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Spoils Of Babylon: “The Rise Of The Empire”

Illustration for article titled iSpoils Of Babylon/i: “The Rise Of The Empire”
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There’s really a lot I admire about The Spoils Of Babylon. The attention to detail is tremendous. A lot of the little bits and jokes in every scene work very nicely. It’s got a surprisingly smart satirical edge about the rise of conglomerate business and the parallel rise of the countercultural. Every week is introduced and concluded by Will Ferrell doing two minutes as the most compelling hobo genius you’ve ever seen.

But The Spoils Of Babylon keeps forgetting that it’s supposed to be funny! I don’t actually care that much about the lives of Devon and Cynthia Morehouse. Every plot development is telegraphed as we build our grand narrative arc—and that’s a bad thing! The crazy twists are few and far between, which makes no sense, because this is a wacky comedy airing on IFC. I want every episode to be more ridiculous than the last. Instead, Matt Piedmont and Andrew Steele are keeping their story under control. We watch in the fourth episode as Cynthia consolidates power at Morehouse Conglomerate, buying shares until she’s the majority owner, pushing Devon out and installing her evil spoiled 15-year-old Winston (Haley Joel Osment) in power.


Winston’s dad is a fey little man played wonderfully by Michael Sheen (who has never given a bad performance in his entire life and isn’t about to start now) but his real father is undoubtedly Devon himself, hinted by the terrific piece of narration, “Three to five months later they had a child.” He’s super evil and himself rather fey, always toting a cigarette holder and going on about military contracts and Communism and my problem with all of that is that, again, it’s not crazy enough. He just seems like an annoying little shit who needs some slapping around!

(I don’t want to pile on to Haley Joel Osment, by the way, but can we talk about his last 10 years for a second? He gave one of my favorite performances of the ’00s in A.I. The kid can act, for real. Yes, he’s gotten a little portly since puberty and had some trouble with the law, and he has my sympathy for that, but I’d really like to see if he still has any chops. Can he be in something real sometime? It’s a little sad to see him here. And it’s also kinda hard to figure out if he’s actually good in this, or just well-cast.)

Anyway, things just aren’t remotely nutty enough in “The Rise Of The Empire.” There’s some business with an underwater research base and Jessica Alba stalking around in lingerie that seems promising, but it doesn’t really go anywhere—it’s just another silly set for the show to play with. If the Devon poetry plot goes where I think it’s going, that’ll be something. But so far we’ve had nothing on the level of Lady Ann getting her limbs fucked off in episode two (also, annoyingly, her spawn turned into a human somehow, despite being born a doll). Let’s hope the show picks it up as things head towards the conclusion.

Stray observations:

  • Jonrosh grouses into a full glass of wine. “I’ve been treated like a heap of garbage from the moment that I set foot here. No one remembers my name. People keep calling me Derek. One guy called me Lou.”
  • Cynthia declines sex from her husband. “Don’t be such a boor.” “But… many couples make love on a semi-regular basis.”
  • I liked the Goodfellas montage and the death of Seymour. That’s when the epic scope really works.
  • “Seymour Luntz? More like See Less Luntz… es. He’s dead.”
  • “Hickory dickory dock. Guess… who’s… here.”
  • “I dabble in free verse and every form of poetry that’s ever been conceived of and I’ve actually come up with a few new ones myself and I do it every day, many hours a day, it’s actually a discipline for me, but that was a long time ago!”

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