The first season finale of Blunt Talk has Walter once again itching to bump the zero-impact family, but there’s only so far you can push a man before he cracks. So Jason Schwartzman’s Duncan barges onto Walter’s newscast and forces Walter to interview him at gunpoint. Walter manages the whole scene, ordering Harry to keep the control room calm, telling security not to shoot, and advising Duncan where to point the gun and when. He keeps waving the gun around, even pointing it in the air at nothing when Rosalie’s voice comes over the loudspeaker, which is apparently new technology to the green zealot. It’s kind of funny, but not really.
Most of the characters we know are watching from the control room. At first they’re an array. Martin and Shelly are covering their mouths in fear. Rosalie and Celia have their hands up in action, like they’re trying to intervene but know they can’t. Harry’s off to the side looking for an opportunity. The performances on this side of the glass give no clue that anything might be funny. Every time we look back they’re just as nervous as before, only this time in different arrangements. At least the glass reflections add some interest, like when it distorts Celia and Rosalie into a single figure with two faces looking worried in different directions. It’s kind of moving, but not really.
A couple months earlier and Starz would have pushed the episode back a week, making this at least our third TV show containing a gunman live on the news since Virginia (along with Mr. Robot and Documentary Now!). It’s a surprising accidental trend. Or is it always like this and we just notice in the aftermath of the real-life shooting? There’s a method here that brings us safely back from real life and into the character of Walter Blunt. The hostage sequence is an ironic climax to an episode about PTSD inspired by Walter’s dream at the party. He holds so much guilt for hesitating to save Harry, even though what comes through loudest and clearest is that he risked his life for his friend. Now Walter and Harry believe they may have PTSD. They seek a holistic therapy courtesy of Fred Melamed’s LA doctor. It mostly involves dancing because the mind and body are connected. Once again, the people with solutions on Blunt Talk are wackos. What really helps, which we knew from the moment Walter met Gisele, is just talking and connecting. Walter and Harry did more to treat their PTSD at that party and the morning after than dancing with nurses. The punchline is that Walter’s finally trying to treat the PTSD he didn’t know he had, and suddenly he’s held hostage by a lunatic live on the air.
Things pick up a little from there. Walter and Duncan get in a little spat about the most effective means of conveying this information. When Duncan leaves with Walter at gunpoint, Celia rushes on-stage, gets miked up—all of this live—and begins reporting the breaking news that Walter has been kidnapped. When Jim joins her later, his eyebrows are back to their old tricks. So how was Walter kidnapped live on the air? Well it turns out Duncan, the man who was flummoxed by a speaker, has arranged a flash mob of Duncan and Walter lookalikes to walk past the Blunt Talk offices at a certain time and drive off in several directions in 100 Chevy Volts and Priuses. The real Duncan and Walter get lost in the crowd. And Duncan arranged all of this with just a cell phone and a few hours to kill between getting bumped and the broadcast that night, well, that afternoon.
Exceptions don’t prove rules, but Duncan is so broad he shows how good Blunt Talk typically is with broad comedy. He breaks where he’s supposed to bend. You can’t take him seriously, yet the whole episode depends on taking him seriously. As funny as the getaway is, it’s significantly dampened by the fact that Duncan is as good a terrorist as he is a father. His staged interview is so basic Walter calls him out on that too. He isn’t even a good environmental advocate. And remember how we first heard of Duncan? There was an article somewhere about his zero-impact house. Hard to imagine cops couldn’t track down Walter with such information.
Ignoring the standalone elements, which unfortunately includes the title, “Let’s Save Central Florida! Let’s Save Midtown!” which is Duncan’s call to arms, the finale does contain some funny, touching, Blunt Talkian moments to tide us over until season two. First there’s the aftermath of the party, Walter and Harry finally talking about the scars that you can’t see. Later Shelly and Hershel wake up. When she says goodbye, Hershel tells Walter, “That one is a firecracker. We’ll discuss it at group.” Jim’s the one who really tugs on the heartstrings. He’s so happy to have fallen for Celia. He’s content with just infatuation. As he tells his parents in this perfectly halting Timm Sharp delivery, “It’s probably not mutual, but it’s just nice to feel something, you know?” When he confesses his love to Celia, it turns out it is mutual. They don’t kiss or hug. Jim isn’t even the one who puts a hand on Celia’s ass at the end (that would be Shelly). Instead, true to Blunt Talk, Jim wraps himself back in his ostrich pillow, and Celia stands there with him.
Martin’s absence from the majority of the episode adds to the lumpiness. The episode builds to this hero lineup of the main characters taking in their city, and Martin’s not there for the arbitrary reason that he has to find himself on the Appalachian Trail? Actually, that’s not quite right. “I’m only walking a part of the trail, so I might not find my whole self.” But before he goes, Rosalie and Terry offer him a toast. And they warn him not to look away when he drinks. You’re supposed to look each other in the eyes after a toast, or you’ll have years of bad sex. Terry’s living proof. Now apply that lesson to the ending of the episode. Martin isn’t there, but Walter is. Harry’s quick with a flask for his kidnapped friend, and Walter toasts the group, “Cheers, dears!” And then he closes his eyes to take a few swigs. That poor man.
And his poor future lovers.
- “Let’s Save Central Florida! Let’s Save Midtown!” is written by Sam Sklaver and Jonathan Ames and directed by Tristram Shapeero. Blunt Talk has already been renewed for season two, so let’s meet back here in a year.
- Ronnie left his petting goat at Walter’s. Walter tells Harry, “I looked into her eyes last night. Very soulful. She would have made a great silent film star.”
- The therapist wants to know what kind of music Walter and Harry like. They alternate answers, starting with Walter: “Buddy Holly!” “Taylor Swift!” “Randy Newman!” “Anything with a flute.”
- Jim tells his dad, “Dr. Weiss had a heart attack last night from cocaine.” “Figures.” “Yeah, it is terrible.”
- Jim is so bad at bumping the green family that Duncan curses. Jim asks, “Did you say gay dammit?” “I said Gaea dammit!”