This final episode of Bored To Death for the season had a lot of pay-off. Jonathan's novel is due tomorrow, but he decides to spend his time with hippy food co-op-working stoner Stella instead—and for the first time since Suzanne, he finds he likes a girl. George Christopher gets his revenge on the GQ editor he hates by not winning the boxing match, but getting with his wife, who happens to be George's ex, and making her happy by taking a dive. Ray gets to be his girlfriend's little cuddle bunny. All is right in the world.
The problem is I didn't find myself caring that much. Bored To Death's early episodes valued plot far above anything character-related, so sort of like Burn Notice's early outings, characters served very specific purposes and weren't too much a part of the action. And unlike Burn Notice, I always found Bored's central character way too dull to be the focus of a detective show. I suppose that's the point, that he's supposed to be this fish-out-of-water guy, but Jason Schwartzman's non-acting always read too removed, and the show breezed by him without the audience on board. It was only near the end of the season that Ray and George started to show moments of weakness, which made their characters a lot more attractive on a show like this—there's something tangible that drives their actions. So smaller, short-term pay-off moment worked best, like George realizing his vitirol towards GQ needed to be kept in check for the sake of his ex-wife. Longer term pay-offs, like Jonathan rescuing the Viagra bottle from the grips of Todd Barry—a plot point I had completely forgotten about—didn't.
That's not to say "Take A Dive" was a failure of an episode. As many of you have pointed out in the comments, the upward swing of Bored To Death over the last few weeks is undeniable, and the episode contained enough humor to make up for some of its shortcomings. Though the Todd Barry sideplot didn't mean much, I was glad the show cast him as the guy who clearly didn't know how to make a threatening call—one unexpected question from Jonathan sets him completely off course; then later, when Jonathan shows up, he awkwardly throws a beer bottle as a deterrent, then gets trapped below a chair, of all things. John Hodgman continued to be the ultimate choice for uber-lit geek casting, taunting Jonathan by saying the audio version of Ames' first book is what's firing him up for the fight—then finally admitting defeat when he learns that the book garnered a favorable review in the New York Times. I loved how team GQ felt they needed to bring on a cartoonist to fight Ray, and chose just some other bearded overweight guy. And any training montage featuring Zach Galifianakis in Juicy pants is fine by me—more than enough to make up for yet another scene where stoned characters talk about the merits of pot smoking.
It took a while, but Bored To Death finally figured out what it does best. It's a show about lit geeks, for lit geeks, and it works when the mundane activities of these characters are taken way too seriously, mixed with a few sweetly personal moments like the final George-Jonathan joust tonight. Professional feud taken to a boxing match? Great. Private detective cases where Jonathan sort of flounders his way through and doesn't seem to care all that much? Those don't work as well. At times I've been hard on the show, but that's only because there are so many great elements here; it's never going to be a huge mainstream success, but Bored To Death has all the makings of a small-time hit. I just wish, for now, that the pay-off was any more satisfying.
- Jonathan waits till the night before his novel is due, then blows off the deadline. He's fired, right? I take it?
- "I apologize to hermaphrodites for that unfavorable comparison."
- Okay, one good Stella line tonight: "There's this pollen in the air that smells like kissing."
- "I lost my virginity in 5th grade." "What was his name?" "Father Francis."