The buildup felt quite long but in tonight’s episodes it seemed like we finally got some payoff from Angry Boys. Each of the characters took an emotional step forward tonight and I was especially glad to see Blake and Daniel getting fleshed out more. And finally, Gran came back. I don’t know what took her so long.
I’m going to try something different tonight and describe what happened character by character, instead of describing the episodes’ plot in order:
Nathan and Daniel: Most viewers have probably long suspected that despite his predilection for giving the middle finger and his tendency for getting into scrapes like getting stuck inside a beanbag chair, Nathan is probably the brighter twin, and that was in evidence tonight. The twins’ stories were pretty lightweight in Episode 5: Daniel is led into a practical joke wherein Nathan pees on him. Daniel then spends the rest of the episode trying to get revenge, only to get pissed on again and again. It probably wasn’t a story that needed to be stretched through several segments, but there’s something satisfying about seeing Daniel, whose obnoxiousness makes me pity the rest of his family, getting played to look like an idiot, especially when he considers himself so cool and clever.
In Episode 6, though, both characters mature a little. Daniel is a surprisingly effective supervisor and caretaker when his parents are out of town (I liked the new rule that dogs aren’t allowed to sleep in the kids’ bedrooms, which was a means to an end of having the dog sleep in bed with him), even when he’s having a party and keeps an eye on how much his younger siblings are drinking: “One more beer bitch,” he tells his little sister. The party ends when Daniel needs to call his mom and Steve to come home and rescue Nathan, who’s gotten his arm caught in the drainpipe. The parents aren’t too upset, though because they’ve got “a big gay announcement”: Kerry and Steve are getting married. Predictably, Daniel is upset but Nathan (along with the other kids) is excited. Drainpipe and all, he hugs his mom, shakes Steve’s hand and is chuffed when he and Daniel are asked to be co-best men. Nathan rises up and matures whereas Daniel regresses, sulking and eventually retiring to his bed to cry. Steve and Kerry are developing into those Lilley adult characters who are just trying to do the best they can, so I hope everything works out between the boys and the adults in this case.
S.mouse: S.mouse and Jen thus far are the biggest clowns of the series, promising to deliver the smallest amount of emotional payoff yet the most rife with comic possibilities. After “dumping” his label, S.mouse is forced to change is name to S.mouse! He tries to keep in touch with his dwindling fans by having Danthony Tweet information like ““Today I took a dump. Twice. And it's only 10 AM in the morning.” S.mouse builds a home recording studio to produce his independent album and the shallowness of his talent becomes painstakingly clear as he jumps on the mic and, just through the sheer power of his own genius and creativity, raps “Yeah yeah can you hear me yeah yeah fuck yeah fuck you fuck.”
If the idiocy of S.mouse’s music is one of your favorite gags of the series, then Episode 5 was for you. “He’s a bigger loser now than he ever was,” Shwayne Sr. (who seemed more toned-down tonight, and for the better) laments as S.mouse writes songs with lyrics like “1 divided by 2 equals 3 divided by 4. E = MC2 motherfuckers. Einstein style!” For a “political” song, he goes “Obama Obama Obama whatcha gonna do. Obama Obama, c’mon President. O-B-A-MA. Whatcha gonna do.” And in a heartwrenching song about breast cancer, he raps, “I still love you baby even though you have one titty.”
LaSquisha plans to sing on one of S.mouse’s tracks, “She’s Touching My Big Black Balls,” but he claims that he’s saving the song for Rihanna, plus, LaSquisha can’t sing anyway. “Well what do you call this then?” she sings, in my favorite moment of their storyline. The two get into a faux-physical altercation, only to make up as she sings on the song as originally planned. S.mouse and his small team start to get cautiously optimistic about the album after “Big Black Balls” comes out sounding pretty good in post-production. S.mouse’s dad says what we think, however: that S.mouse is probably going nowhere, fast. I wonder how much we’re supposed to root for S.mouse: tonight we saw his ambition in addition to his delusion, but I can’t help but think that if S.mouse turns out to be a success, that means that it’s because the song-buying public is made up of idiots, which may be the lesson we end up learning.
