For six straight episodes, Flaked has presented Chip as a broken man. He’s a manipulative, uncaring, often cynical person who uses his recovery from alcohol abuse to garner unwarranted sympathy for himself. When he looks at the people around him he sees opportunities. In Dennis he sees someone who he can control, someone he can feel above. In Cooler, he sees a driver. In London, he sees yet another woman that he can potentially use his bullshit AA self-help talk on in order to get laid. Then, in the previous episode, things shifted a bit when it was revealed that London was actually Claire, the sister of the young man who Chip killed in a drunk driving accident 10 years ago.
That incident is the cause of all the pain and anguish in Chip’s life, and yet Flaked, in “7th,” proposes something different: what if that accident wasn’t actually Chip’s fault? Furthermore, what if it wasn’t even Chip who was driving the car? While there’s not complete confirmation within the story yet, “7th” certainly suggests that ten years ago Tilly was driving (drunk or not) and killed London/Claire’s brother, and then Chip took the fall for her. The evidence piles up in “7th,” as Chip starts to talk to Tilly’s agent about organizing a “new deal,” followed by a shady parking lot meeting where Chip tells Tilly that he deserves a new deal because “he let her have a life.”
Like the London/Claire twist, the notion that Chip has playing the role of recovering alcoholic is troubling to say the least. The first twist was bad enough as it is. The previous episode ended with Flaked hoping to garner sympathy for its main character. That’s not a totally misguided idea, but the speed with which the show expects our perspective to turn is an issue. That problem is compounded when, at the start of “7th,” Dennis and Chip, best buds once again, basically muse on how crazy London is. It’s a pretty gross conversation, and really embodies the way Flaked has treated its women. Not only does Dennis say that he doesn’t feel so rejected now that he knows London had “sinister intentions,” but he also says that now they’ll never know who she would have chosen as a romantic partner if all things were equal. It’s a scene and statement that I desperately want to be satire, spoofing the constant stream of male fantasies that adorn our TV screens, but Flaked just doesn’t allow for that kind of optimistic reading. Instead, Chip and Dennis are just bad dudes once again being typical ‘Nice Guys,” meaning they can pretend to care for the women around them while quickly chastising them when they don’t meet their expectations, or when they reject them.
It doesn’t help that London’s character is basically a non-entity within the narrative. She’s only there to serve as an excuse for Chip’s behaviour, to confirm that he’s a martyr of sorts. We get the slightest peak into London’s “real” life as Claire in “7th,” as she calls her fiancé and deals with his apparently jaded mother who’s still throwing a reception on their wedding day, but it’s too little backstory too late. It’s clear that Flaked has no interest in exploring London as a character, which is a shame because she should be one half of this show’s emotional core. Her feelings about her brother, and his death, and why her life is seemingly in shambles, all go unexplored throughout this season, which makes the way Chip and Dennis ostracize her and talk bad about her in “7th” all the more frustrating. That lack of backstory also underscores the fact that so much of Flaked is wish fulfillment, as Chip and London end up kissing yet again. There’s not real emotional weight to their “will they or won’t they?” romance because London doesn’t feel real. Add in all the disconcerting stuff that turns Chip into a victim, and their romance is dead on arrival.
What’s more troubling though is that Flaked isn’t satisfied with just using London to build Chip up, so it uses Tilly to do the exact same thing. Tilly is another woman on this show that has little to no backstory to her, and is then suddenly painted as a manipulative villain. Along with her new romantic partner, Alicia Wiener, who’s the one building the hotel that will displace Chip’s store, Tilly is nothing but a reductive, two-dimensional character. Of course she’s manipulative and cutthroat; what woman on this show isn’t? What woman on this show isn’t there to prove that Chip’s circumstances aren’t his fault? Even Kara, who has plenty of experience with Chip’s shitty behavior, tells London that he’s not such a bad guy. With “7th,” Flaked twists itself into all sorts of knots trying to explain why Chip isn’t so bad, and it just doesn’t work.
Part of the problem is that Flaked has never really found its voice as a blend of drama and comedy. There are bits of both that the show does well—Cooler is always good for a laugh, and there’s something interesting in the gray area in which Chip operates on a day-to-day basis—but they hardly ever coalesce into something more. Flaked doesn’t need to present a clear moral protagonist, but it does need to meaningfully engage with the actions of its main character. “7th,” with its successful SaVenice campaign and Tilly reveal, signals a refusal to do so. Rather than get messy, “7th” wipes the slate clean for Chip, and it doesn’t feel earned or honest. Not for a single second.
- Biggest laugh of the episode, and maybe the season, is definitely George busting in on Dennis and Chip eating breakfast with his gun drawn, followed by him saying “he already ate,” then wolfing down scrambled eggs. Robert Wisdom is a delightful comedic actor.
- Also funny: Cooler making another drive-thru joke when Chip tries using Tilly’s intercom.
- “That’s not a good sign,” says Cooler as he sees the SOLD sign on Chip’s store.
- I may have actually cheered when Kara was with Stefan and not Dennis at the end of the episode.