BLUNT TALK is essentially a tale of two stories this season, it’s two different shows that compete with another for laughs and audience care. On the one hand you have a relationship comedy about a group of broken people trying to find happiness. On the other you have a zany, plot driven farce that relies more on situation than character to deliver its humor. I’ve stated plenty of times I prefer the character former and so I liked season one much more. But, I will say that when the show decides to go fully the other way it works as well.
The problem overall this season is that the show hasn’t been able to decide what it wants to be. I’m not sure the reason for that confusion when season seemed to work fine. Let’s assume a shake up on the producing staff or maybe their metrics said people wanted more comedic mystery and less dramedy surrounding Alzheimer’s or father son relationships. I don’t know, but what’s pertinent here is that episode 8 of this season, “A Cell Doesn’t Have to be a Closet,” demonstrates that the show has the right talent in it to go straight farce and make it an enjoyable experience when it wants to make that choice.
From the start this episode is a great example of what the show can be when it chooses a direction and doesn’t serve two masters. It completely skirts any real character development and goes all in on the jokes and wacky situation of Walter being in prison with Harry and Rafe. I liked what this episode did from the very beginning as two cops interrogate Harry about the life ledger and then Walter about his relationship with Harry. They’re obviously trying to pin the murder on Harry and the joke is he doesn’t realize it, but what the scene does well is call attention to how absurd the relationship between Walter and Harry really is. The show has always made light of the master/valet thing, but in this episode one of the cops bursts out laughing when Walter mentions the Falklands, and that’s certainly a tonal shift. The show has become much more irreverent to the backstory of its characters, but I’m alright with that provided it’s consistent.
This episode also features my favorite guest stars in Brett Gelman and Jason Schwartzman, and gives us a scene with The Office’s Brian Baumgartner that had me in stitches. Baumgartner plays a prison guard with the undesirable job of performing all the cavity searches for incoming prisoners and his exchange with Walter is one of the best of the season. Of course Daniel Stewart is back continuing his storyline from last week. His character Rafe finds himself strangely comfortable in his new environment, and it was a nice touch involving him in Duncan Adler’s prison theatre troupe: “The Oscar Wilder Players.” That scene in particular is a good example of the show using its set ups for straight comedy. We don’t get anything plot wise during the whole prison set up besides Walter prattling on about Rudolph Global. It does seem like Walter is the only person still thinking about that when the show seems to care very little for it.
At the Blunt Talk offices the vibe is similar as the group deals with the fallout of Walter’s incarceration. We don’t get a lot of forward moving scenes, but instead watch the inevitable monstrous effect on Shelly of making her Walter’s replacement on air. We’ve been given glimpses of Shelly’s ambition earlier on in the season, but it’s unclear if this is going to be a major part of the show this close to the end of the season. The last show would have us believe we’re headed to a plot where Shelly is given more airtime and Walter begins to feel over the hill. I think that would’ve been a compelling storyline if the show were more interested with character, but the way things went in this episode I think that would now be a mistake. I don’t want to get back into Walter’s head now that we’ve moved all in on the mystery storyline.
With two episodes left it’ll be interesting to see how proceed through the finish line. The show overall is a mess and it’s clear there’s not a coherent strategy going into making it, but this episode at the very least showed it has the correct ingredients to make some light entertainment with some genuinely clever and outrageous jokes. As of this date Starz has still to decide whether to bring back the show, I have to admit if I were in charge I’d be suspicious as to whether there’s a plan in place for next season, but if it’s more of season two I think it’s safe to move on.
Season 2, Episode 8 (S02E08)
Blunt Talk airs Sunday at 830PM on Starz
Greg Brecher | Contributor