Jen: Jen Okazaki is an even more ridiculous character than S.mouse, but perhaps because she’s ruthless and effective, I like her more as a character. In Episode 5 we learn even more about the ways Jen essentially terrorizes her son Tim. She offered him no sympathy when she transferred him from the States to Japan and she home-schools him, berating him the entire time. She oversees his skateboarding practice, forces him to exercise (“Tim, shut up please, I’m on the phone,” she says to the sound of him jogging on the treadmill), withholds food from him and even makes him fart before bed each night thanks to some bizarre weight-loss regimen she has for him. She punishes him for talking to or looking at girls and tries to brain-wash him into being the gay kid she says he is: “Look at the balls on that guy,” she says, holding up a beefcake photo to Tim. And worst of all, Tim doesn’t see a penny from his earnings until he’s 18, (even from his flavored shoe line) and at that point he only gets 2%.
After Jen catches Tim talking to girls, she throws his phone in the garbage disposal. I was beginning to wonder what the Jen/Tim storyline would offer beyond a psychopathic stage mother and her strangely acquiescent son, but finally, we actually see Tim rebel, a tiny bit. Jen tries to get Tim enthused for his new endorsement for Ooshi Cola (which includes a lifetime supply of the drink which he can never enjoy because he’ll get fat), and Tim sulks. It’s not much, but it’s something. “I just want him to be happy,” Jen lies, before doing a fart check.
Blake: I had completely forgotten about Blake’s existence in Episode 5 but was happy to see that in Episode 6 he became more than just a guy who’s such a deadbeat that he pretends he’s asleep in order to avoid helping his heavily pregnant wife put away laundry. He’s developed a surf camp for fat boys called “Fat Boys,” and while the story has its share of slapstick fat jokes (broken surfboards, broken beds, broken ribs after a well-intended but poorly-executed dogpile), Blake actually cares about the boys’ self-esteem. It’s nice to see Blake have more of a purpose this episode, although unfortunately the Fat Boys program goes under due to injury and lack of enthusiasm. I thought it was telling that when Blake’s wife voices disappointment that it didn’t work, he immediately offers to get the testicle replacement surgery. Last week, he was all kicks in the crotch, but this week we learn that the lost of his his balls means more to him than he lets on.
Gran: Finally! I’ve missed Gran, probably since she’s the character with the most heart to go with a healthy dose of comic opportunities. Early on in Episode 6 she’s disappointed by the facts that she hasn’t heard back from the celebrities she’s invited to Daniel’s party nor can she get Talib (the boy who did something bad to a dog) to come out of his shell. “You can’t afford to be a pussy and keep to yourself. You’ve gotta grow some balls,” she tells him helpfully.
Gran spearheads a program called “Scaring Young Boys,” which is an enhanced version of “Scared Straight.” With the boys’ cooperation, Gran makes the center look worse than it is: they put on balls and chains, pretend to fight and endure lashings when they receive visitors. The combination of Gran’s twisted plan and the boys’ eager willingness to go along with it was both bizarrely funny and also strangely sweet: I especially liked Gran kicking the slice of bread just out of reach of the boy trying to grab it through his door. Unfortunately, Talib ruins the elaborate ruse by merrily scootering around the yard while the boys are pretending to be torture victims. She berates him and gets in trouble with her supervisor. “I shouldn’t have called you a fucking idiot and told you to grow some balls,” she says, apologizing to the boy. To her amazement, he speaks up, apologizing to her for ruining Scaring Young Boys. Gran is overcome with tenderness and surprise when Talib finally trusts her enough to speak, and you can tell that she’s struggling to lay off and not hug him or try to get him to open up more.
I found Episode 5 dragged a little more compared to Episode 6, probably partially due to how much time was spent on both Jen and S.mouse, but that’s a minor quibble. Angry Boys isn’t a long series but looking over how long it took to write about what happened in two episodes--even though nothing very big happened--makes me realize just how deceptively dense this show is. I expected a lot from Lilley and tonight I was happy to see that just the littlest revelations of humanity and vulnerability made a big difference.
--“Sometimes my brothers are in pain. It doesn’t mean that they’re not enjoying themselves.”
--I like Jen’s assistant.
--“If you call me fat again I’ll call you all the names I can think up.”
--I liked how “Grandmotherfucker” was on during Daniela and Nathan’s party. I also like how, with each episode, the show’s intro starts making more and more sense.
--Is the Okazaki’s apartment a real apartment, and can I live there please?
--“Shut up prisoner or you’ll get some torture. You want to spend the afternoon in the dungeon?”