I’m coming to accept that season two of BLUNT TALK just has a much lower ceiling than last year’s season. This week’s episode, “Love is Not Linear,” is probably the best of the season, but it’s only because it doesn’t add to the problems set up in earlier episodes and has a Fred Armisen cameo in it. In episode six, we return to the looming Cornelia-LA-drought mystery storyline, and although it’s not super compelling it does commit to it, which is something the season has been lacking as a whole.
In season one the central question was a character one: why is Walter self-destructing. This season, the question only relates to the plot: who is behind the water drought crisis and why? And while that secondary question could be a fun one, the show isn’t actually concerned with those kinds of stories and has been wavering with how to deal with it. There’s no real motivation to be going in this direction with the show. I’ve said it time and time again, but this show is at its funniest and best when it looks at its characters truthfully and focuses on their relationships. Turning it into some adventure farce feels out of place.
But despite that, at the very least this episode focuses completely on the mystery, and compels all its characters to do something with it. Celia and Jim get paired off to interview the widow of a dead politician, Martin and Shelly join up to find a clue, and then the whole gang reunites to deal with a shady P.I. intending to blackmail Walter. Even Rosalie gets in on the action this time, and we get a scene of her and Martin at her night club where she’s been singing her woes away. I’ve been griping about the lack of things for Rosalie to do all season, so this was a nice change of pace. Still, we haven’t and probably won’t get another moment like we did in season one when she went to the desert in search of her husband, and that’s a shame.
Structurally, it’s nice to finally get everyone involved even if it is a bit hamfisted. In the last scene Paul Scheer’s bungling detective even says, “wait, why are there so many people here?” And it’s a fair question, why are they all here? Because the show is trying to make use of all its characters even when the occasion doesn’t call for it. It would bother me more but the saving grace to me is it’s self-awareness about its own goofiness. Giving Paul Scheer that line makes it all ok and lets us know this is what the show is now. And I’d be highly surprised if this new direction nets Patrick Stewart another Emmy nod.
I do have to elaborate on how much I loved starting the episode with Fred Armisen as a cold-sore exhibiting hydrologist brought on to support the use of recycled water. Armisen is a comedic genius who knows how to characterize very unique types of people. Do yourself a favor and watch him do accents from around the world on Conan, where he breaks down the difference between a German accent hailing from Hamburg versus Berlin. It’s that high level of specificity Armisen bring to all his characters be it for his show Portlandia or just a short cameo on Blunt Talk. If anything though, I think his dry brand of humor might be a bit too real for the broader characters the Blunt Talk crew have become.
In any case it was fun seeing him on the show since a big part of Blunt Talk is the strength of its cameos and guest stars. And between Armisen, “The Office’s” Angela Kinsey, Paul Scheer, and the lovely Mary Steenburgen back, this week’s episode had some fresh faces that really bumped up the humor. I don’t know that anyone lives up to Jason Schwartzman’s Duncan Adler, but again episode six finally spent a lot more time working on its regulars than relying on its guests this time around. It’ll be interesting to see whether they double down on this plot and keeping all the characters clustered together, or whether they’ll down play it and return to more of what last season was. Whatever the decision is, it needs to be confident and completely committed, because overall this season has been a disappointment and a step back. I’d liken Season One to Showtime’s “Episodes,” also a goofy critique of an industry through the eyes of the people committed to it. But this season has been a huge departure and I’m sort of grabbing at straws to find something salvageable.
Season 2, Episode 6 (S02E06)
Show Titles airs Day at 830PM on Starz
Greg Brecher | Contributor