspective. As a result, J.J. puts together a touching film, voiced by a classmate, showing his gratitude for his family. It was impossible not to get choked up, and Minnie Driver couldn’t quite hold it together, either.
Considering how themes of family are so key for this show to work, no matter what writers had in store, it was designed to go well. While the choice of a Golden Retriever as the dog that J.J. (surprise!) eventually decided to get for the family is a bit of a cliche, everything else fit right, and tied up almost completely neatly. We’ll see if Ray and Taylor get back together (as apparently, Ray is now single), if Melanie and Maya can work it out, and how the dog will add a new layer of joy to this decidedly strange but lovable family.
Choice Lines: All of Dylan’s statements on posters as a nod to Love Actually; “Race is a social construct!” from Kenneth as Santa (specifically, “regular” Santa as Jimmy points out); “Now tell me with a straight face that I look like I’m still in high school” (from the dead-to-Maya Melanie Hertzel).
Season 2, Episode 10 (S02E10)
Speechless airs Wednesday 830 PM on ABC
Emily Nuncio Schick | Contributor