It’s sometimes easy to forget that Baskets can be very funny. Yes, it has a pervasive melancholic tone and the underlying reality of the characters’ lives can be quite gloomy, but Galifianakis has always infused the series with a specific style of humor—a cocktail of classic vaudeville, Three Stooges-esque slapstick, and Adult Swim surrealism. Amidst the grounded depiction of depression and failure, Baskets is one of the funniest shows on TV, and when the comedy and the performances come together, it feels like few other half-hour shows on basic cable.
There’s no better example this season than “Fight,” a madcap episode that primarily features a long, destructive fight between Chip and Dale Baskets. Struggling to overcome his failed marriage and stalled life prospects, Dale commits to starting his life anew, which mostly means working out and taking pictures of himself with a selfie stick. Meanwhile, Chip returns and tries to adjust to life under his mother’s roof once again, but can’t because Dale keeps antagonizing him. Naturally, they come to blows and basically destroy Christine’s house in the process.
The episode’s barebones plot, courtesy of credited writer Graham Wagner, allows for many uproarious setpieces, each with unique identities—the table face-off, backdoor wrestling, and the toilet explosion—but “Fight” was funny long before Dale and Chip attacked each other. It’s difficult to explain why Dale enthusiastically listening to Florence and the Machine’s “Dog Days are Over” on repeat is hysterical, but the visual of him vamping along to the song while holding a long selfie stick should do most of the heavy lifting. But it’s not just that Dale finds inspiration in a years-old pop song, it’s that he receives a lower-back tattoo with the words “The Dog Days Are Over” surrounding a picture of a dog with X’s over his eyes. It’s that he describes the song to Chip as “political music” and calls the singer “Florence Machine.” It’s just gloriously weird.
But it’s not long before Chip loses his patience with Dale’s combative attitude and they soon start taking their respective frustration out on each other. Chip throws tennis balls at Dale causing him to spill his smoothie. In response, Dale locks him out of the house and throws water in his face. When Chip gets back into the house through the kitchen window, Dale gives him an atomic wedgie, so Chip breaks Dale’s phone, and so on and so forth until the two have dislodged the toilet and flooded the house with shit water.
Though Wagner’s writing and Jonathan Krisel’s direction are crucial to “Fight’s” success, the majority of the credit goes to Galifianakis himself, who portrays the Basket brothers so well here that it warrants awards consideration (if awards were at all interested in this kind of performance.) Though Chip and Dale’s polar opposite personalities provide Galifianakis with the opportunity to play both the straight man and the buffoon, with the added irony that the professional clown is the “straight” role, the two characters have rarely felt like actual brothers before this episode. “Fight” explores their long-standing pettiness and insecurities with understated insight, so much so that their familial intimacy takes on real dimension. Dale resents Chip for shirking traditional responsibilities to follow his dreams while Chip resents Dale for his financial and personal success, but both are unable to see that their perceptions of the other are flawed, at least until they’re at each other’s throats.
The two eventually come to an understanding when they go out to search for their mother’s cat. They travel to the spot where their father committed suicide and share an honest moment. Dale admits to Chip in so many words that his sudden departure frightened him, and Chip admits that his decision to leave was foolish. The two aren’t exactly on good terms, but they work together to bring the cat back home and they finally begin a dialogue. Every positive action on Baskets amounts to a good first step, and sometimes that’s more than enough.
Though Galifianakis and co. handle the drama in “Fight” very well, the humor is the main selling point, and this review has barely scratched the surface of it. There’s the image of Chip and Dale chugging 5-Hour Energy drinks as they furiously circle a table and brag about sexual conquests that never happened. There’s Christine’s neighbor interrupting Chip and Dale’s brawl to tell them that their mother left sprinklers on in the middle of a drought. There’s Dale indiscriminately throwing his family portrait off the wall. Near the end of the episode, Chip tells Dale that it’s okay to be angry. “I’m not angry!” he yells. “I’m not angry! I’m just full of beans! I’ve always been full of beans! So many goddamn beans!” His response encapsulates “Fight” so well: A glorious depiction of unfettered, dysfunctional rage between family.
- The Christine subplot is fairly bland and unmemorable, and mostly serves to break up the fight scenes, but her lunch date with Martha was quite amusing.
- Christine’s cats are named Ronald Reagan and Will Ferrell. This will always be funny to me.
- It’s such an easy joke, but the quick shot of random hikers watching Dale in a clown uniform and Chip with a bloody tissue sticking out of his nose walking along train tracks repeatedly saying “Ronald Reagan” was gold.
- There are so many spare Dale lines that are great, but my favorite has to be, “I threw my whole life away just so I can see a Pixar movie with Martha!”
- “Did you find Islam in the clink?”
- “Okay! Go back in to your stupid video games and your child porn!”
- “Now I know you’re lying. She would never have sex with me.”
- “You’re the complete package! Don’t let anyone tell you different!” “Well, I probably will…”
- “Super glue won’t fix that!”
- “What are you thinking jumping on trains like Bob Dylan or something! Those choo-choos can be really, really dangerous!”
- “You’ve been a naughty boy, Ronald Reagan. Just like the guy he’s named after!”