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It's the worst day of Ryan's life, but one of Avenue 5's best episodes yet

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Hugh Laurie
Hugh Laurie
Photo: HBO

Not sure exactly what it is — the addition of a character who hates Judd as much as he deserves to be hated, the description of future fancy menu items like “wasp tapenade, owls in blankets and tree soup,” the introduction of a potential romance between Billie and Jordan, or just some good solid comedy moments. But this is easily the most enjoyable Avenue 5 episode I’ve recapped so far.

Two new faces make a massive impact on Episode 7, “Are You A Spider, Matt?”: First, the glowing visage of who Frank immediately identifies as Pope John Paul II — identified as “one of the good ones; he wasn’t even a Nazi in his youth.” While there seems to be a sense that not everyone can see his face in the now luminescent cloud of poop hovering around the ship, thanks to the magic of visual effects there is definitely something out there, attracting a wide assortment of passengers to hang out in the viewing gallery on Deck 5.


This happens to be right by the first-class section, which leads to the introduction of Harrison (the wonderful Paterson Joseph, whose British TV credits are legion and might be most recognizable to American audiences thanks to NBC’s Timeless or HBO’s own The Leftovers). A trillionaire who despises Judd but instantly likes Ryan, Harrison wants to sue Judd into oblivion for the damage this misbegotten cruise has done to his businesses — Judd, not wanting to be sued into oblivion, hopes to appease Harrison, asking Ryan to schmooze him at the captain’s table.


Unfortunately, Ryan’s having a rough time of things — not only does he learn that thanks to the ship’s security settings, he’s the only living person who can dock the ship with the big rescue vehicle (something he’s completely unprepared to do), but his husband and wife back on Earth officially file for divorce.

None of that puts Ryan in a particularly good mood, and so he spectacularly fails at charming Harrison at dinner. However, Ryan is later able to win Harrison back over after (yet again) taking credit for one of Billie’s ideas, built upon Newton’s third law of physics: If they jettison the weight equivalent to 500 people from the back of the ship, it will propel them forward, potentially shaving years off the trip.

It’s a plan that thrills everyone on board when it gets announced, but after the fact, Billie and Ryan realize that by making the trip shorter, Ryan now has even less time to learn how to dock the ship.

In short, it’s pretty standard Avenue 5, with one disaster barely solved before it leads to another disaster. But Billie and Ryan’s friend chemistry is almost as good as Billie and Jordan’s awkward blooming romance, which boosts all of their scenes tremendously. Meanwhile, it’s a joy to watch Harrison repeatedly tear Judd apart with insult after insult (to such a degree that Judd asks Matt for help workshopping jabs with which to attack back — a failed enterprise, but an entertaining sequence). Sometimes a show needs someone to come in and yell at the most annoying character present; hopefully, Harrison sticks around for some time to come.


The idea of the ship coming together to worship the Poop Pope feels a little undercooked, especially when the question of faith versus science gets raised by Ryan’s final speech to the passengers. But it’s still a promising episode overall, especially with the final twist: Rav, sick of getting screamed at on Earth, decides to hop on the supply shuttle to bring Judd back to Earth. Since, after all, he’s the one who deserves to be yelled at. Always.

Stray Observations

  • Another fun new character: The “paunchy white man” who is getting plenty of legal work on his vacation.
  • The frequent jokes about Matt’s potential suicide sometimes veer into the realm of poor taste, but Zach Woods’ character choices are fascinating to watch; while sometimes he has the appearance of fragility, there’s inner darkness to him that is both disturbing and somehow durable. If I were to rank which character is most likely to go cannibal first, Matt is probably at the top of the list.
  • After Matt, that list goes: Judd, Karen, Iris, Spike, Doug. Billie seems smart enough to have her own secret food stash hidden away, while Ryan would be open to cannibalism but would probably be the first killed and eaten.
  • It’s too bad that they won’t have food flavorings available for that potential descent into cannibalism. Though, to be fair, based on what appears to be gourmet cuisine at this point in the future (jackal paws? really?), it’s a bit scary to imagine what those flavorings might be.
  • This week’s Random Celebrity Mention: During the eight-day communication blackout, Tobey Maguire died after getting his throat cut during a “prison scuffle.” A former Spider-man getting sent to prison might seem a bit wild, but very little feels surprising even now in the year 2020. And as Avenue 5 keeps reminding us, the future is an even weirder place.