Mickey and the kids (Photo: FOX)

Some of you mentioned that I might’ve been too harsh on the pilot. But of course! There are two ways to look at pilots: be lenient, or be harsh. Some people approach TV pilots with kindness, because to them, TV pilots are like human beings with thoughts and feelings. Meanwhile I enjoy kicking out all my frustrations on TV pilots, because they are not human beings with thoughts and feelings. To each their own.

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However. It does mean that I really, really liked the second episode. And no wonder—“The Grandparents” refutes so much of the first episode: Mickey’s brand of chaos is much more unhinged here, her scamming almost admirable. The older kids get to be weirder and stranger in their own, individual ways. And the episode ends not only with a great joke, but with the kids (and Alba) allied with Mickey.

Allying Mickey with the kids is profoundly more interesting than simply having them at constant odds because she’s supposed to be the parent. That simple at constant odds thing is an old Home Improvement-esque trope that, while great for Home Improvement, feels a little boring for the wicked insanity that The Mick seems to be aiming for. A united front between Mickey’s chaotic nature and the kids’ uptight personalities, while wobbly, leaves ample room for character growth as well as weird plotting.

But we start the episode with the kids definitely at odds with Mickey. It’s a relief to see that Mickey is horrified by her sister and brother-in-law’s decision to flee the country—not just because it leaves her in the lurch, but it’s really messed up to leave your children without even telling them yourselves?? Or, I don’t know, maybe the act of leaving itself means you’d be the type of person to not tell your kids that you’re leaving? There’s definitely some psychology textbook on this.

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The kids react by acting like nothing is wrong while acting out and throwing food around what I presume is a Benihana. It makes me hope that we’ll get some depressing flashbacks to their emotionally distant and kind of jerkish parents. Anyway, they and Mickey are relatively relieved to be free of each other after Mickey calls their dad’s parents. She and Alba hit the road and get the heck out of there.

Throwing out the pilot’s premise is a great way for a show to make you believe in its premise even more. So of course, the titular grandparents are monsters who make Mickey look like Nanny McPhee in comparison, while Alba points out that Mickey’s life is a sad horrorshow full of (literal) garbage. Alba says this after Mickey roofies her, introduces her to her non-boyfriend hookup, takes her out clubbing, sacrifices said non-boyfriend to her loan shark, then sacrifices Alba to her loan shark.

The kids fare no better. Grandma’s a creepy, abusive authoritarian that plays Sabrina like a puppet, while Grandpa’s a vegetable that Chip has to play home nurse to. Their terribleness isn’t necessarily very inspired, but the way the kids react is. Seeing Sabrina start to lose it made me think that this is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Sofia Black-D’Elia’s comedy chops. And Chip’s fantasy of drowning his grandfather in the bathtub will likely lead to seeing more bits and pieces of the characters’ dark inner dialogues. Finally, Ben is almost too cute to handle on his own, but his mouth contraption after he burned his tongue and constant drooling was hilarious every time I saw it. It was amazing to see that small detail make the joke at the end.

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Ahhh, the joke at the end! I love a good bait-and-switch, and seeing Mickey’s grand pronouncement about Alba being Grandpa’s secret lovechild fall apart, only to have Ben’s drool save the day was *kisses hand like the Italian chef in The Lady And The Tramp* perfection.

Stray observations:

  • Okay, but IS Alba related to the Pembertons? Also how is she getting paid now that the parents are gone? Does she have some kind of direct deposit deal or….
  • LOL at the “poor person’s restaurant” bit. Who doesn’t love someone to throw shrimp directly into their mouths?
  • Also, Mick driving an electric getaway car that she apparently did not know she had to recharge.
  • Hey, the loan shark was Parks and Rec’s Joe from the sewage department!
  • Is it just me, or was the “Sabrina without makeup” not over the top enough? I got the joke but I didn’t even really notice the lack of makeup.
  • Now that we’ve seen the show open up the characters a little, I really want to see how Mickey’s longterm non-boyfriend became a thing. His RIP Mickey tattoo when he thought she was dead was sweet, even if, you know, he thought she was dead after hitting her with his car.

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