“I’m a clown, but I don’t think clowns are needed as much since the world has become so clownish.”
Chip is on the run, sleeping in trains, joining up with a homeless troupe of freak-show performers, and still dropping randomly deep observations as FX’s BASKETS begins a highly anticipated second season.
But first, let’s rewind.
After the end of season one, Baskets won praise, and Louie Anderson won the Emmy for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series for his portrayal of matriarch Christine. Thus, 21st Century Fox has plugged the Zach Galifianakis, Louis CK and Jonathan Krisel series during football telecasts on the mothership network, and on pop culture websites with the star’s clown face proving both eerie and aloof.
In short, there’s interest in Baskets. Maybe a larger audience, too?
You wouldn’t be able to tell, however, with the second-season opener “Freaks.” Though the episode takes Chip (Galifianakis) on a stolen train ride out of Bakersfield and up to the Oregon border, it’s a very quiet, localized piece. Most of the episode stays with Chip as he gets caught by the train workers and tossed to the freak-show troupe (whom all are named after characters of The Matrix). Chip attempts to find family with the group (led of course by Morpheus), but he soon realizes that nobody is looking out for his best interests.
Or, again, that very telling (and perfect) quote: “I’m a clown, but I don’t think clowns are needed as much since the world has become so clownish.”
Chip’s just looking for help. The rodeo shut down. Arby’s is a disaster. Martha is shacking up with Dale. So why not explore the definition of family? And even when it seems perfect – when family could be another group of clownish freaks, just like him – of course it all falls apart.
Only one fellow freak tries to warn him. The redheaded Trinity (Mary Wiseman) befriends Chip the hardest, though she’s also in it for some semblance of friendship. She tries to put the moves on Chip after he shows his naivete, and when he denies her (“If it means anything to you, I have a terrible physique”) she decides her time has passed with the freaks. “You don’t know these people,” she tells Chip. She may seem unhinged, but she’s actually getting out at the right time.
That’s because Chip finds himself a home invader, and his family of freaks are busy shooting up heroin.
The cliffhanger ending to “Freaks” only serves to continue our story into next week. Otherwise, Chip was already a fool in a foolish circumstance.
Meanwhile we get little of the other Baskets, only Martha narrowly avoiding Dale and visiting Christine, who’s denying Chip would really want to leave home. Anderson is again captivating in his short time on screen, showing real excitement over a framed picture of DJ twins Cody and Logan (really one of those garish nightclub flyers she pulled off Facebook). Later, Christine looks for Chip, finally realizing that maybe he’s more than just being a doofus.
But he is a doofus. In the search for food with little money, Chip buys a can of Chef Boyardee Spaghetti and Meatballs. Consequently, he spends hours trying to open the can, resulting in a fun little scene that underscores his inability to think things through.
And later, when the Matrix troupe asks him if he wants “snacks” or a tarp (for shelter), Chip chooses snacks, thinking he’s getting some Pringles. Or maybe some Werther’s Original. Nope, snacks means drugs.
All great stuff. Krisel, who wrote and directed “Freaks,” crafted a fine script for the second-season opener and made the most of sparse locations like “under a bridge” and “by railroad tracks.”
Like the series itself to this point, “Freaks” keeps Baskets level, a quiet hum that allows for crucial moments of absurdity, and more, revealing observations that prove the series’ worth after only one season.
Season 2, Episode 1 (S02E01)
Baskets airs Thursdays at 10 PM on FX
Timothy, who grew up on The Golden Girls and Seinfeld, writes regularly about entertainment, arts and lifestyles for a number of publications.
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Timothy Malcolm | Contributor