After a clarion call for insanity last week, I was happy to see The Spoils Of Babylon pick up the pace in its fifth episode, beginning with Eric Jonrosh wielding a gun in his introduction as he cries “What form of torture has thou wrought for me, Mephistopheles?” He then demands and receives a sudden costume change and claims he found Haley Joel Osment’s fictional doppelganger “sleepwalking in Comanche, high on mescaline. It was a very happy accident that he could act.” I’ll reiterate this every week: Will Ferrell deserves an Emmy for how funny he is in these three minutes every week.
Happily, the rest of the episode was strong too—the best since the show’s opening hour. As always, there were some draggy moments. There’s so many scenes of conflict that only need to last one minute that Spoils Of Babylon decides should go on for five. The joke, of course, is in the length, and sometimes it really works, like Kristen Wiig and Jessica Alba’s ridiculous slap-fest in the underwater lab (it helps that Wiig is the queen of catty reaction shots). Other times it doesn’t—the Bergman-esque confrontation between Cynthia and Winston wore out its welcome a lot quicker.
For an episode titled “The Age Of The Bastard,” there really isn’t too much Winston in this one. We spend a whole act in Devon’s underwater lab, where Cynthia successfully recruits him back into the fold, dropping the military contracts and abiding by his condition that they never interact with each other at work. I don’t think Tobey Maguire has been problematic for this show, but I do feel for him in these scenes—Devon is such a dweeb of a character, and Wiig gets to be so much funnier than him. Her epic dinner order at the underwater steakhouse (“And white wine in a coffee mug with a little bit of salt on it”) is a thousand times better than his vegan gag.
With Devon back in the company’s arms, the show hits the reset button—Dixie (Alba) dies in a swimming accent, and poor old Chet What’s-His-Name dies under circumstances too boring for anyone to remember. Goodbye, sweet Prince Michael Sheen. I could have watched 10 more hours of you being ignored by Cynthia. The mysterious carburetor might be gone for good (at least until the finale). So we get a whole new batch of insanity thrown at us—Winston making deals with the Shah of Iran, handing over the bomb for a supply of oil and a hefty bribe, and probably dooming his company for good since we all know what’s around the corner for Iran (we all watched Argo, right?)
I will devote my final analysis to the best scene in the episode, and possibly in the series so far—Val Kilmer and another military man declaring their love for each other in a car after a scene that has nothing to do with that and after no mounting tension at all (I’m pretty sure it’s a different general than who Kilmer has been driving around with in previous weeks). It’s beautifully played, especially by Kilmer, and the out-of-nowhere sincerity makes it all the funnier. I know I was campaigning for Ferrell a few paragraphs ago, but I take it back if it means Kilmer can get the statue. The man is a genius; make him the star of the next parody miniseries.
- Cynthia drives a hard bargain. “You will have a lifetime supply of beef.” “You will have free childcare for any of your friends, but not you.”
- Devon mourns Dixie’s death. “I missed her terribly. That sharp scientific mind, and her boobs.”
- Oh, Rod and Herman. Rerman? Hod?