House Of Lies: “Business”
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House Of Lies: “Business”

In these last few episodes of the season, it’s time to see if House Of Lies’ serialization gamble pays off. I’ve been questioning it for more than a few weeks now, but the whole idea is that it makes those last few episode better when the story builds to a great climax. This makes the best stuff more intense, and the not-so-good stuff look better in retrospect. Does House Of Lies start pulling this off in its penultimate episode of the season? Well… maybe?

“Business” finally brings the merger to a vote, and Marty and Marco are engaged in their attempts to stop it. Greg Norbert’s change of heart seems to involve nothing more then him hitting on Jeannie constantly, but he’s got enough info for Marty to force Skip to switch sides. Something goes wrong, Skip gets forced out early, and Marco takes his place, pushing the merger through and revealing his betrayal of Marty.

So what works? As ever, Don Cheadle’s at the heart of just about everything good about this show. Richard Schiff as Skip also has a chance to shine, finally, and their confrontations are easily the best parts of “Business.” First, they meet in the boardroom, letting their hatred/respect out. Cheadle gets to deliver another great monologue—“I’m a goddamn terrorist. And I will crash my 767 right into your prodigious forehead.”

Then the tables turn, after Skip gets fired, and he starts taking shits in Marty’s office in order to get his revenge. This could easily have gone awry, turned into slapstick comedy of the kind that still plagues the Greg Norbert character, but Schiff handles that odd level of insanity just right enough to make the scene work as intended.

Yet there is more to the episode than simply Schiff and Cheadle fighting—though all of it yields diminishing returns. Marco, the Rainmaker, is supposedly the villain here, but I couldn’t really tell you anything about him other than that he’s an older management-consultant guy that Marty looks up to. And who is now the antagonist, no matter how poorly formed, so late in the season.

He’s also been nailing Jeannie, who discovers that she is not the only one of his office flings/protégés. She’s unhappy at this discovery, but other than getting us some Kristen Bell snark, it really doesn’t have any kind of an effect. Probably next week. Meanwhile, the rest of the Pod, Doug and Clyde, are still acting like they’re in a comedic series, battling over mix CDs and awkward phrases. Unfortunately for them, just as they’re starting to figure this comedy thing out, the show’s become a drama. Sorry guys—but I did like this bit: “Doug is now giving me $20 every time he says something that makes him sound like a serial killer. Thank you, Doug.”

Then there’s Roscoe, pissed off about the breakup between Marty and April, just in time for the custody battle to heat up. Much like Jeannie’s storyline, this seems to be leading toward next week’s finale, so it’s hard to judge too much, other than to enjoy Dawn Olivieri’s scenery-chewing as Monica. But while it may be hard to judge, it seems fairly easy to predict that Roscoe will, at least initially, ask to live with his mom.

All this would make for a promising, if not spectacular episode, but it doesn’t quite stick the landing. In order to get some kind of revenge against Marco, Marty finds Marco’s daughter and seduces her. Presumably, he’s going to suddenly be a dick to her, or maybe cause the two fight, but it’s a slow-moving, petty little plot, made worse by the fact that Veronica Mars did an extremely similar storyline. And for some strange reason, I feel like there’s going to be a significant overlap between Veronica Mars fans and people who watch House Of Lies.

Marty drives home from his revenge-fuck and his car breaks down. So he gets angry. And the camera, once again, zooms in on his apparently conflicted, emotional visage. Just as it has for the past several episode. I have no idea why the show has chosen this as its primary formal tic.

Stray observations:

  • “You’re a student of the Cold War?” “Oh God, I love the Cold War!” Probably the best line the show’s had, both for comedy and characterization.

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