In an effort to dive into the back half of Ghosted’s freshman season with at least a slight sense of positivity up top, I’ll say this for tonight’s outing: For a half-hour that wandered dangerously far into the potential nightmare territory of the dreaded Max & Annie Flirtation Zone, “Snatcher” wasn’t actually half bad. Sure, there was some laugh-free cringe comedy, a wet fart of a final scene, and a B-plot that continues to prove this show has no idea whatsoever what to do with Captain LaFrey, but the core sequences of Max, Leroy, and Annie getting lost in the woods together while an Oz Monkey Batman menaced them were strong enough to mostly carry that load.
Let’s talk about Annie for a second: As the final addition to the show’s cast—having joined up after early reshoots on the pilot, replacing Edi Patterson—Amber Stevens West has had one of the series’ hardest tasks, working out the comic angles that make the lightly-sketched character work. Her enthusiasm for the Gila Snatcher (née Snatch Monster) brought out a welcome nerdiness in her tonight, though, while West also continued to prove that she can easily dip into the flow of Adam Scott and Craig Robinson’s comic rhythms—when the script allows her to, in any case
It’s becoming clearer and clearer for me that, whatever joys I glean from this show—and they’re considerable, mostly centered on Craig Robinson’s endless talent for quietly saying very silly things—drama is never going to be one of them. Tonight’s unnecessary “tension” comes from the idea that Max wants Annie to be impressed by him, so, obviously, he pretends to know more about being a woodsman than he actually does. (It’s never been shown that Annie, who clearly likes Max because he’s a big ol’ nerd, cares about his survival acumen, but oh well.) The upshot of this is that Annie has to spend big chunks of the episode first acting cluelessly awed by Max’s prowess, and, later, needlessly angry at him for lying, in order to sell these overdone “stakes.” None of which is nearly as fun as Ghosted’s default tone of aimless-but-funny riffing, occasionally interrupted by screaming and running when a monster eventually attacks. At its heart, this is fundamentally a hang-out show, despite the monster-of-the-week trappings, and the sooner it stops forcing in these plot points that feel like they come straight from the writer’s outline, the better it’ll be.
And let’s be clear: The hang-outs tonight were great! I’ve legitimately missed watching Scott and Robinson pal around together, and the endless variations on what to call the largely unseen monster continued to make me laugh. (As did Max’s “Guys, are we stupid enough to be lost already?”, one of the best act-break lines this show has done to date.) These three characters are simply fun together, and, for once, even the episode-resolving action was pretty good (even if that was only because the “MaxGuyver” lines really made it land).
No such saving grace in that stinger, though; someone at Ghosted seems to think that watching Max and Annie awkwardly make small talk together is compelling, or funny, or something. But they’re wrong, and the efforts to sell some kind of heart-warming moment right at the end left my heart decidedly unwarmed. I don’t know what it is about these final scenes that inevitably leaves me cold, but I can’t remember the last time one of them made me feel anything besides the sensation of air slowly leaking out of a bicycle tire as the final credits rolled. My instinct is that it’s the cast still failing to find a way to gel as an ensemble; their lines are often amusing on paper, but it feels too much like all of the actors are waiting their turn to say the next ostensibly funny thing.
Still, absence did make my heart grow a little fonder over the break, and so it’s hard for me to stay mad at “Snatcher” for long. It’s great as a vehicle for West, after all—less so for Ally Walker, although we’ll talk about that in a minute—and it was a nice reminder that I’m still happy that Scott and Robinson have a place to goof off together on TV every week. You only get that pass so many times though, so we’ll see if Ghosted can step up its game as the last half of its first season plays out.
- So, yeah, let’s talk about that B(arry)-plot: I’ve gotta confess that I still have no idea what this show is trying to do with Captain LaFrey. Walker is fantastic as the tough-as-nails boss-type, but every time the show tries to play up her dysfunctional personal life, she never quite seems to make the comedy turn. It doesn’t help that the sequences of Barry butting into her romantic life felt haphazardly edited into the main story, even if I’m always going to get a kick out of Adeel Akhtar’s overly-chummy performance. “Don’t play this game with me, Ava. Not with me.”
- Max may never have actually gotten “James Woods” as a nickname, but I hope “Matt and Meroy” sticks.
- Adam Scott’s little “Ooh, binoculars” after being told to get the nerdiness out of his system was a nice moment.
- “What I’m hearing was Batman.”
- “Do you want me to describe Batman?” “YOU’VE BEEN DESCRIBING HIM ALL DAY.”
- Leroy, on Oz Monkeys: “Or does the witch make them dress up? Freaky witch.”
- Meanwhile, in commercial land, I found myself very distracted by Domino’s new “Carryout Insurance” thing, and all the ways you could potentially game it to get two pizzas while only paying for one.
- Not to throw shade at the show’s location department, but that was not a very scary forest.
- I like that Leroy considers his grumbly tummy to be a lady.
- Diving into Max’s romantic confession, Leroy speaks for us all: “Wow, I thought the weight of fear and terror would overwhelm anything awkward.” NO SUCH LUCK, BUDDY.
- Annie and Max have resolved that they might, someday, when they’ve worked through their stuff, possibly, sort of date. Thank god we’ve gotten that all worked out.
- Leroy doesn’t mess around with giving impossible percentages: “I’m fine with 100 percent.” Good man.