If “Horizon” was the episode of Flaked that suggested Chip isn’t the man that he seems, his repetition of AA platitudes more of an act than anything else, then “Rose” is the episode that finally lays all the cards on the table and shows that Chip is, definitively, not a good person. Chip is supposedly, to himself at least, a caring, empathetic guy who’s just trying his best to make it in Venice, where gentrification calls “Save Venice” groups to action and AA meetings seems to be the height of social interaction—not counting Cooler’s comedy shows, of course.

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Chip can hardly even play the part though. Right off the bat, “Rose” doubles down on the idea that Chip is, and there’s no other way to put this, full of shit. He’s doing his best to sell his relationship with Kara as something meaningful, partly to distract himself from London and partly because he thinks he should be pursuing something meaningful with her, and yet he doesn’t even remember that her one-year sobriety milestone is coming up. He plays it off like he knew all along, but it’s him catching up with his ignorance, as always.

There’s hardly a genuine bone in his body. When Kara slightly balks at the idea of the guys buying her a cake for her sobriety birthday, Chip uses the opportunity to muse on how important it is for her to celebrate the milestone, to draw a line between her past and her present. It’s the manifestation of the platitude problem Dennis calls him on in “Horizon.” Chip has a tendency to use the broad lessons and guidelines of AA as a way to make himself seem more vulnerable and attuned to people’s feelings and struggles, when really he just seems to want to get laid.

To Flaked‘s credit, that does make for an interesting character study at times. I’m still undecided on whether or not Flaked is enjoyable, or whether the plot is going to amount to anything meaningful or insightful, or whether the world needed another show about a sadsack middle-aged white male fucking his feelings away, but there’s something to be said for Arnett’s portrayal of Chip. What’s fascinating is that Flaked seems to want us to parse out whether or not we’re supposed to root for Chip. The interesting part is dissecting whether or not the show sees Chip as an asshole, or just a lovable schmuck who embodies more schmuck than love. If it’s the former, then there’s plenty of character insight to be had. If it’s the latter, then Flaked is just another example of male wish fulfillment fantasy that glorifies shitty behavior as “complicated” and “deep,” and lord knows we have enough of those stories as it is.

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I’ll admit: I go back and forth on what Flaked is trying to achieve, and that keeps me from either loving or hating it. “Rose” does deepen the story of Chip in interesting ways. For instance, much of the episode takes a glimpse into Chip’s past. He was once married to a woman named Tilly (an always welcome Heather Graham), who sometime in the last ten years became a bit of a movie star. He’s technically still married to her, as he can’t afford the legal fees to process the divorce, and on top of that, she’s the daughter of Jerry, his landlord. The revelation suggests there’s perhaps more to Chip and his circumstances than we know about—after all, we still haven’t heard much about his past outside of the drunk driving incident, and even that has failed to play any role in the series so far.

The scenes with Tilly are revealing, and include some of the better drama Flaked has indulged in so far. The show paints Tilly’s lifestyle as surreal and satirically Hollywood, and yet Graham’s performance gives her a depth of humanity that’s absent from Chip. Sure, she’s rich and has paparazzi outside of her house—Cooler wants to know if you have to go to college to get that gig—but she’s levelheaded, standing in stark contrast to her ex-husband. Their first meeting doesn’t mean much, but their second one, later in the evening, is rather remarkable. You can feel the chemistry between them and understand why they may have been together, how they might have worked in some past life. It’s in the way Chip looks her over, and the way Tilly allows it. When they (presumably) sleep together, it makes sense, even as it just serves to once again throw Kara under the bus as a character. That girl can’t catch a break.

Those scenes with Tilly, which feel ripe with history even as Tilly is moving on, stand in contrast to the more unbearable scenes where Chip demeans and ignores Dennis. When Dennis says he wants to move back into the main house, which is his/his mother’s, Chip basically refuses, once again using sobriety talk to defend his actions; he goes on and on about how the house could trigger Dennis’ alcohol dependency until Dennis just gives up. Dennis still gets his date with London in the house, leaving a camera and a copy of The Feminine Mystique in plain sight to suggest he has some depth of personality, but it doesn’t seem like Chip is trading places anytime soon.

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Again, there are hints of something interesting in there. It’s clear that Chip doesn’t have a whole lot to hold on to, to define himself by—even his sobriety is a performance—so there’s a sadness in his insistence on keeping the store, Dennis’ house, and Kara. And yet, he clearly doesn’t deserve them, making it difficult for Flaked to ask us to root for Chip, to identify with his struggle and hope that he finds a way to reckon with it and move on. “Rose” is in line with the rest of the season so far in that it’s occasionally funny and insightful, and yet remains listless and conflicted.

“Rose” works when it’s deepening the story of Chip, but there are still too many problems keeping the show from getting to that next level, from the way the show flippantly discusses alcoholism to the way its female characters serve to move Chip’s story along. “Rose” suggests that Flaked and Chip are in the same boat; they’re both trying to figure out who they are and where they fit in. Kara does call out Chip at the end of the episode, going in on him for his lack of real action, for wanting to live off the credit of saying he’ll do something while failing miserably with the follow through. It should be a moment of self-realization for him, but considering he ends up eating cake with London as the episode fades to black, I‘m not holding on to the idea that being called on his bullshit will force him to change any time soon.

Stray observations

  • Flaked is doing a good job of employing that Arrested Development callback humor. I loved when Tilly mentioned how horrible their studio apartment was, to which Chip replies, “sure, it could use a coat of paint.”
  • “Bike’s are hard to ride at a walking pace.”
  • “It’s an awful world. Somebody’s gotta sing about it.”
  • “I was so desperate that I read a book on philosophy.” One of the funnier moments where Chip’s laying his bullshit on thick.
  • “I still have no official position on jazz.”

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