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

The Boondocks: "Smokin' With Cigarettes"

Illustration for article titled The Boondocks: "Smokin' With Cigarettes"

One of the interesting things about the Boondocks universe is that it exists in a context were violence is everywhere, but it's just abstracted enough to allow what would realistically be a moment of horror end up as a punchline instead.  Hence, last week, the Freeman kids saw a man brutally beheaded on their front lawn, and more or less took it in stride; but we did see the gang responsible for the killing hauled off to jail.

Tonight's episode, too, had to straddle that line between The Boondocks' love of comic violence with its need to show the consequences of that violence in order to make its social satire effective.  Riley has always been a thug-life wannabe, but at the very least, he seems to genuinely enjoy a certain level of mayhem.  But in "Smokin' With Cigarettes", he has to contend with someone who actually lives the amoral lifestyle he only pretends to, and, to put it mildly, it creeps him the fuck out.

That someone is Lamilton Taeshawn, a sort of malicious, dead-eyed combination of Fat Albert and  Kenard from The Wire.  In a series of interviews, Lamilton shows himself to be insanely sociopathic, and as soon as he hooks up with Riley, the two of them are off on a destructive rampage in a stolen car.  Finally brought down, Lamilton is returned to his oblivious grandmother, and Riley receives an epic belt-whuppin' at the hands of Grandpa Freeman, along with a warning to stay away from the sadistic little bastard.  Soon enough, though, they're back together and engaging in the ol' flaming-mattress-off-the-overpass trick.

It's here that the episode takes kind of an odd turn:  after Lamilton's grandmother delivers an endless society-is-to-blame spiel about why he's so violent, you expect it to turn into a satire of child-rearing and the way the system treats kids either too harshly or too kindly.  But instead, into the show comes Dr. Dumas, a Donald Pleasance lookalike who explains that Lamilton is a sort of ghetto Michael Myers.  And when Riley is freaked out by Lamilton's flashing a real piece, it takes a further turn, not in the direction of that gap between Riley's gangsta pretensions and his suburban middle-class realities, but into a somewhat aimless, but surprisingly creepy, horror-movie vibe.

I'm not exactly sure what to think of this one.  While it veered back into satire at the end, with both Lamilton and Dr. Dumas shown as being equally murderous jerks, its tone was all over the place, and it never seemed quite sure of what kind of episode it wanted to be.  On the other hand, it had some good gags (the fat joke at the end was effective, if predictable), and it looked absolutely gorgeous — the colors used at the dusk showdown, the animation of the fight, and the drawings of Lamilton's dead-eyed expressions are some of the best art we've seen on The Boondocks.  Still, I came away from it more or less flummoxed as to what it hoped to accomplish, so for all its strengths of mood and appearance, I have to think of it as a bit of a stumble in what's otherwise been an excellent season.

Rating:  B-

Stray Observations: 
- This one really was probably the best-looking episode of the series to date, which is why my disappointment at its general incoherence might be deeper than usual.


- "I do bad things. I hurt people.  And I smoke with cigawettes."

- "Now I want you to sit there and think about how stupid you are.  I'm going to sleep."


- "I can't believe Grandpa didn't let me do no interviews!  Lamilton is blowin' up over this!  I bet he's gonna get his own TV show."

- "When somebody gives me good advice, I do the opposite thing."

- "Dear God!  It's urine and hot sauce!"

- "Riley Freeman, I have no patience for your potty-mouth today."

- "Hey, hey, what's goin' on over here?  Oh, just two niggas killin' each other.  Proceed."


- So, crew, what did you think?  Did this one make more sense to you than it did to me?  What did you think Aaron McGruder was trying to accomplish with it?