CASUAL Review: “The Lake”

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I don’t think I understand , but let me take a stab. It’s a show about bad people doing bad things, but pretending they’re good. Take Valerie for instance, someone who’s job as a therapist is to involve herself in other people’s lives. In her home life, that doesn’t change, and often forces her perspective upon other people whether they want it or not. In this episode she is convinced that Alex is unable to take care of himself and she needs to always be there for him. But where was she when she slept with his girlfriend? Where was she when Alex was in the early stages of pursuing Sarah or when his business partner wanted to sell his company? She was nowhere to be found. And yet we’re supposed to believe Valerie when she says she needs to be there for Alex. It’s either that the character is lying or its bad plot development, but whatever it is, it doesn’t pay off.

This week’s episode isn’t very good and I have a growing problem with trying to understand character motivations. The only one that makes sense is Laura, who ironically is probably my least favorite character. But my dislike for Laura is pure bias. I don’t care for how flippant or annoying she is, but the conception of the character and her arc are there, and it’s very solid. Valerie and Alex on the other hand are all over the place. This is especially disappointing with Alex, who for so long was such a solid character. And it’s hard to understand why this is. I want to give Casual the benefit of the doubt and say it’s because they’re showing Alex in a freefall, that this is the long slope down towards rock bottom. But if this is the case, it’s very poorly done from episode to episode. There are no payoffs, everything is subtle and there’s nothing to keep people invested. If Casual is shooting for the slow burn with their characters, then I would argue that this should’ve been a show, because for 3 weeks in a row now I have not been able to understand a single decision by Alex, a character that was previously the most transparent.

vulture.com

vulture.com

The episode begins where the last one left off: sex. Laura wakes up with Spencer, Alex with Sarah and Valerie in Jack’s hotel. Everyone seems content except for Alex. My guess was right, it’s not that Alex wanted to be with Sarah, it’s that he didn’t want her to be with anyone. It’s disappointing how much of a thorough asshole he’s become. I feel like Casual thinks of Alex as a tragic or even sympathetic character, but at this point he’s nothing but terrible. All the good will he’s built from earlier in the season has been lost, and like I was saying before, I can’t understand why.

Anyways, Laura is becoming very close to Spencer at the risk of losing Aubrey. So she doesn’t tell Aubrey about it. Compared to the other two plots, this one is given the least amount of time, but it’s the best written and thought out. Aubrey eventually confronts the two of them at the hospital and it’s really awkward. Spencer is at such a disadvantage, not only for the visual of him hooked up to an IV, but also because Laura never told him that they’re recent rendezvous was behind Aubrey’s back. Laura acts coldly around Aubrey and she suggests that Laura likes men more than women, but I don’t think that’s it. Laura could be a lesbian, she could be bi or Aubrey could be right and she’s just experimenting. But the thing is if everything was the same, but Aubrey was a man, it still would’ve gone down the same way. At this point, Laura isn’t attracted to men or women, she’s attracted to inconstancy, and with Spencer’s imminent death he can give her that. This becomes wholly aware to Aubrey as she storms out, but not before saying, “Good luck with Spencer, hope he dies before you get bored with him too.”

Sarah is a nice person who has been used. She has been used by her ex-boyfriend Jordan, as well as her ex-boyfriend Alex, as well as her current roommate/boyfriend(?) Alex. So when Valerie freaks out upon seeing Sarah there was a bad taste in my mouth. Yes, Sarah did get familiar very quickly, and yes, Sarah did redecorate the living room, but she’s also a nice person that’s had an actual life changing event. Valerie was divorced from her husband almost two seasons ago and is still living at Alex’s house with barely anything of a life together. And yet after ONE DAY of Sarah spending time at Alex’s, Valerie is already blaming everything on her.

ew.com

ew.com

Jack and Valerie make plans to go to High Trail Lake, a McGuffin for Valerie and another way for Jack to show that he’s not a bad guy before this show inevitably makes him a bad guy for no reason. The trip makes no sense. Valerie becomes obsessed with Alex’s business and can’t seem to focus on anything else. It just feels forced. For no reason in particular, she thinks Alex is going through a crisis moment rather than doing what a therapist should do and step back and take in the whole picture. So instead we have all these “therapy” moments that Jack gives her and it’s just so stupid. I would love a plotline where Valerie didn’t feel like an idiot that needed a talking down to, or for someone to hold her hand. But at this point she feels like someone who lives to judge, but is unaware of what it’s like to be judged. The culmination of the ridiculousness is when Valerie finds out that the lake of High Trail Lake has been dried up and filled and it brings her to a panic attack. Jack calms her down by telling her not to put people above herself and then they have sex on the dried lake as Alex calls her, but she doesn’t hear it.

Honestly, the reason Alex needs help is because he’s a bad guy that can’t make easy decisions. That’s the picture that Casual has painted of him. In the beginning of the show he gets served for his company. What it’s really is an offer from a still bitter Jordan. Let me buy you out for $68,000 (which is incidentally the same salary his assistant Fallon made) while I buy your partner out for 2.5 million and I won’t touch the company and won’t talk to you ever again. There is no issue to be had here. Alex is attached to the company but he hasn’t actually worked a day there this entire season. For Alex to be against this deal there’s no motivation, there’s no reason, there’s no… nothing! Casual tries to portray Alex signing the sheet as a big loss, but the alternative is everyone at his company losing their job as he stays on to watch it burn to the ground. The choice is easy. Correction: it’s not even a choice.

So now here we are, and I’m lost. It’s hard to say how this is going to play out, but however it does, it won’t excuse the lack of payoff that the middle of Casual has been. I feel like as this show goes on, I learn less and less about these characters to the point that I’m not sure if the trainwreck is their lives or if it’s in the writing.

TB-TV-Grade-D+
Season 2, Episode 9 (S02E09)
Casual airs Tuesdays on Hulu

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Twitter: @armanbfar

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1 Comment

  1. TotallyRandomMan on

    The motivation for Alex NOT to sign the paper would be simple… it means Jordan gets his way.. he “wins”, in Alex’s mind. With as selfish, petty, and.. well, shitty… a person as Alex appears to be, I’m surprised he even signed the paper so quickly.

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