When we did our TV Awards blog here on The Whiteboard last summer, I gave House of Lies the award for Worst Show. Now I am sure there are worse shows on TV, but of the shows I watch I think it earned that award. But here I am saddling up for the second season of this show. Is it mostly because I love Kristen Bell? Maybe, but I do think the first season showed some progress as it went on and this cast still seems too good for a show to continue to be this bad. So I am back hoping for the best and thought I’d check in with a review of the Season 2 premiere “Stochasticity”.
This episode picks up a couple of weeks after the finale where Jeannie made her grand reveal about the sexual harassment going on at Galweather, something happened between Marty and Jeannie the same night, and Marty’s son Roscoe left to live with his mother. The fallout of each of these events is tackled here in the premiere. But what I want to start with is what works about this episode and that is the new plot for the week. The pod is completely unprepared for a new client they have been assigned and get a call from him before they can even figure out who he is and what kind of company he runs. So the group must scramble to figure this out without letting the guy know how clueless they are. And it is here that House of Lies puts its best foot forward, by letting us watch this group interact and play off of one another. They are all trying to ask generic questions to get the client, Mr. Pinkus, to reveal something about himself, but he is giving them nothing. Throughout this sequence and all of their work interactions into the meeting they plan with him the next day, we get to see how much fun this group can be together. There’s great banter here and like a lot of episodes, the joke ends up on Doug. First because his attempts to figure out who Mr. Pinkus is are such a failure, but also when he talks about pulling an all-nighter to do research which to Doug means staying at the office even if he still gets a full night’s sleep. The rapport between the group really shows through the best here and makes for some enjoyable sequences.
Another scene that really worked for me was the one with Marty and his son Roscoe at a restaurant. When it was contentious, it was a little tough to watch, but when things lightened up a bit and they exchanged some words while the bumblebee girl sang it was sort of fun. Marty returning Roscoe to his mother’s place resulted in the obvious next step for this show, Marty trying to bang his ex-wife. But in a nice change of pace, she turns him away. I assumed like Marty that her new lifestyle was in fact just a custody play, but I sure hope that is not the case. A little growth from her would be a good move for the show and hopefully continue to push Marty towards not being the worst person ever. I think we want that right?
The final thread weaving through this episode is Jeannie trying to remember what exactly happened between her and Marty that night. She has been on a vacation after her revelations and apparently doesn’t remember what happened. Seemingly neither does Marty. But being around each other is bringing back some memories of what happened. It’s done with a weird transition technique and these sequences generally fell flat for me. Though some of the ridiculous things they do remember like the running man might have gotten a chuckle. And it ends with the revelation that Jeannie told Marty she loved him at one point. It seems this is the worst possible discovery for Jeannie and we are supposed to take it as such, but it was still something she said when she was blackout drunk. I certainly don’t like the road this might head down, but we will have to see what they do with it.
Much like the end of last season, House of Lies’ Season 2 premiere is kind of a mixed bag. When the group can bounce off of one another and bust each others’ balls a bit, it can be a pretty enjoyable show. But a lot of what surrounds this still isn’t appealing. Just the framework of the show and how it’s presented along with some of the overarching story threads just don’t work for me. And like I mentioned before it’s a shame because a show with Bell, Cheadle and Ben Schwartz should be something a bit more enjoyable. Even Josh Lawson, who I don’t know from any previous work, shows potential here and honestly doesn’t get bogged down in some of the bad drama plots that Bell and Cheadle do. Hopefully Season 2 can work on giving us more of what it’s good at and maybe fix up some of the longterm storylines. If they made Marty and Jeannie (and most of the show’s characters for that matter) a little more likable, that’d probably be a good thing too.