House Of Lies: “Amsterdam”
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House Of Lies: “Amsterdam”

There are two scenes in this week’s House Of Lies that give me more hope for the show’s future than I had after watching the pilot. In the opening, Marty is bullying a potential client into accepting his offer. He says, in voiceover, “You have to be able to violate” as he eyes his ex-wife through the window. Cut to them having violent sex, arguing about safe words, yelling “stop!” and choking each other. And when they finish...they say the safe word, turning an uncomfortable scene into an amusing one.

Obviously this isn’t subtle, but it is fun. It works as a sort of demonstration of the workings of the management consultants’ minds. But it’s also interesting to see kinky sex portrayed as, if not quite something good and healthy, something fairly normal. And it’s a damn effective attention-grabber for the start of the episode.

What follows isn’t quite so good. It’s clear that the bad-natured ribbing that happens back in the office about Marty’s smell of sex is intended to bring in the idea of the locker-room mentality that comes back multiple times through the episode. It’s just awkward and forced, something that Marty’s boss, played by Richard Schiff, cuts through quickly in his short scene. And then the awkwardness is back in full force as Doug meets his hero, and the Internet’s hero, Cat Deeley and has a surprisingly erotic encounter with her, while being heckled by his co-workers.

All this is build-up to a much longer scene, easily the funniest of the series so far, where Jean-Clydeo and Doug argue over whether Clyde could seduce Cat Deeley, as every member of the team places bets. Here is where the cast’s talent and camaraderie really work – everyone seems to be relaxed and having fun and letting the comedy work. It’s also the most we’ve seen Doug and Clyde so far, so some good character-building, even if it just characterizing Clyde as a slightly more urbane Jean-Ralphio (surprise!). And it’s always fun when characters “play” different characters on TV shows, even if it does seem to inevitably lead to a near-kiss.

Some of the annoying components of the pilot are still present. The pause-for-explanation conceit is still present, although it doesn’t seem quite as obtrusive. In one example, it gives the chance to introduce a new character in the background, making it visually more appealing. Or it could just be that I’m more used to it. Likewise, the tonal shifts are less marked, making it seem like the show could settle into a more comfortable groove than the wildly shifting pilot.

It’s also less politically-oriented than the pilot, with the consultancy of the week being a a sports franchise with its owners going through a divorce, much like the Los Angeles Dodgers. This is a potentially interesting story given very short shrift by the show, as it has too many plots in the air: Marty’s worries about his son being misunderstood remains, while Jeannie has a brief flirtation with another job via headhunter. This only really leaves two scenes for the sports consultancy, an introduction and a resolution, both of which only hint at more interesting things to come later.

Usually the second episode of a show is pretty bad – it’s made months after the pilot, and built around re-establishing the show for people who joined in after word-of-mouth. So it’s nice to see a little bit of improvement instead of a step backward. The show is still too busy, it’s still occasionally too happy to show its characters being awful. But I can see it being a good show, eventually, more than I could last week.

Stray observations:

  • The Phoenix Huskies seems like a geographically inappropriate name for a team.
  • “That’s crazy, cause I’m also hunting for head all the time..now’s not the time? Not the time.”

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