Some people in the comments of the last episode of Son Of Zorn thought I rated it a bit too high. I think I may have rated it too high. It was fairly funny and was the best episode so far that blended the weird aesthetics of an animated Zepherian warrior with a reality so askew that such a warrior would be no big deal–but it wasn’t what I would call necessary or a must-watch. Compared to “The Weekend Warrior” though, “War in the Workplace” is a masterpiece. “The Weekend Warrior” has Alan staying at his father’s place, while forcing Zorn to downplay his more extreme behaviors in order to maintain his ex-wife’s wishes. A restrained Zorn is a lame Zorn, and that restraint really bogs down the whole story. It kind of feels like it wants to be more exciting, but it never quite gets there, not until the end of the third act–and even then it’s deflated almost immediately.

Some of you in the comments also mentioned that Johnny Pemberton isn’t quite working playing Alan. I think it’s less the acting and more of the script (and the show overall) not giving much for Pemberton to work with. The live-action/animation concept is hard enough to work with, but the live actors are stuck with mostly reacting to green-screens and pasted tennis balls; if the script doesn’t give them more incentives to be pro-active, they come off flat. Elijah Aron and Jordan Young pen this episode, but Alan and Zorn are weirdly held in check. Alan spends most of the episode stammering and sighing and being awkward. Zorn spends most of it playing boring finger football games and talking to “bathroom wall” Eric on the phone. This arrangement doesn’t allow either of them to really stand out in either way, which makes watching their tenuous attempts to bond more tedious than tense.

Alan wants to impress the cool kid at school, a shit-talking hardass named Jeff. It’s odd, because we already know that Jeff is the kind of person Zorn would take to–appealing to his own love for mischief, violence, and vandalism. It never comes. It’s a baffling decision, but it would be sort of justified if there was something more meaningful or interesting going on between father and son. Personally, I don’t think there is. There are some small interesting moments, though. Zorn does seem to be changing into a more invested father, how ever incrementally. He does express genuine worry when he finds his son and the lava gun missing, and when he finds Alan at the end, he embraces him and expresses what feels like actual concern. But overall, the acting is lifeless, the jokes are flat, and the bits of pathos are perfunctory without any real stakes. The direction seems a bit more engaged though: director Payman Benz does a decent job with handling more of the phyiscal interactions that Zorn has with the world around him, like when he crashes the cart in the cold open, or the montage of him preparing the meat. The lava gun burning a giant hole in the parking lot was cool as well.

The Edie and Craig scenes were actually fun–when they actually got to work together on their own, as opposed to watching Edie try and contact Alan over and over. Tim Meadows as Craig continues to be a winner, as his off-beat deadpan line readings are a hoot, and Cheryl Hines once again sparks to life after faking her death upon hearing yet another re-tellng of Bill’s “high-five Queen Latifah” story. Hines is definitely game for the sillier, more ridiculous aspects of her character and her past, but the writing team really needs to cut loose. And not just with her, but with Alan, Zorn, and the show at large. Trapping them in the confines of an apartment and “rules” may be boring for them, but that goes double for audience watching.

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Stray observations

  • Once again, the little details are the ones I love, like Zorn pouring a whole pot of coffee into a chalice. The workplace scene barely lasted three minutes and it was better than most of the episode.
  • Alan’s friends and classmates are terrible, aren’t they? They’re so pointless and do nothing but talk about Alan, particularly in relation to his father. Especially Scott. What’s his deal?

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