In “Cats! Cats! Cats!”, both of Nancy’s children make some idiotic decisions that reflect poorly on their ability to think about the consequences of their actions. While Shane uses his police connections to dig up some information on a rival drug organization, calling attention to himself with his new boss and getting himself at least fake arrested for it, Silas tries to use Michelle Trachtenberg’s character to get at her boss and then finds himself offering her a job, letting her into his bed, and then finding out the next morning that she’s actually the boss of the Pouncy House (the rival drug organization in question).
Now, the reveal that Trachtenberg was duping Silas the entire time is a strong way of introducing the character, and I appreciate that the family's main rival is someone for Silas to sleep with instead of with Nancy, given that Hunter Parrish has been the standout this season. However, my problem is that what Silas does is incredibly dumb, logical only insofar as we suggest that little Silas continues to run the show. Trachtenberg’s Emma plays her role well, but Silas invites her into the back of the bike shop, explains the entire operation to her, and never once considers the fact that her generic complaints about her boss and sexualized glances in his direction might be a ruse. All she had to do was use her feminine wiles, and Silas folded like a horny teenager.
The thing is, Silas isn’t a teenager anymore. He’s an adult, and what we’ve seen this year has been Silas embracing that adulthood. It’s been the most consistently interesting part of the season, which is why this development is so frustrating. I see the thematic point being made: Nancy, given the option of running away with her boss to a Caribbean island and living a life of luxury, chooses to stay because there are people who need her while at the same time both of her kids make huge mistakes that she’ll have to help fix. As Shane tries to prove that he can be the better son when it comes to the business and as Silas tries to prove that he can be more than a son and run Nancy’s business on his own, they both fail to the point where Nancy—now free from any other distractions, thanks to some plot contrivances I’ll rant about in a bit—will have to jump to their rescue.
I just think that this thematic point is, well, bullshit. Last season, the show felt like it was exploring the nature of the co-dependence between these characters, creating situations that forced people to make decisions relating to their connection. Silas chose to remain in the van when he wanted to go off on his own, and he chose to show up at the airport in the finale instead of remaining in Michigan. The season even started off at that point, with Nancy’s family choosing to return to New York without her prompting (and Silas choosing to join them after initially suggesting he might stay in Copenhagen). And there have been a few threads that have picked up on this, whether it’s Silas working his way into business with Nancy on his own terms or Andy doing his best to remove the association between his business and Silas’ business at the bike shop.
What “Cats! Cats! Cats!” does is create a situation that forces these characters back into a co-dependent relationship. I might be fine with this, honestly, if they were forced into this situation based solely on the ingenuity of an external foe, but what we’ve seen of Emma suggests that she has a fun sense of humor (what with the upside down bike shop) but didn’t really have to do much to put her plan into motion. Instead of establishing a real sense of danger, something that could have really shifted the season into another gear, the show cheats by having a moderate threat compounded by imbecilic behavior.
We’re now headed into the third act of the season, and I think there’s actually something tangible here: Shane is in a precarious position that keeps law enforcement in play, while Nancy has to join forces with Silas—and, considering his victimization in the attack, probably Andy as well—to fight off Emma and retain their territory. There’s a clear conflict here, and that clarity is something the season has lacked to this point.
However, the speed at which the show decided to shift into the third act results in some laughable circumstances, best captured by the SEC being swept away based on an enormous coincidence and some incredibly broad storytelling. I know that the show’s opinion of authority figures has never been particularly high, but the way the SEC capitulates was just disgusting. Melnick turns into a child, while Nancy becomes the bratty bully: Just listen to Mary-Louise Parker’s reading of “It’s leverage against me, and I want it,” and try to avoid cringing. A scene that could have been tense and exciting becomes trite and juvenile; I felt no sense of pleasure in Nancy and Doug pulling one over on the SEC, instead feeling frustration with the show for so quickly sweeping the SEC arc under the rug, never to be heard from again. The show has been walking a fine line with authority figures ever since Roy Till, really, but at least he was just a bit odd: These guys were schmucks, and that’s not the way to make short-term narrative distractions feel like something other than short-term narrative distractions.
The same goes for the entire episode, really. Last week ended in such a chaotic position, but both Zoya and Chuck are off to hide from authorities by the time the episode concludes. The way they get rid of them makes sense, technically: Zoya has a history of starting fires that Nancy nicely takes advantage of in burning down the townhouse, while Chuck would bolt at the first sight of an SEC raid. It’s possible the latter will return when he learns that his company isn’t being investigated, and it’s possible the former will return if she learns that Nancy has the tape that implicates her in the attempt to burn down the townhouse (and that Nancy was the one who actually burned it down), but the way these characters just got moved out of the way ended up feeling incredibly false. It all happened too quickly, without enough time for Zoya to be established as a threat or for Chuck to be established as a real love interest for Nancy. When he asked her to go with him, I laughed: While Nancy acknowledges that it’s fast, it nonetheless shows the writers trying to bring a romantic tone to a story that never got to develop into anything that earned such a tone.
I hate that these reviews have come into cathartic releases of frustration, but watching “Cats! Cats! Cats!” was almost exhausting. As much as the development of the story threads featured within this episode has been problematic, to see them tossed away so haphazardly was nonetheless incredibly unsatisfying. It is possible that Michelle Trachtenberg’s Emma will evolve into a compelling villain and that returning Nancy back to the operation and freeing her from SEC investigations and inter-office romance and halfway houses will allow the show to become more focused. It’s also possible that the show will stick the landing, and deliver a compelling third act to the season that builds momentum into what could be many more seasons to come. However, I don’t think there’s anything the show can do that can make the flighty and erratic storytelling this season have a greater purpose; they might stick the landing, but it doesn’t change that their in-air technique was subpar. While the fugitive road trip elements of last season justified the constant stops and starts, here the same effect has been gained through happy coincidences that make me decidedly less than happy.
And when an episode titled “Cats! Cats! Cats!” with three exclamation marks doesn’t make me happy, that just makes me sad.
- So, did Silas leave no security at the warehouse? I mean, it makes sense that they wouldn’t actually get a bear as Zoya suggested, but would you seriously not have anyone guarding the place? Seems incredibly silly to me.
- Also, while it’s a really effective camera shot/setup with the whole upside down bike shop, could anyone actually do such a thing in a single night?
- I know it burned down, but I really hope that Chuck’s townhouse doesn’t actually become a new standing set. Anything that reminds me of the “Oh here, please take my fully paid-for townhouse” part of the episode would do best to disappear.
- I’m going to presume that Shane wasn’t actually arrested: As far as the police know, he did it in order to take justice into his own hands. I guess it’s possible that they’ll draw a link between Shane and Nancy and perhaps use her time in jail as a gateway into his character, but I’m not convinced that’s where they’re heading with it. If so, though, I’m intrigued.
- Liked the little detail of the smoke alarm beeping throughout the opening scene.
- Notice how the camera avoids showing the fake NYC skyline on Silas’ balcony bedroom during the day, where it would look even more fake than it would at night.
- Since it’s come up a few times in past weeks, the song that concludes the episode is “Shivering Fawn” by Fruit Bats.
- “Sure thing—she seems so sane, and accountable.”
- “These are cops. I’m a drug dealer; you’re a murderer. We can’t all play on the same kickball team.”
- “All I can think about is your wife and a horse.”
- “In prison were you and her like ‘Hey: you’re an arsonist, and I’m an arsonist, let’s get together and be lesbians?’”