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Illustration for article titled iSuburgatory/i: “Ryan’s Song”
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Three episodes into season two, it’s still impressive to see such an assured Suburgatory, like it came home from college all independent and interested in Bizet. Now that the season-one exaggerations have all been pinned to some essential humanity with the possible exception of Yakult, the sparks can fly with almost no activation energy. We know George and Dallas can melt silicone just from smoldering in each other’s presence, and we know that Dallas is very good at hiding behind her intense Bravo-franchise eccentricity. So when George and Dallas embark on a date with a life coach whose very name spits in the faces of every one of their preconceptions, we know they’ll be okay without any prompting.

I feel like I’m wandering around with my mouth open this season, but get a load of Chatswin. The Shays have their patter down like a seasoned vaudeville troupe—look no further than Ryan’s whispered repetition of his father’s hard-cider limit. Dalia can rattle off a whole survey of areas where George comes up short off the top of her head without missing a breath. Even Jill’s safari nursery is a little more natural this season, like someone decided the rib-cage crib is a stroke of genius but the mounted animal heads were too much.


Noah, of all people, is starting to feel like the character I could most easily picture coming over for coffee in real life, and this is a man who can’t make it through an opera without a sandwich from his housekeeper’s Mary Poppins purse of unpackaged foods. Where once Noah was a high-strung version of carefree even outside of his exasperating plots, now he’s genuinely happy-go-lucky in his down time. The way he keeps squirming to turn down Tessa’s offer to babysit Opus is a great example, funny and adamant but calm. It’s a display of that suburban passive-aggression that charges so many of the neighborly scenes, only complicated by Noah’s relationships with the Altmans, which aren’t so sitcom anymore. There’s so much honesty in him these days, such command and precision by the writers and Alan Tudyk.

Ditto Ryan Shay, everyone’s favorite puppy dog/sex-idiot in training. He’s dumb, barely filtered, and professionally focused on his own immediate pleasure, but Suburgatory takes him seriously. His predicament in “Ryan’s Song” is pure comedy, as he fears his VIP treatment at home is a sign of terminal illness, but his worries and desires are human. What he’s worried about is ridiculous, but that he’s worried is perfectly relatable.


It helps that Tessa freaks herself out when Noah’s power goes out and the Hillside Electric Strangler shows up. “Ryan’s Song” is only accidentally a Halloween episode, but the way horror-movie ideas can make the perfectly safe dark take on Lovecraftian menace goes hand-in-hand with more conventional Halloween viewing. If not for her frenzied state, Tessa may not have seen the Ryan inside The Body. They connect, but Suburgatory is remarkably incremental. With so many characters to juggle, three plots can only go so far each week. So Tessa and Ryan just kiss, although Tessa forgets to put her tongue on his tongue and move it around and stuff.

It’s funny, but the accidental date is way more delightful than the intended one. That’s mostly because the intended date isn’t really a date, because Dallas invites her life-coach named Tabitha (pronounced “Tabitatha” or something). H. Jon Benjamin is typically godlike with a straight face, but his presence means George and Dallas don’t get any actual romance time until the end, a totally obvious yet equally touching rain-soaked confession scene. As much as I love Dallas’ entrance, complete with runway photos, confetti, and a costume-change, I’m with George. She looks beautiful crying in the rain, talking about how George is the first man who inspired her to be proactive in romance. Unfortunately, the lasting image of George and Dallas is that of the sane man speaking truth to the flighty woman just before she cutely continues her flighty behavior, in this case the umbrella-coaching. It’s an unfortunate inflection for such a lovely scene, but it highlights a bigger problem with George than with Dallas: Does he have a personality beyond trying to be a less overprotective parent? He’s clearly prone to funny little flights, as in the body-shaving scene and accompanying explanation to Tessa. Hopefully he’ll reveal more of that weirdness to Dallas, if only for moral support.


Stray observations:

  • But seriously, what is with ABC scheduling the Halloween episodes last week instead of, y’know, on Halloween?! This is worse than when I found out some communities trick-or-treat on other days.
  • It’s just a notch below last season’s two-breather, but Carly Chaikin’s delivery of the list of George’s shortcomings floored me.
  • The lining of Dallas’ jacket is pony eyelash. “They’re humanely collected from the floor of the stable.”
  • Ryan tells Lisa about his feelings for Tessa. “I think it’s pretty obvious that she’s my moose.” “Your muse?”
  • The best part of the home-invasion nightmare is Tessa telling baby Opus, “You are my rock.”
  • Tabitha has a distinct Archer-ian moment when he describes a bird banging his head against the glass “like a total idiot.”
  • Mortality really brings out the wisdom in Ryan Shay. “We’re all gonna die. I don’t think I super-duper realized that until tonight.”

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