By Sancheev Ravichandran
I was incredibly surprised by this episode. After last week’s slightly disappointing follow up to the pilot, “The Date” delivered on all fronts. It was filled with great moments, both hilarious and awkward — it threw all the right punches, both dramatic and comedic — and most importantly, the story entertained the entire way through.
Part of the reason this episode felt so meaty, was because it literally had more plot. Instead of seeing all our characters together, we followed three threads that crossed in a few places but really held their own. And somehow they formed a great and cohesive episode. Yes, the constant theme of loneliness that dominates this show still united each of the stories, but it was the snappy pacing that kept us hooked the whole way through. The writing moved us from one character to another at precisely the right moments.
Stuart’s narrative this week consisted of him taking a girl out. Wade took the role of the sympathetically pathetic character as he looks for someone to check up on him in a two-way buddy system to reprise the role his wife previously held. As one could expect, Wade finds himself in a few mildly threatening situations where nobody comes to his aid. The other sub-plot centers on Jessica, who is looking for work with all the odds stacked against her. She is additionally forced to endure ridicule from one of her obnoxiously superficial friends, due to her lack of work.
These different stories worked so well, because each of them boiled down to one of the core conflicts in the show while retaining humor. The second episode tried to blend all the elements. Having them manifest in different stories surrounding our central characters offered far greater clarity, and engaging story.
Our lead characters, Stuart, Jessica, and Wade have many of the same demons that prevent them from being their ideal selves. In this episode, we see these characters individually battle these. It is interesting, because both Stuart and Jessica have the same issue as Wade — a total dejection and pain that occupies the emptiness they feel, they just don’t show it. Likewise, Jessica and Wade have no idea how to carry themselves — very much like Stuart in this episode. And like Jessica, they all feel a frustration with the world they live in — and all three characters (Wade to a lesser degree), put on layers of artificial faces to carry them through life.
I loved the moment where Stuart is caught eavesdropping on his date through her front window, after dropping her off. We see Stuart almost have a breakdown, as he pleads with her for one more date while trying to justify his actions. It was a beautiful moment of vulnerability from a character who does everything to hide his weakness. And magically, it worked — however, as per usual, Stuart screwed it up in the next five seconds by being an asshole.
This scene echoes a statement Jessica made earlier, “I think you’re scared because this one may actually say yes.” As much as Stuart is in need of a relationship, I think some part of him is afraid of trying to have one. These two poles clash, as we see Stuart flash from genuine to arrogant in a heartbeat. He’s like a child who knows something’s wrong but can’t find the right way to go about getting what he wants.
This episode was a fantastic culmination of all the pieces that have been set. I would love to see this level of subtle drama mixed with great comedy moving forward — this series is clearly capable of handling the two phenomenally.
Sancheev Ravichandran is a contributing writer. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.