Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Moonbeam City goes out with a bunch of bangs and a lot of Rad

Illustration for article titled Moonbeam City goes out with a bunch of bangs and a lot of Rad

Goodbye, Moonbeam City! In “The Wedding of Rad (Lie),” the final episode of the season (or perhaps ever? The last-minute switch of its final two episodes to a post-midnight timeslot doesn’t bode well), the series does something it’s been building to for a while now. Even moreso than last week, this episode is told largely from the point of view of one Rad Cunningham, voiced by the incomparable Will Forte. It begins with the hapless Rad in accidental triumph; when the squad open fires on a local mob boss, Rad angrily discards his gun, and in a flip of the classic action-movie desperation move, actually beans the guy – which sends him stumbling into the path of an oncoming truck.

But when the boss’s daughter, Nebula Deluxiado, spokesowner of the self-identified “mob casino,” comes to demand an audience with her father’s murderer, Rad cowers and blames Dazzle – sending Nebula directly into Dazzle’s arms, because she swore an oath to have lots of sex with whoever killed her dad. And so Rad’s brief sorta-heroism turns into another quest to show up Dazzle, this time by attempting to produce the girlfriend he has clearly made up. Rad’s lies have been a running gag throughout the series, particularly in “Lasers and Liars,” but “Wedding” adds several clever wrinkles to his claims of being rich and/or powerful and/or girlfriended: It turns out Rad really does live at Diamond Crust Estates, but in the boiler room, apparently moonlighting as a groundskeeper. It also turns out that Rad in fact comes from a family of con artists.

The emergence of a character’s parents and/or siblings has become a go-to move for this show, perhaps too often for a ten-episode season, but this version does give Rad an extra dose of pathos; he’s a blustery, insecure, unconvincing liar from a family of outright crooks who lie frequently and naturally. It’s also kind of hilarious to realize that whiny, irritable Rad has easily the most pleasant, least nasal voice in his family (it turns out he’s adopted). The Cunninghams re-enter Rad’s life because in a fit of desperation, he asks the only girl he knows, his sister Talc, to pretend to be his girlfriend (“she never misses a chance to prove she exists,” he promises Dazzle). He’s fine with leaving the deception there, but Talc craves the sweet cash and toasters that will result if they get married, and Rad’s parents Quench and Glam turn up to force this disgusting sham. Soon Rad and Talc are picking out decorations and a bleached, abused donkey passed off as a unicorn at the mob casino, where they plan to marry at Rotators, one of two revolving restaurants (Revolvo’s, as the mob family notes, is a more down-to-earth, unpretentious revolving restaurant).

In one of the episode’s best visual moments, Rad confides about his terrible situation to Chrysalis in the moonlight, overlooking rippling water. She sweetly agrees to help him out and also refuses to append her help with any making out. It’s a testament to how creepily endearing Rad has become to me that I actually kind of wanted them to go through with Rad’s proposed make-out, or at least to fall into an awkward embrace. This has been the trick of Rad Cunningham all season; he was initially positioned as the equally arrogant and cocksure rival to Rob Lowe’s Dazzle Novak, but he has become, if anything, more likable in his grotesquerie than Dazzle (whose sidelining in this episode is also clockwork-consistent with his other stories this season: he spends most of his time having sex or singing) in his Wile E. Coyote-like pursuit of success.

But the Rad Cunningham we know is gone – at least by that name. Chrysalis figures out that Rad wasn’t just adopted by the Cunninghams; he was stolen from a far wealthier family, which means as a baby he did, in fact, own a Wavetech Yacht (a callback to “Lasers and Liars”), albeit of the child’s variety. The episode and the season and maybe the series ends with a terrific gag of a massive shoot-out between cops and crooks in opposite revolving restaurants, who must wait an hour between firing hails of bullets. There are plenty of shoulder shots to go around, so that many characters wear the ubiquitous action-movie single-arm-in-a-sling to signify shit getting real, but not too real. The other cops don’t exactly develop affection for Rad (certainly not as much as I have), but they do demonstrate a small degree of empathy. And that’s about as much development as you can expect from Moonbeam City (really, more than you should expect) in one of the best episodes of the season.

Stray observations:

  • This week in Moonbeam City names: So many! Nebula Deluxiado is obviously the best of the bunch. The rest seemed spread a little thing: Talc, Quench, and especially Glam are all kinda low-hanging fruit for what I imagine to be the Moonbeam City naming desk. I do enjoy the non-pun stupidity of the Moonbeam City entertainment journal being named Moonriety.
  • Pizzaz used her snake belt! For a show relatively (and often blessedly) light on continuity, there were a fair number of nods to past details in this episode. Wavetech Child’s Yacht was definitely my favorite.
  • What do you think, Moonbeamers? Does this show have a shot at another season and will you watch it?