Mom: “Belgian Waffles And Bathroom Privileges”
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Mom: “Belgian Waffles And Bathroom Privileges”

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Mom

"Corned Beef And Handcuffs"

Season 1, Episode 10

Mom is a show about a woman with a rage problem. That’s not the most likely source of comedy, but the more that Anna Faris keys into that, the more the comedy of the show is shared equally between Bonnie and Christy. No more is it simply about Bonnie waltzing her way through life and then Christy raging at her impotently from the sidelines. I think that the show expected us to identify with Christy’s rage a little more than we actually were, so it became all too easy to turn her into a character who basically just rolled her eyes at everything going on around her while the other characters had far more fun.

As time has gone on, though, the impotence of Christy’s rage has become the joke. I don’t know how long this joke will be funny—or if it’s even consistently funny at all—but Faris plays these moments quite well, and there’s something inherently amusing about the idea that everything her mother does, up to and including cleaning her house and buying her better furniture and taking care of her kids, will drive her nuts because she’s just waiting for the other shoe to drop. (It does in this episode, when the cops come calling for Bonnie.) There aren’t a lot of comedies in TV history driven by angry women. Angry women tend to be shrews or nags or bitches, and they rarely get to have a lot of the laughs, even ones at their own expense. And, yeah, some of the laughs here are about how Christy can’t seem to get past her suspicions of her own mother, even under the best of circumstances, but the show always underlines that she’s right to be suspicious. Christy’s rage is funny, sure, but it’s also not there to undercut her. It’s, weirdly, meant to make her sympathetic.

“Belgian Waffles And Bathroom Privileges” is nowhere near as strong as last week’s episode, nor does it have anything as daring as the scene where three women just sat around and talked about the disappointments of their lives. What’s more, I didn’t really buy the episode’s biggest moment, where Christy threw herself into Baxter’s arms while hanging out in his trailer (parked in her driveway for the duration of the episode because he had nowhere else to go), simply because the plot needed her to. I can sort of understand why this happened in terms of how long it’s been since she had sex (though I think it’s only been a few weeks since her last time with Gabriel, so you’d think she could hold out for someone other than Baxter) and in terms of how she wants to feel needed. But it still feels like a thing she does just to make the story go, rather than a decision her character might actually make.

I don’t mind, though, because it lets us spend plenty of time with the best non-Christy, non-Bonnie character the show has (not that this is saying much) in Matt Jones’ Baxter. The men of Mom tend to be incompetents or complete sleazebags. While Baxter trends toward the former, there’s an element of the latter to him at all times—how else, the show seems to ask, would he have wooed Christy, if not by swaying her judgment while she was in the throes of her addiction? That makes the character a lot of fun, and it certainly doesn’t hurt that Jones is nailing his goofy punchlines and big comedic moments. He’s a character Christy doesn’t particularly want in her life—or think she can count on—but because of her son’s parentage, there he is, taking up space in her driveway and never quite evicting himself from her heart.

The other threads of the story are generally okay. I’ve talked about enjoying all of the bits where Christy reacts completely inappropriately to her mother trying to do her a small kindness, but I also rather liked the stuff with Violet getting interested in religion because of Luke’s father. Now, there’s an element of Violet being the only one who’s being responsible for her child here, which I don’t like—non-religious people can be far better parents than religious ones—but the story still has its heart in the right place, at least in terms of driving Christy so nuts that she seems liable to explode at any given moment. Again, driving a character to this great of rage in every episode is rarely the wisest course when trying to plot a sitcom story. It will eventually start to feel stale. But for right now, it’s just weird and interesting enough that I’m enjoying the show slowly digging into all of the big, justified resentments that fuel Christy’s many small, inane resentments, the ones she has a harder time backing up.

This is also, if I’m not mistaken, the first episode to jettison the restaurant as a setting entirely. (It might have popped up, but I don’t see it in my notes, which is usually a good sign something wasn’t there.) I’ve come to enjoy Chef Rudy almost in spite of myself, so I missed the setting on that level, but in terms of presenting a cohesive, unified whole, not having the restaurant around was a great way to make the episode feel all of a piece. If the series is going to be about Christy’s struggles with both her addictions and her rage issues, then the workplace is going to be a good source of some temptations in both regards. But it also doesn’t have to be shoehorned into every episode for the show to work, and it’s nice to see the series figuring that out. (I wonder if the show could work without the home element in every episode, however, and I think it would fall apart. Too much of this is built on interactions between Christy and Bonnie, though I suppose Bonnie could always get a job at the restaurant.)

“Breakfast Privileges” isn’t going to get anybody excited about the show potentially turning a corner or convert the skeptical to the program. It lacks the daring and guts of last week’s episode, and it doesn’t make up for that with comparatively stronger jokes (though I laughed at Allison Janney schooling Roscoe at basketball and a couple of Jones’ line deliveries). It will be interesting to see what comes of Bonnie’s arrest, but this fits the weird “one-and-a-half steps forward, one step back” pattern that Mom has fallen into. We’re a few feet ahead of where we started, but the show needs to start making good on that promise in some stronger joke writing or more consistent drama or a string of great, compelling episodes. We’re not there yet, but the fact that I genuinely believe Mom is capable of one or all of them is much more than I hoped for.

Stray observations:

  • I normally roll my eyes when characters quote Leviticus, the easiest book of the Bible to go to for “repressive religion!” jokes, but I liked it here, because I really do think Violet would have maybe gotten that far in her read of the thing.
  • Janney is a very amusing runner. That sounds like a stupid observation, but every time I watch an actor run, I’m reminded of how easy it is for the action to appear unnatural and appreciate those who can make it look good all the more.
  • Hey, that’s our second week in a row with more than 1,200 words. Good on you, Mom. That epic poem isn’t looking so unlikely now, is it?

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