“You did shit to me too,” Mickey screams at her ex-Dustin (Rich Sommer) while they fight about their long-dead dysfunctional pairing. “It’s called being in a relationship.” This is a line that sums up Mickey, and her view of love and pretty much the entire world, all too well. The bad choices we make are par for the course. They’re just things that happen, not things we can control. Mickey has exhibited self destructive behavior in the previous three episodes but “Party In The Hills” is where we really see her fall apart and use a shitty night as an excuse to get hammered and ruin everyone else’s good time. Everyone else around her is moving on — Shaun is no longer taking out her legendary tits at parties anymore — but Mickey is staying the same. She’s still getting herself into terrible relationships, she’s still getting blitzed and doing crazy things that end poorly.
Party scenes are a longstanding part of movies and TV because they are supposed to be fun, but they are so prevalent because they create tension. A lot of people gather in one room, fueled by booze and whatever else is on hand, and usually something happens to thrust the plot forward. There’s no party scene in any movie where two characters go to a party, have a lovely evening and go home, waking up with no hangover the next day. There’s a vulnerability inherent to these scenes where we see characters at their base level. We see that with both Gus — who shows up embarrassingly early and is forced to walk around strangers house in some kind of social purgatory for awhile — and Mickey, whose bad decision fuel a bad night. Gus has a setback and bucks right up after a pep talk. Mickey has a setback and gets sloshed.
“Party In The Hills” took this idea of the darker side of the rom-com character archetype and blew it up in terms of Mickey, something I’ve talked about before in these reviews. In any other context, the free spirit who is pushing other characters to go crazy, the one who gets everyone into the pool and reminds everyone to that they are still alive is so often seen as this liberating figure, especially for the men in her life. But this is the flip side of that equation. For every “We’re still alive, motherfuckers” moment, there’s the pounding of vodka before it that romantic comedies decide to leave out. But no matter what ex shows up the party — whether it’s Dustin or Eric (Kyle Kinane) or Atwater Karl (Jesse Bradford!) via FaceTime — it’s Mickey who is the cause of her own self destruction. It’s Mickey who insists on continuing to engage with Dustin even though he’s clearly not interested in rehashing the past. It’s Mickey who invites Gus to the party, ignores him, and then sulks when he’s not at her beck and call. It’s Mickey who decides to drunkenly get on the roof and jump off. Mickey is unapologetically hard to stomach. Love refuses to let her off the hook, and what’s fascinating about the series is that it refuses to make lovable, or at least makes her lovable in spite of herself. We don’t get to see a lot of these women in popular narratives, this kind of woman who needs to be saved in the same way the difficult man needs to be saved by the love of a good woman. Mickey is wholly different and refreshing, and Gillian Jacobs is playing her unapologetically and rawly.
Mickey’s inherent difficulty is even more interesting in the way that Gus is essentially let of the hook in this episode. And that’s okay, there doesn’t need to be a forced parallelism of terribleness that mirrors “Tested.” He starts out a disaster but an endearing one. He washes off patio furniture because he shows up too early, he tattoos a bad joke on a guy who understands the bad decision game all too well. But for the first time, he’s not portrayed as this awkward disaster who needs the kind of life liberation that Mickey so desperately wants to provide to the party that doesn’t really need it. Sometimes the hostile kind guys win out in the end.
That’s why it makes me kind of sad that Mickey forces Bertie and Gus on a date that neither of them are excited about. Their niceness — a quality that Mickey very much avoids — is the one thing that pairs them together. But it’s not just Gus who doesn’t seem excited about this potential pairing. Berties gives off a similar sense of hesitation. Let’s just say it: Bertie is the best. I think we can all agree about that. In “It Begins” and “One Long Day,” she’s set up to be this major weirdo — the seemingly unfailingly positive girl who brought old books across the Pacific Ocean. But as the episodes have progressed she has remained a wonderful anchor. Bertie allows for Gus and Mickey to be terrible in their own way, she acts as a tangential dose of unapologetic sweetness and humor. But she’s also given layers as a character. She’s not simple an one-dimensional. She’s an Australian who likes to get drunk and sing, but she’s charming about it. Her flirtation over tequila tasting between John Early (if you haven’t seen Fort Tilden, let me take this time to recommend it to you now) and Joe Mande was one of the highlights of the episode. Claudia O’Doherty has this affable, open face, but she also imbues Bertie with a bit of mystery. For one, while drunkenly flirting, she makes sure to question the preferable orgy size of her partner. Important info for any budding relationship. But things will not, and cannot, end well for Bertie and Gus, and that makes Mickey’s actions even tougher to handles. Bertie’s not going to win this round, and she deserves to.
- “Everyone here at the party looks like a grown up version of that movie Kids” was the most perfect of all lines.