“Xs And Os” S2 / E12
- B+ Community Grade
In its last few episodes, The L.A. Complex sometimes seemed to flirt with ordinariness, as if the producers were making a last-ditch effort to win another season by demonstrating that their show could pass for, well, most of what else is on The CW. (It’s really adding insult to injury to watch what is presumably the series finale and have to sit through commercials for a new season—the fourth!—of 90210. What the hell is that? Some kind of tax write-off scheme?) This was especially glaring in the hospital scenes with Kaldrick and his new lawyer boyfriend (“Mr. King, your father’s had another stroke.”), just because they weren’t always that different from the parody scenes showing Connor at work on his Gray’s Anatomy-style medical show. But even that thread comes to a terrific conclusion, and Andra Fuller’s climactic monologue is a fine capper to a beautiful performance that is absolutely guaranteed to not be honored when awards season comes around again next year. When Fuller says that he’s tired of being afraid, the whole series snaps into focus, and you may recognize that fear is what links most of the characters on the show who seem to have it made. The characters lower down on the show business food chain aren’t half as afraid that they’ll never succeed as King, Connor, and Krista Allen’s movie star are of their own success, or of the possibility that their success will all be taken away overnight if the world finds out who they really are.
Surprisingly, the most ingenious and apt story material in the last two episodes belongs to Nick. While Sabrina sits in their room stewing because he’s landed a gig entertaining at a big shindig where he can network with powerful people, he’s wearing a full-body rabbit costume, set to entertain a roomful of 12-year-old girls with his standup routine about erotic asphyxiation. “Stop,” says the magician he’s using as a warm-up audience. “You are in a bunny suit.” Nick insists that he was told he can do his own material. In the end, he gamely tweaks the script, skillfully wringing cheers from the audience with well-placed references to Justin Bieber and “the vampire-show guy.” (“Now imagine those two holding hands. You know what I’m talking about.”)
The magician tells Nick that he has a flair for this kind of work and encourages him to think about doing it full-time, which means accepting his mediocrity and giving up his dream of becoming an A-list comedy god but keeping his hand in a way that pays the bills. The show seems to be nudging Nick in that direction when it contrives to have Sabrina win a job on “Will Arnett’s sketch show,” then completely throws its shoulder out of joint by further contriving to have production of this show based in New Orleans. Can their romance survive this much long distance? “I can’t move to New Orleans with you,” Nick says, “What would you do there?” agrees Sabrina. “Eat gumbo,” says Nick, making a joke, but at the same time inadvertently pointing out that, compared to what he has going on in Los Angeles, going to New Orleans and eating gumbo would be, at worst, a lateral move. After a cameo phone call by former L.A. Complex regular Chelan Simmons, he comes to the conclusion that he should move to New Orleans with Sabrina after all. It’s Sabrina, always the career-minded realist, who tells him that he can’t: “You’ve got to start working harder, and if you move to New Orleans, you’ll be doing the exact opposite.” As a former resident of the Crescent City, I can absolutely confirm that moving to New Orleans is indeed the exact opposite of working harder.
Some other storylines go down strange paths in their eagerness to come to some kind of conclusion. The cops finally arrest Connor for having burned his own damn mansion down, and as soon as he’s pretty much talked his way out of trouble, his sister tries to help him out by claiming that she did it. Connor’s solution to this perturbing development is to reverse gears and claim that he did it for the insurance money, which seems stupid even for Connor, since he could truthfully claim that he and his sister hadn’t even met when the mansion burned down. The wildest thing about the whole “Scienetics” plotline is that, by the time we see him last, the process actually seems to have helped Connor; at least, he’s able to speak openly about his self-mutilation habit and declare that he’s over it. Whether he’s on the path to emotional maturity and mental health or his full transformation into a monstrous cocky asshole is one of those little mysteries we may get to argue about for years to come.
- Since the series began with Cassie struggling to remain in L.A. no matter what, the conclusion, with her jetting off to be with her new impulse-buy husband, can be seen as bringing the whole thing full circle. My happiness for them is almost greater than my confusion over the show’s failure to reveal that he’s actually an escaped mental patient or a convicted Mafia bodyguard on the lam from the Witness Relocation Program.
- After Simon is hauled off by child services and reunited with his and Beth’s father, Cam persuades Beth that, instead of fighting for custody, she should let things stand as they are and live her own life for a change. This would make a lot of sense if there had been fewer speeches about the profound shittiness of dad’s parenting skills, and if it hadn’t been for that shot of Simon calling out to Beth as he’s driven away from the Lux, as if he were Helen Mirren at the end of The Long Good Friday. As it is, it’s as if she were shrugging her shoulders and giving him up for dead.
- On the other hand, it’s worth having Cam take Beth to a college campus just for the sake of meeting his ex-girlfriend and learning that she’s doing her dissertation on “Pornography And Sexual Politics In The Age Of Universal Access.” (Cam: “Whatever happened to ‘Submission In The Modern Marriage’?” “I got bored.”)
- Jewel Staite, fittingly enough given how much she did for this series, gets to deliver the perfect last line: “We made something.” She’s referring to the show reel she and her collaborators have made of the footage shot for their guerrilla film production, which we get to see. Hey, they tried.