Flaked really wants you to know that Chip isn’t such a bad person. Sure, he’s done some bad things and said some reprehensible stuff, but Flaked wants you to know that he’s not all that bad when you get down to it. To the people of Venice, he’s a folk hero, a man who stood up against a huge hotel development and (briefly) came out on top. Now he’s getting congratulations and eating for free at local restaurants. The people closest to him might know he’s kind of a dick, but they still go out of their way to tell other people that Chip is a good person. Then there’s London, who comes all the way to Venice to see how the man who killed (but actually didn’t) her brother is living, and ends up falling head over heels for him. You see, in the eyes of Flaked, Chip is a good person.
It’s hard to look at the arc of the first season of Flaked in any other way. Along the way, Flaked does try to subvert some of the more familiar aspects of the sadsack male narrative that’s dominated TV for years, but even as the twists pile up and perspectives change, the ultimate result is that Flaked adheres to a typical story, and one that’s not particularly well told. “Sunset” sees everything come to a head. Jerry, who’s pissed that Chip cost him $4 million, closes Chip’s store, London gets a moment with her fiancé, Dennis gets hit in the face, Chip’s secrets start to come out, and the hotel development plan moves on anyways, this time headed up by Topher.
But what does it all amount to? The very frustrating answer is: well, not much. There are a few moments that the season finale hinges on, but they’re not substantial, or at least not as affecting as Flaked wants them to be. Part of the problem is that we already know the truth about Chip, and there’s not much dramatic intrigue in waiting to see how Dennis or George or London might react to those secrets coming out. Still, much of “Sunset” is spent trying to drum up some sort of conflict, but it never really works. For instance, Dennis’ discovery that Chip has been drinking again, and the subsequent conversation he has with Tilly where he realizes that Chip took the fall for Tilly, should be immensely important for their friendship. But “Sunset” just hits the same emotional beats it’s been hitting all season, as Dennis feels betrayed by Chip. Sure, Dennis parts ways with Chip “for good” at the end of the episode, but it’s hardly dramatically affecting.
What’s more troubling about “Sunset” though is the way it so plainly adheres to a redemption narrative. There have been times throughout the season when Flaked has questioned the actions and behavior of its main character, when it’s tried to show that it’s more than a predictable redemption story. “Sunset” doesn’t contain any of that nuance though, and instead everything just turns out alright, in a sense. Yes, Chip’s friendship with Dennis ends in a rocky place, and Chip seems to sell out to Topher and embrace the new hotel development by once again using the drunk driving story for sympathy, but where are the consequences? Where’s the meaningful conflict? At some point you would think that Chip would have to confront his lies in a meaningful way, but “Sunset” lets him off the hook once again. The only time he’s really confronted about his actions is by Jerry, but even then the show paints Jerry in broad strokes as a villain, as the guy harboring a grudge towards Chip.
Compounding the problems is the fact that “Sunset” relies heavily on romance and yet hasn’t done much in previous episodes to drive home the emotional importance of Chip and London’s budding relationship. Here, we get a sun-drenched montage of Chip and London spending the day in bed together, having sex, playing cards, cuddling, laughing. It’s saccharine to the point of parody, but more egregious than that is the fact that there’s been no exploration of the connection these two have. Furthermore, the whole “Chip killed London’s brother” thing, while technically not true, has been ignored even though London has never received the truth. Then, as if insufficiently exploring their relationship wasn’t enough, Flaked brings in London/Claire’s fiancé for two scenes, as if that will somehow make up for seven straight episodes of her being nothing but a body on the screen. Based on its prominence in the finale, and the fact that it’s the only good thing Chip has going for him in some ways, it would seem that Flaked wants us to see Chip and London’s relationship as important.
It’s all so easy though, and the absence of conflict drives home the perception that Flaked doesn’t have anything to offer outside of male wish fulfillment. Chip gets the girl in the end, and yet Flaked doesn’t even have the decency to dig into her backstory to find some true, honest emotions. Instead, “Sunset” gives us one scene where London interacts with her fiancé where nothing of consequence happens. Flaked purports to give London a tough choice between David and Chip, but it falls completely flat because we’ve been given no context. Why should we care about London and her fiancé? Why should we care that she chooses Chip? What is their relationship built on? Flaked can certainly be mysterious and vague when it comes to the past lives of its characters, and it occasionally works to heighten the drama, but when it comes to London, such mystery is doing a disservice to one of the show’s main narrative arcs.
Ultimately, “Sunset” proves that Flaked was devoid of conflict all along. Despite the narrative twists meant to shift the show’s perspective, “Sunset” ends up sticking to a traditional redemption narrative where the sad white dude still gets everything he wants. Admittedly, there’s some misanthropy mixed in there that’s potentially complicated and interesting, especially contained within Chip’s speech at the council meeting. But “Sunset,” or Flaked more generally, never really digs into those complications. Instead, the show is all too happy to ride into the sunset as if everything’s okay.
- A perfect example of Chip not getting his comeuppance is how he goes in on George with the personal insults. I get that George doesn’t know the truth, but does that excuse Chip’s behavior? I think Flaked thinks it does.
- So how did everyone read Chip’s speech during the council meeting? I feel like some will see it as disingenuous while others might see it as him being honest.
- You’ve got to love that Dennis’ first move when he sees his expensive wine is missing is to angrily confront Kara, the one person who’s been nice to him this whole time. Ugh, Dennis.
- That’s it for Flaked reviews! Thanks for reading along and parsing out this strange, disjointed, lazy, sometimes funny and ambitious but ultimately familiar show with me.