I was left a little nonplussed by the final scene of Bored to Death’s third season finale, which may end up its series finale because of poor ratings (although HBO remains the most difficult network to predict in terms of what it renews). On the one hand, ending with all the characters dancing at Emily’s wedding feels like a perfectly satisfactory capper: George appears to have made a romantic breakthrough with Josephine, Ray is courting a new senior citizen (played by Lynn Cohen), and Jonathan is dancing with his sister Rose, whom he still hasn’t told about their familial connection. “We all have our thing,” Ray winks at Jonathan, and we all sigh happily at the show’s sweetly hedonistic outlook and bid it a fond farewell.
Except, wait a second. “We all have our thing?” Is Jonathan’s thing having sex with women he knows he’s related to without telling them about it? That’s a pretty weird “thing,” dude. I mean, if Jonathan wants to have lots of (protected) sex with Rose, it’s not really my problem, but he should probably clue her in on the whole “incest” aspect of the relationship, certainly before a nice little musical moment that ends the season. It felt like a bum note to wrap up on and an unintentional one at that.
The theme this season, really, has been that Jonathan, Ray, and George are all exceptionally dysfunctional people and that it’s probably best for them to work within those dysfunctions than try to become more normal. George has come to the realization that his selfishness has disrupted his romantic life and his relationship with his daughter, but by the last episode, he’s still learning, telling Josephine he maybe wants to be monogamous (which she’d already assumed) and almost bungling his wedding speech to Emily by making it all about himself, before Jonathan intervenes. He’s a delightful old fool, but at this point any personal growth on his part will be very slow indeed.
For all my problems with the Bernard/Emily arc (mostly, it just took up too much plot space), I think George was the standout character this year, as he has been every year on this show. His Man of La Mancha performance, his fatherly affection towards Ray, and even his brief split with Jonathan were the highlights of this season. Ted Danson’s doing fine in his new role on CSI (which ostensibly wouldn’t affect a Bored to Death season four, although many think otherwise), but he’s such a dazzling comedic actor, and he’s opened up such a fun new persona on this show, so I really hope he isn’t boxed in solving murders for years to come. What a waste that’d be.
When it comes to Ray and Jonathan, I just couldn’t summon up the energy for their stories outside of the trio’s adventures. Stacy Keach did some more good work as Bergeron, but the kidnapping plot was sub-par and split Ames from his new dad too quickly. The point, with the arrival of the Super Rays and George in the announcer’s booth, was that Ray and George are Jonathan’s real family, which, fine, but the stakes could have been a little higher, given that this was the last episode of the year. The toughs who took Jonathan hostage weren’t particularly threatening, and the shot of Bergeron running back into the stadium was sweet but also felt like a story thread being dropped too quickly. It’s weird how rushed everything was considering the slow narrative pace of the sperm bank plot over the course of the season.
Ray’s rapid professional and romantic resolutions also felt jarringly rushed. After almost nothing on his cartooning work this season, he taps into his fanbase once again, who help lift his spirits and even find a woman. She may not be the love of his life, but why did the show take seven episodes to drag out his and Leah’s breakup when the impact on him was swept under the rug so quickly? This show has had a lot of fun with its one-off plots this season, but the arcs have just been a total mess, an energy-sapper for a show that dearly relies on that manic sense of fun.
At this point, if Bored to Death drops off the HBO schedule, I’m sad to say, I won’t shed a tear. The show is still mostly a pleasure to watch week-to-week, but its arcs became such a chore that everything else got dragged down with them, including an exceptional cast, a deep roster of recurring and one-off guest stars, and some of the best Brooklyn location shooting you ever did see. Maybe we’ll be back next year, maybe we won’t, but for now, it’s been nice knowing you, ya weirdo!
- Bergeron is a major disappointment for Jonathan. “Are you even Jewish or a member of Mensa?” “I'm Black Irish, and I'm a member of Triple A.”
- Ray's scene with Spencer was cutely-staged, especially the eating of the cracker, prompting tears.
- Emily was married once before, during her S&M phase. “It wasn't legal, just a blood ritual.” “Oh. Was there a lot of blood?” “Enough.”
- A couple cool locations this week: MCU Park in Coney Island (which they called Wonder Stadium), home of the Mets' Short-A minor league affiliate, the Brooklyn Cyclones. Also, my local comic book store, Bergen Street Comics, makes its second appearance.
- Zach Woods of The Office and In The Loop did well in a Super Ray suit complete with gigantic penis.
- George is great at helping Jonathan dodge bullets. “Serpentine, Jonathan! Serpentine!” Jonathan's expert marksmanship was at least vaguely foreshadowed by him visiting the shooting range this year.