It’s funny that the season (possibly series?) finale of Episodes ended up focusing so much on the downfall of Merc Lapidus. There’s a poetry to it—since the show is focused on the network ruining Pucks and, in turn, the lives of Sean, Beverly, and Matt, Merc is at the top of the blame heap for everything. He brought Sean and Beverly over from the U.K., he shoehorned Matt into the project, he wrecked everything that might have made the show a critical success and failed to make it a ratings hit. So why shouldn’t the finale focus on him losing his job, his relationship with Carol, and quite possibly his wife?
One reason: Merc is an unsympathetic cartoon character without a lick of shading. A TV show doesn’t need inherently sympathetic characters to be great, but it does need to have interesting characters, and Merc was never one of those. Episodes has relished his decline from power, but at the same time, it tried to wring drops of pathos from the situation, including a neat bit of cross-cutting between Merc’s victory speech and his office being cleared out. There were references to his battle with cancer, in case you forgot, and a quiet moment set to some opera.
It didn’t matter: Not only did Merc never connect as a character, but the weakest aspect of Carol’s character was how infatuated with him she was. Even as she’s being groomed as his replacement and obviously commands far more respect in the business than her boss, she won’t consider usurping Merc. Her whole act went from polite to vaguely infuriating—by the time she finally got that he wasn’t going to leave his wife and kicked him out of her car, there was little reason to care about their relationship. I was surprised that we didn’t get the obvious conclusion of her in Merc’s chair—things are rushed in the final minutes of the finale, and Merc’s “resignation” is only mentioned in an end-credits voiceover. But Carol is so wishy-washy about the offer, she might not get the job. Elliot Salad should look elsewhere!
What’s especially funny about the finale is how it’s aware that Sean and Beverly’s crawl towards reconciliation is no longer engaging. The whole thing was an afterthought—of course all Sean really wants is to get back with his wife. It just takes the sight of her with Rob and a brief pep talk from Matt. This couldn’t have happened a month ago? Probably not, because then there’d be no more story left to tell—apart from the continued deterioration of Pucks, but the writers stopped going to that well a long time ago.
Matt, ostensibly the star of Episodes, has even less to do. His wife’s gonna sue for sole custody of the kids because of Labia, and his weary lawyer tells him to get a better lawyer. Later, he gets in a fight with Merc and dislocates his shoulder. That’s about it! This season finale feels like a series finale in some ways (Merc is gone, Sean and Beverly are back together), but there’s no closure for Matt at all. There is the suggestion that he and Jamie were in it for the long haul, but apart from that, he’s the same impulsive, loveable fool on a shitty TV show.
So, is Episodes done for good? At the end of season one, it felt like there was lots left to explore—Sean and Beverly’s imploding marriage, the potential success/failure of Pucks, etc. But even that could barely fill a nine-episode second season. I don’t know that there’s a way to wring more drama (or comedy) out of this situation, and given that the show is a BBC co-production, there’s nothing wrong with adhering to the model set by previous Britcoms: Two short seasons, and that’s it, wrap it up. There’s the odd fond memory, but I don’t think I’ll be reminiscing about Episodes for too long.
- Matt’s lawyer gets to the point. “Did you have sexual relations with her?” “Hmm… does anal…” “Yeah, it counts.”
- Carol confesses that she’s serious with Merc to Elliot. “For what it's worth, I'm a big believer in second marriages.” “This would be his fourth.” “Mazel tov.”
- Matt’s penis gets one last shout-out from Merc at the urinal. “You put that in my wife?”