I did say I wasn’t planning on blogging each individual episode of this series, but there was enough in episode 2 to prompt me to some comment, which would otherwise be lost if I waited until the very end.
All the things I said about episode 1 apply again, in spades. This series is dark, intense and draining, an effect multiplied by the theatrical staging. It’s also unfailingly cruel, sand not all of it comes from the obvious monster, Uncle Pete, who at one point had the bar in stitches as he related a story of the five year old Horace peeing his pants at baseball – whilst Horace was there in the bar – and later was warm and approving towards Tricia, an attractive woman with Tourettes Syndrome, shouting out the kind of aggressive, transgressive things that are Uncle Pete’s daily conversation.
No, what decided me to blog again was the scene where this new guy objects to Uncle Pete charging him $4.50 for a budweiser when this other guy got charged $3.00. Horace took over to defuse a rapidly escalating situation with the guy protesting discrimination, and clarified that it had nothing to do with the guy being gay or Jewish, but was like a surcharge for additionals. You see, the guy was coming in here to drink ‘ironically’, and call the place to his friends, but the regular who was charged $3.00 only comes in here to drink.
So, it’s kind of a douche tax? the guy enquires. That’s acceptable.
At which point I roared with laughter and decided I had to comment again. Because episode 2 did what episode 1 didn’t, and made me laugh. Without changing itself in any substantial respect, it was funny. In among the pain, the misery, the complete frustration of everybody’s lives, the series began to make me laugh out loud. And I have never been any good at finding comedy in real pain.
One aspect where the tenor of the series hinted at a possible development was hinted at in the opening scene. I didn’t mention Jessica Lange last time, as Marsha, a tightly-wrapped, blonde, formerly hot lush, who was Horace VII’s last mistress. She turned up in Horace VIII’s bedroom in the open, sat on his bed whilst he struggled with his modesty and her being there.
I should have twigged when she was nowhere to be seen when he dressed, but there was another, longer scene, later, where it’s made plain that these are Horace’s sex fantasies, except that his guilt towards their twisted nature and the fact they feature a woman at least in her sixties (Lange is 67 and has come a long way from her debut in the utterly disastrous Dino de Laurentis 1976 re-make of King Kong, which rivals Raise the Titanic as the biggest disaster movie of the era, and yes, I do mean ‘disaster’ that way) means that there isn’t going to be any actual sex and that fantasy Marsha is even moore contemptuous towards him than real Marsha.
Who was being squired around the bar this week by silver fox Denis, owner of a string of tyre stores, who wanted to wine, dine and romance her, in short, paint the town red with her, whilst Marsha wanted to paint the town red in the bar, whilst drinking steadily.
The story, meanwhile, thickens. Sylvie tells Horace that she has breast cancer, which she then tries to use to get him to agree to sell the bar. She also tells him to keep it secret from her kids as they’re such narcissists, they’ll make it about themselves, but when Horace confides in his daughter Alice, she already knows because she’s heard it from her cousin Brenda, who’s being very supportive of Sylvie.
And Tricia, the attractive Tourettes sufferer, is in the bar looking for Pete (this was a week in which Steve Buscemi was kept away from the main stories), a former fellow inmate, whom she appears to hero worship to some degree. Pete doesn’t want to talk to her: they’re not in the hospital now, and besides, for all the support he’s given her, and which Uncle Pete is prepared to extend, her condition affords her the luxury of foregoing her meds in order to lead a ‘normal’ life, and his doesn’t, condemning him to a dulled-down, sleep-dominated, affectless life.
The non-series Pete, whose recommendation has brought me here, says this gets better and better as it goes along. On this showing, he’s not wrong. This is a world away from the kind of thing I usually watch, and when you’re feeling less than chipper, it can be intimidating to approach, but if this really does get better all the time – and if the ‘sex fantasy’ is indicative of an intent to incorporate other strands in this ultra-realistic approach, then what I’ve got coming I hardly dare try to imagine.