Elijah Jacob/AMC
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The second episode of Feed The Beast improves on the pilot in several respects while retaining enough of its flaws to ensure it’s still a long way from appointment viewing. As is often the case with a show’s first post-pilot outing, “In The Name Of The Father” is a restatement of the premise that indulges in a little retroactive continuity. For the most part, it’s a more grounded, less frantic take on the material that still gets silly too often for its own good.

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Tommy’s reluctance to get involved in the restaurant business with his father is kicked down a notch when he quits his job as wine rep, a gig that hasn’t been going so well for him lately anyway. Crime boss Woichik (who I’ll refrain from calling “the Tooth Fairy” unless absolutely necessary) gives Dion a 48-hour deadline to present a signed investor contract, so Dion pushes Tommy into a meeting with his father Aidan. In case you have any questions about the state of their relationship, we get a closeup of a “Moran & Son” sign with the “Son” rubbed out for the second straight episode. It’s not hard to figure out what caused the rift between them; if Aidan’s Archie Bunker rant in the pilot didn’t tip you off that he might not have approved of his son’s marriage, his initial chilly reaction to meeting his African-American grandson for the first time should seal the deal.

Aidan doesn’t have much interest in the food Dion prepares or the spiel Tommy delivers either, but he invests in the restaurant anyway. The idea of helping to gentrify the Bronx (and being among the first to profit from it) certainly holds its appeal, but despite the first impression he gives, Aidan also insists on weekly visits with TJ as a non-negotiable part of the deal. Tommy is against it, but TJ is up for it, mainly because he spotted a pistol stuffed in Grandpa’s sock while rooting around under the table for a dropped spoon. His fascination with Aidan’s gun cabinet during his later visit is queasy-making given the troubles TJ has been having with bullies at school. I’m pretty sure the last thing this show needs is school-shooting storyline, so here’s hoping this is a red herring, especially since TJ is probably the most interesting character on the show so far. The “kid who hasn’t spoken since his mother died” conception may be too schematic, but Elijah Jacob’s performance is soulful enough to carry it. With those eyes, he doesn’t need words. His delight in learning the ropes in the kitchen is part of the reason the cooking scenes are consistently the most enjoyable, and his bonding with the girl in the school bathroom over their shared love of art is another nice moment.

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As was the case with pilot, “In The Name Of The Father” becomes less convincing and interesting when Dion is out of the kitchen and doing almost anything else. Jim Sturgess relies too heavily on broad De Niro-isms, squinting and bobbing his head like he prepared for the role by watching a Scorsese marathon. Woichik remains a cartoon villain, the flip side of Michael Rispoli’s broad turn as Detective Giordano the cop obsessed with bringing him down. When Dion drops in on his lawyer in hopes that she’ll take a look at the contract gratis, the show drops a groaner of a reveal: Giordano is her father. This reeks of a development that was hatched months after the pilot was shot, a late-night writer’s room Hail Mary engineered to tie two previously unrelated threads together in order to store some contrived drama on the shelf until needed. As if Dion’s storyline needs more of that.

Tommy remains the more believable, relatable character, with Schwimmer again doing fine work, particularly in the grief group scene in which Tommy acknowledges that he can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel. His budding relationship with Pilar would mean more if she were to develop a few character traits beyond “being really into Tommy.” (It almost felt like a scene was missing from the episode after she dropped by the warehouse to sample wines. Dion left to pick up TJ, Tommy and Pilar were alone…and there was no real follow-up.) The episode saves his worst moment for last, when he sees the bruises on TJ’s torso and assumes his father must have done it. It’s almost a Three’s Company-level misunderstanding he could have cleared up in a second by asking directly, “Did Grandpa do this to you?” But he doesn’t, and so he ends up with John Doman’s foot in his face and a gun at his head. This brand of contrivance and overheated melodrama is not the foundation of great television. Feed The Beast still has work to do.

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Stray observations

  • If nothing else, at least Feed The Beast is providing work for some good grizzled character actors. This week David Patrick Kelly (Twin Peaks) turns up as Woichik’s father, who is just about as disappointed in his son as Aidan is.
  • Watching this show on an empty stomach is not a good idea. I have no idea if I’d even like half the stuff Dion cooks up, but it all looks fantastic.
  • “What’s the one thing everyone says the Bronx doesn’t have?” “White people.” Doman’s deadpan delivery is on point.
  • A quick Google search suggests that there’s a new “gentrification is definitely coming to the Bronx soon” article every few months. My favorite was the New York Daily News calling it “the hipster’s final frontier.”

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