CASUAL Review: “Fresno”


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In an episode about love, puts its failings on display. There is a lot I didn’t like with this week’s episode, and these are problems that have been persistent throughout the series with little or no payoff. Casual had a similar problem last year: in no way should this show be presented week-to-week. Though Season 3 is in a considerably better place than Season 2, it still feels like this is a show meant to be binged, or at least, seen in bunches. This is probably why a handful of episodes were released out of the gate, because otherwise I can’t even imagine how frustrating this season would come off.

The big failing with this episode is, in a strange way, Leon and Leah’s relationship. It’s not just that it feels fake or forced, it’s that it’s too well adjusted to the point that we are left checking every relationship against theirs. I understand what Casual was trying to do, especially after Laura asks Alex if they’re “poisoned in their blood,” but still, come on. We are supposed to compare everything to Leon and Leah’s wholesome relationship, but that’s not true. If you do that, no one is in the right, especially Valerie.

It’s important to compare Valerie to Alex, and not Laura. Laura’s relationship plot is simple, silly, and somewhat relatable. We do things for the people we crush, because we get so obsessed with them as an objective. Laura reaches new academic heights by trying to impress, so she can sleep with her boss. But there are many hints throughout the episode that Casey is not who her coop says she is. Casey sees Laura as a soldier to the cause first, and a friend second. As a lover, Laura doesn’t even place. When Casey asks Laura if she wants to sleep with her, it’s the coop, not the lust, speaking. So, when Laura lies down next to her, staring at the back of her head, it has less of a Last Tango vibe and more Paranormal Activity.  It all comes to a crashing halt when Laura realizes where she stands as Casey prepares a move to Sacramento, expecting Laura to continue the work she started here in LA, alone.

Alex on the other hand, like Valerie, is trying to find his place in the world. As far as Alex is concerned, he’s undateable, and desperately trying to change that. His only real option at this point is, like Laura, his boss. But unlike Laura, he’s not out of his mind. Judy and him really do hit it off, and although it’s not great for a boss to get with his/her employee, it’s also like, if it’s consensual, and what they want, who cares? That’s the route Casual and Alex are taking, but Judy doesn’t agree, at least at first. Alex feels dejected, less because Judy rejected him, that’s her right, but more because he doesn’t understand why. And that’s the tough thing, so when Alex asks Rae to give him honest criticism, Rae goes in, but it’s not meant for him. I’m giving Casual the benefit of the doubt and assuming that they are running with the idiot that Rae is always half wrong. What she’s says about Alex: he’s selfish, arrogant, manipulating, tries too hard, selfish (again), and just needs to rely on his looks, hair and being a good person – that’s not really meant for him. I mean it is to a certain extent, but really Rae is describing Valerie. Because if Alex is selfish, then Valerie is a choosy vortex, sucking in people she wishes and spitting them out whenever she feels.

Alex takes Rae’s message to heart, but we see Valerie devolve into her most selfish act yet. She goes to Fresno with Jack in order to meet her half-brother Rich. Rich is not what she expected. He’s a butcher who loves superhero movies and family time. They don’t have a lot of money, but he’s carved out a nice life for himself. The whole thing bores Valerie and she wants to leave, but not before Jack can accept Rich’s invite to dinner. She’s not happy with Jack, but she takes it out in the worst way. From lying about eating the pie that was meant for Rich, to putting Fresno on blast, Valerie is a tornado. And I know she was egged on, but really? You’re going to take the bait like that? Still this is basic compared to what she’s about to do. In a moment of true weakness, she blames everything on Jack, the guy who’s just trying to have a girlfriend and shed his sex addiction. Essentially Valerie manipulates him into feeling like he has to have sex with her in order to make everything OK. So, he does it.

Maybe Laura was right, maybe this family is poisoned. But as far as we know, blaming whatever this “poison” is on their actions is nothing more than a cop out. At this point Valerie has stolen Alex’s girlfriend, Alex has stolen his ex/boss’ girlfriend (and then immediately dumped her), and now, Valerie, a therapist, has put the man who really seems to love her into remission for sex addiction. I thought poison was supposed to kill you, not other people.

Season 3, Episode 9 (S03E09)
Casual airs Tuesdays on Hulu

Read all of our reviews of Casual here.
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Arman is a Seattle-based writer who often lives in LA and wants to be in New York. He has worked on Billy on The Street and Black-ish. He also loves sandwiches.
Follow Arman on Twitter: @armanbfar
Keep up with all of Arman’s reviews here.

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