The story of Chip is, deep down underneath all the talk of sobriety and stools and Free Coffee, the story of secrets and lies. It’s a common theme throughout Flaked, as everyone is either lying to their friends, their co-workers, their partners, or themselves. Chip is the most egregious and proficient liar—he lies about his sobriety, about his attraction to London, and in this episode, he lies to himself about the motivation behind his budding friendship with Topher. He’s hardly the only one lying though. Dennis is continuously trying to manipulate his surroundings to make it seem like he’s someone he’s not, and as we learn in “Electric,” London isn’t exactly who she seems.

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After four episodes of rather listless, plot-less happenings, Flaked seems to be turning a bit of a corner. Whether that leads to anything meaningful and worthwhile is still completely up in the air, but “Electric” is certainly the best episode since the premiere, and that’s because it starts to chip (sorry) away at the façade it presented early in the season. For the first time this season, it feels like Flaked is actually questioning its characters, playing bad cop and shining a lamp in their faces and asking them just what the hell they think they’re doing. Flaked has its characters talk an awful lot about truth, but “Electric” is the first time that something resembling truth seems to come to the forefront.

For all of Chip’s secrets and lies, he might not have much on London. In “Electric” she goes to visit an old friend of hers for reasons that aren’t explained. Even when she’s there and talking to her, we still don’t get too many answers, but she’s obviously overwhelmed. After all, she’s been telling Chip how Venice might not be for her, that she’s not really sure what she’s doing there. She’s struggling, and now we partly know why. Essentially, London isn’t exactly who she says she is. First, her friend calls her “Claire,” and then reveals that she was, sometime in the recent past, set to be married.

It’s a big reveal that, while clumsily executed, at least sheds some light on a character that so far has been forced into the narrative. Giving London a reason, however ill-defined at this point, to be in Venice, to be seeking friendship and comfort and stability, is ultimately a good thing for Flaked. The show still has a huge issue with how it’s using female characters to further the story of both Chip and Dennis, but things are looking up. I don’t have faith in Flaked completely righting the ship based on the evidence of the first four episodes, but there is an emotional depth to “Electric,” specifically when revealing just a bit about London and Kara, that’s promising and refreshing.

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The revelation that London is actually “Claire” and was/is engaged is perhaps the most significant shift in character perspective in an episode that’s largely about changing the way these characters see themselves and others. More importantly though, Flaked is also changing how we see the characters and how we define and understand the larger story being told. It’s clear at this point that Flaked is building towards some sort of crescendo or swerve, where some things that we thought were true turn out to be false. I’m not totally sure what those things will be—I’ve avoided watching ahead in order to fairly judge the series episode by episode—but it’s apparent that the show intends on throwing a wrench into the narrative at some point. “Electric” starts to give us a peak behind the curtain, and it’s rather fascinating. I’ll admit to being intrigued by London’s past life, by Kara’s bizarrely strong connection with Chip, with Dennis’ failed sales pitch, and Chip’s tenuous connection with AA. There’s more to these characters than what we’re seeing, and that could be good.

Of course, it could also be really, really bad. If Flaked is purposely withholding information so as to “surprise” us all later on, it could seriously backfire. After all, the first four episodes of this season are rather lifeless and unformed, and no narrative swerve could excuse that. But, those are judgments that need to be saved for later. For now though, I’ll say that while “Electric” does reinvigorate Flaked to an extent by finally fleshing out some story and character details, the sneaky long-game it seems to be playing gives me pause.

That said, there is some depth to “Electric” that brings Flaked back from the graveyard of sadsack white male shows. Chip’s sponsoring of Topher is fascinating on a number of levels. Firstly, it’s exactly in line with Chip’s tendency to do things for himself rather than for someone else. Secondly, it potentially helps keep his store afloat. Finally, and most importantly, it helps to flesh out a bit of the story of Venice. There’s real weight behind Chip musing on how Venice is going downhill because of gentrification, all while teaming up with Topher, a rich tech guy who’s the very cause of soaring rents and diluted culture. Chip has always been a mess of contradictions, but his partnership with Topher is the messiest yet. Just look at Dennis’ face when he sees that Chip has a cell phone now, gifted to him by Topher. Dennis knows Chip is betraying himself just as much as Chip does.

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“Electric” is a good tonal shift for Flaked, suggesting that there are still a few surprises in store with only three episodes left in the season. Whether or not Flaked can use those surprises to subvert expectations in an interesting way remains to be seen. In that way, “Electric” is both exciting and troubling, as it signals a new way forward for the show while also threatening to blow the whole thing up. Flaked seems to be on a path to revealing more about London, Dennis, and Chip—certainly his haphazard sobriety needs to come into play again; something’s fishy there—but it may be too little (or too much?) too late.

Stray observations

  • “Electric” made Flaked funny again. My favorite line of the episode is George mumbling “this fucking place” under his breath when another cop details the charges brought on by Mr. Uno, a sculpturalist in Venice.
  • Another great running gag is Dennis getting lightly chastised for wearing “Chip’s” jacket.
  • Kara, when it’s Dennis who shows up at the police station and not Chip: “At least his jacket is here.”
  • “It’s like an online community, but it real life.” “Like a community?”
  • “What is this, a telephone conversation?”
  • There seems to be a lot more to Chip’s relationship with Kara—“I’m Chip’s mess” she says—but it’s also weird that she’s pep-talking Dennis. I don’t know what to think about how those three are connected.
  • “You’ll sell more stools!” “But then I have to make more.”
  • So, Chip and London kiss and it doesn’t go so well. Again, it’s frustrating that Flaked seems to have an endgame in mind, a reason why all of these characters don’t see eye to eye, and yet remains so opaque about it. That means that moments like this kiss, which is awkward for reasons we apparently don’t really know yet, doesn’t hit home the way it should. Flaked is playing a dangerous game in terms of storytelling.

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