Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Hugh Laurie
Hugh Laurie
Photo: Alex Bailey (HBO)
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No one on the good ship Avenue 5 seems to be very good at what they’re supposed to do, which is not necessarily good news for anyone hoping to survive this voyage. But the stakes are probably lowest for Jordan the stand-up comic, whose failure to deliver a tight five still ends up anchoring a big portion of the episode.

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While last week’s episode introduced a new potential danger — the venting of the turd shield, which could eventually lead to everyone’s death from radiation — that threat is relatively quickly vanquished, thanks to Ryan and Billie working together in EVA suits to turn the “big metal wheel” outside and turn off the vent.

So after we get just barely enough of Ryan outside to remind us just how scary space can be, “He’s Only There To Stop His Skeleton Falling Over” refocuses on the crew holding its Halfway Home party — even though that label is technically inaccurate, as there are still years to go on, the crew decides to go ahead and party anyway.

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As the central entertainment, Jordan has a lot of pressure on him, which isn’t helped by Iris deciding to play the literal joke police, vetting his material prior to his set and doing a live critique of his performance while he’s on stage. There’s no way for Jordan to succeed, but his failure is pretty complete, with Judd’s own attempts to rev up the crowd also falling flat. In fact, the only real sign of engagement is the party revolting against Frank, devolving into a mob crying for him to be “shit out” the airlock.

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But Ryan actually manages to calm the crowd down, restoring some semblance of order as he urges everyone to work together as a team — darting into moments of near-competency, which is a welcome sight after so much recent flailing. And Ryan manages this despite reeling from getting “tri-vorced” by his husband and wife back home, as they’re unable to take the stress of his life being in danger.

Doug and Mia push forward with their separation, Mia choosing to hit on Colin the crew member while Doug tries to get some quality time with Spike (much to Spike’s disappointment, in a non-sexual way). While Karen seems pretty turned off by her husband in the aftermath of the button-pushing fiasco, finding Ryan to be very good-looking in his turtleneck, to which Frank reacts badly. Meanwhile, there might also be something resembling sparks flying between Billie and Ryan? If this show has one thing to say about the future, it’s that the future is a very, very sexual place.

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The team back home is largely absent this week, reduced to the state of spectators during Ryan and Billie’s spacewalk. But Rav does make a big decision — it’s time to do some “corporate begging,” and so she travels to the White House (which has been relocated to Buffalo, New York for some reason).

What the President will be able to do for the folks of Avenue 5 is unclear, though Rav’s trying to sell those stranded as the “best and brightest” may be a bit difficult, as the live feed shows them conga-ing up a storm, while the ring of excrement continues to surround the ship — just thick enough to remind everyone just what is out there, but not thick enough to conceal the coffins also trapped in the ship’s gravity.

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While it feels like a real Lord of the Flies-type situation is brewing, unless Ryan can become enough of a leader to maintain control over the passengers, this episode pulled its punches just enough to be frustrating. Right now it feels like everyone’s taking their safety for granted, even though we have gotten a taste of just how dangerous things can get. With just over half the season left to go, the cloud surrounding the ship (metaphorically and literally) needs to get darker.


Stray Observations

  • Hello! I’ll be taking over the rest of the season from Kate Kulzick (for the record, HBO will not be making screeners available going forward, so these recaps will be written night-of, as soon as the episode airs), and I will do my best to avoid making too many Star Trek references.
  • That said, as someone who has recently been rewatching Star Trek: Voyager, it is still very odd to a) see Ethan Phillips play a non-alien and b) a super-horny one at that. (I mean, Neelix was always a bit hot to trot, but not quite to the level of “well, a hole’s a hole.”)
  • The beat of “once again Billie’s contributions get overlooked for the men” is a beat that this show can hopefully find some way to evolve at some point; right now, it’s just getting tiresome.
  • “Remember the Oscars? That was a real shitshow. They gave an award to a sparrow.” There’s a lot of missing context there.
  • “No! Stop murdering someone!” is perhaps the least-effective attempt to shut down a mob I’ve ever heard.
  • Apparently, Daniel Radcliffe is now most famous for having “shat his pants at the Super Bowl.” How quickly we all forget Harry Potter (or BoJack Horseman).
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Liz Shannon Miller is a L.A.-based writer who recently spent five years at Indiewire. Her work has also been published by the New York Times, Vulture, Variety, THR, the Verge, and Thought Catalog.

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