As it turns out “After Hours” is the calm before the shitstorm. Through coincidence, timing, and bad luck, both David and Wheeler fall from the great heights they reached in the previous episode to set up their fates for the finale. Both guys had gotten the girl, both guys were feeling pretty great about their lot in life, and both guys lost it all. Red Oaks works the best in these moments of tension, when everything good comes crashing down. It’s always odd to think that comedy tends to be its best when things are at their worst. It may not be funny, but it’s where Red Oaks finds its heart.
There’s been a lot of discussion throughout this season about whether 20 years old is an adult or not. Sam seems to think so, and so does Karen. You think life is like summer vacation, she tells him, but summer is over and it’s time to fucking grow up. But Skye thinks differently. In “After Hours,” she told David to embrace the uncertainty because he’s only 20 and he doesn’t need to have everything figured out yet. I wonder if this is a class distinction—there’s definite demarcation of thought based on whose fathers are club presidents, and those whose fathers are not. Skye has the luxury of going to London and starting her jewelry line after college. Karen does not. She’s thinking practical. There’s been subtle nods to class throughout the series: In “Fourth of July” Sam laments not being able to get a good view of the fireworks, and that maybe David can sneak them into the club next year. Nash is perhaps the most obvious case, as his throughline for the series has been about how he wants to be one of the members, but he will always just serve them (best exemplified in “The Wedding”). David chooses his classes after learning of the dip Sam’s business is taking. Does he have the luxury of being a kid for that much longer? Sam didn’t have that luxury, as he’s happy to remind anyone who will listen, but then again, neither did Judy, becoming a wife and mother so young. They’re both paying for it now.
For David, in “Bar Mitzvah,” all is revealed, and he’s let off the hook in some ways. He wasn’t the only one participating in a pseudo-form of emotional infidelity. Karen has her own misdeeds, even if in her mind she would have absolved herself of them. The subtle smile David cracks when he punches Barry in the face is a lovely one. But in other ways, he’s lost everything, the tennis pro job coming in second to Skye, who has a “good friend” in California. Of course, there will be miscommunications and apologies from Skye—she was trying to give her explanations to David when Karen showed up. But for now, David is without the one thing he worked for all summer: Skye.
David and Karen’s break up in a way parallels Judy and Sam’s. There was no major problem or fight or issue in their relationship. They just were not meant to be together forever. Their dance scene together is particularly poignant. “This is our song,” Sam says. “Is it?” Judy says, not even recognizing that it’s theirs. “We should dance,” Sam says, not necessarily out of a sense of obligation, but certainly not out of a sense of desire, either. “Do you want to?” Judy asks with the same semi-heistance. “Yeah,” he says. It’s here where Sam asks Judy when he stopped loving her. She never did—stop, that is—because it has not crossed her mind to. They are not the people who they thought they would become. Judy’s sexuality may be a factor, but she can’t even acknowledge it yet. They are just no longer in love. They are no longer meant to be tied to each other, even if no one did anything wrong.
The stakes are highest for Wheeler who lost $10,000 worth of coke in a Walkman (they kept saying cassette player, and I wondered if they couldn’t use the brand name/packaging, or if they were worried potential audience wouldn’t know what that was) through no fault of his own. The last couple of episodes have set up David and Wheeler as parallels of each other. As one of their love lives succeeds, so does the other’s. They both want the girl they are not supposed to have, because they’re the types of guys who only get those girls in movies.
- I’m enjoying these Gettyisms. This episode’s highlight: “If it flies, floats, or fucks, rent it.”
- “I want to feel a stiff wind slap me across the face as if I’ve wronged it in some way.”
- “This whole table look at me and say ‘Sandy Koufax’!”
- “Who’s going to be more excited to see a cake than this kid?”
- “I made you watch Free To Be You And Me!”