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“Closing Title Song” was a pretty brutal episode to watch. I spent watching it with a furrowed brow, just like Mickey did when she figured out she would not be the belle of the party ball. Not only was it tough to watch because of what Mickey and Gus are putting themselves through, but it comes at a time that feels frustrating for the series as a whole. Why are we watching these two people if their storytelling vehicle keeps trying to make it clear that they are not meant for each other? Essentially: What is the point? But this is a series that has felt from the very beginning likes it’s meant to be binged – as I’ve said before, how we watch this show needs to be taken into consideration as what’s actually in the show – so the frustrations associated with this point in the series are also deliberate. All hope is supposed to have felt lost. That doesn’t make it any easier to watch.

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The contrast in this episode is set up between Heidi (Briga Heelan), the Canadian starlet who Gus inadvertently helped, and Mickey, who is still quite the mess. When Mickey hears about Gus’ movie theme song party, she immediately dismisses it as dumb, but unseen smile appears on her face when Gus leaves the room. She may not be into the idea, but she’s into Gus, even if he doesn’t see it that way. Heidi, on the other hand, is immediately ecstatic about the idea because it’s something she and her friends would do in Toronto. When they both pull into the driveway, Heidi comes in her shiny sleek new car, while Mickey is in her beater. Heidi is carrying snacks, while Mickey can barely hold her purse together. Heidi orders everyone Thai food, Mickey repeatedly questions why they’re playing this game at all and brings up how much she hates her mother. Heidi is nice, in this way that can feel overbearing (hostile kindness, anyone?) These are two fundamentally different women, who have fundamentally different ideas of how to have a good time. One ostensibly seems like she would be made for Gus, while the other seems like a disaster who tries to trade physical intimacy for the emotional kind.

But that trade off is why this episode feels like so much of an extension of “Magic,” and why a show like Love was written to be binged. So many of the same themes extend through into “Closing Title Song.” I’m thinking of that devastating, but ultimately truthful, line: “It’s not fun to take someone someplace and demand they have a specific reaction to it.” Mickey never tried to like Gus’ Carlito’s Way party idea, even after she showed up, but at the same time, Gus is expecting her to be this kind of girl that he’s used to, who will have the kind of reaction he wants her to have, and she’s never going to be. He still believes in magic, but she doesn’t.

Mickey and Heidi interact by taking part in Girl Warfare, preferring to play out their aggression through body language and social competition rather than out and out fight each other, as Mean Girls told us so many years ago. They take off their jackets, they try in their own way to endear themselves to Gus’ friends. Mickey, already off her game, loses. But wasn’t she supposed to avoid these kinds of things with Gus? He’s the nice guy (there’s that word again). She didn’t expect a call back from the Top Chef guy, but she didn’t think she’d have to deal with this non-communication from a guy like Gus. But he’s pissed and sulking that she doesn’t think his party is cool and he doesn’t help Mickey out in her all out-and-out girl warfare. He lets her retreat to the bedroom where she tries to trade on their physical intimacy. But maybe that’s the right movie, and what ultimately redeems the episode from frustratingly halting the series. Heidi stays and sleeps with Paul, but while they may like to go to the same types of parties and she would work well in his sweet, goofy friend group, that physical intimacy he shares with Mickey isn’t there. There are no shades of the sweetness of their initial sex scene from “Magic.” Instead he get something entirely different: “This is witch sex!” she says while riding him. “I’m going to put a spell on your dick.” Not really the type of magic Gus was looking for.

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Stray observations

  • I’m going to leave AV Club contributor Pilot Viruet’s essay on Vulture about the male-female attractiveness gap in sitcoms right here.
  • The supporting characters have become such an integral part of making this show fun. Watching Gus and Mickey, in the episode in particular, can sometimes not be so fun. Claudia O’Doherty’s Bertie is an oft-repeated stand out, but Jordan Rock’s Kevin (he doesn’t even know how good he is at playing the black friend who gives the white guy good advice), Kerri Kenney’s Syd, and Gus’ cast of friends are such a lovable, and necessary, part of this show.

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