Prior to watching this episode, I considered writing a “How To Fix House Of Lies” review, the type you written from time to time for young, disappointing shows with potential. I gave up on the idea because House Of Lies’ problems are both too simple and too complicated to fix. Simply put, House Of Lies cannot seem to pick a winning tone and stick with it. But that’s complicated, because that pervades every aspect of the show. I mean, I guess I could say “be more funny!” but that’s not going to be a very in-depth review (although the show really does need to try to be funnier).
“Veritas” does, however, give an example of how House Of Lies could become a good show. It’s essentially a bottle episode, where the entirety except for the final scene takes place at a Galweather retreat near a vineyard. The retreat is geared towards deciding which new Harvard Business School graduates deserve to be hired by Galweather, which is a good premise for exploring how the main characters approach the idea of mentoring and understand how the system works. So far so good.
Marty quickly begins to work with James, a young black man. James clearly idolizes Marty, but in a way where he believes he can supplant him, which builds a certain tension, but there’s also a connection from being the only two black guys in the room. Meanwhile, Jeannie meets a girl who’s quick to be flirty and charming, but doesn’t seem to have much depth, which instantly raises Jeannie’s hackles. She gives the kid a test – but the girl manages to flirt Clyde into giving her the answer, at which point he realizes that the player got played. Finally, Doug is trying to prove to Clyde that he can help any of these kids make a connection, so Clyde finds the dorkiest one he can.
All of these things have potential, which is largely met. Marty’s interactions with James are a high point, as the tension between the apprenticeship and the replacement idea works well, and the jokes about racism tend to be the funniest parts of the episode. Jeannie, as I mentioned last time around, has not been a well-developed part of the show, and having her confront someone who forces her to examine herself? It doesn’t entirely work, but at least House Of Lies is trying.
Clyde, of course, has been a massive problem, largely because he’s almost always been treated as right or normal within each episode. That’s not the case here – his excessive horniness makes him look like the smarmy idiot, not the smarmy winner. I’m not going to go crazy and say that he’s turned a corner, because his dumbass pissing contests with Doug are still frustrating, but at least they’re being dumbasses about something other their damn hook-up game (although it’s still there).
By putting all of these things together in a bottle, and where the tensions with their bosses and mentors higher up in Galweather can cause interesting interactions, both nasty and nice. The problem is that the show doesn’t seem to trust itself to have its characters and individual episodes drive its drama. No, it needs its overarching serialized plot – the MetroCapital merger – to give it its structure. And every time this gets brought, I can’t help but remember that I don’t care. The serialization would be great if we cared about the characters, but the characters are being overwhelmed by the serialization, which is why I expect the relative quality of this episode to be an exception, not an improvement for the future.
There’s no better example of the serialization issue than the end of the episode, when Skip tells Marty that the merger is on, and that Marty doesn’t have a future at Galweather. It’s dark, and as this happens, Skip is walking off to his helicopter, which takes off. Marty is framed by fog, colored lights, and the wind from the ‘coptor. It’s an excessively stylized shot, the kind that we’d see at the most dramatic point of an intense movie, with the hero at his low point. And House Of Lies hasn’t earned that. It’s not intense. It’s supposedly a comedy. It really should start acting like one.
- “You two know each other?” “Oh yeah, from the meetings.” “Meetings?” “Black people meetings.” See? Comedy.
- “You gauge his reaction to the fact that you’re black, and then you use that to leverage.” And insight through comedy.
- “What was that about?” “I don’t know.” Cheadle and Bell can pull this off.