I’ve been excited for “Lockdown” ever since I saw its name lurking in the list of upcoming Ghosted episode titles. The show’s biggest problem so far has been the sketched-in nature of its world, and, specifically, the members and role of the Bureau Underground itself. What better way to flesh out those under-served elements, than to trap the whole cast in the building together and see what happens next?
Happily, it turns out my instincts were spot-on: “Lockdown” is the most successful episode Ghosted has tossed out to date, a fast-moving adventure filled with strong character interactions and enough laugh-out-loud funny lines that I was scrambling to get them all down in my notes while it aired. It’s somewhat more surprising, though that the episode pulls this off by splitting up its star duo, Craig Robinson and Adam Scott, for most of its run. Instead of relying on the usual Max-Leroy back-and-forth, Robinson ends up teamed up with Amber Stevens West’s gung-ho weapons specialist Annie to hunt down a truly unfortunate-looking CGI monster, and Scott gets paired up with fellow nerd Barry (Adeel Akhtar, still this show’s most consistent comedic secret weapon) to figure out how to stop the creature for good. Somewhat more bizarre is what the script does with Ally Walker’s Captain LaFrey, who’s kept (briefly) busy trying to keep the water delivery guy she has a crush on—who gets trapped with everybody else when the facility is locked down, complete with a death sentence if the creature isn’t caught and eliminated—from finding out that there’s more to the “Mid-Valley Wire-Hanger Company” than meets the eye.
(Permit me an aside here, please: LaFrey’s Jace obsession—and the entire existence of Beck Bennett’s Bob, the dearly departed, inexplicably beloved autopsy guy who accidentally sets tonight’s whole crisis in motion—brings me back to something I asked in passing last week: Is Ghosted a cartoon? That is, is it a show, like Police Squad or Angie Tribeca, where the universe itself is absurd and “tells” the jokes, and the characters themselves are super-serious, or a series of serious situations, inhabited by funny characters? Things like the casual, piss-based death of cowardly BU staffer Donnie suggest one direction, while Max and Leroy’s ongoing commentary on the craziness of their lives indicate the other. A lot of this rests on the show’s treatment of LaFrey: Half the time, she’s a badass and scarily competent boss, and the other half she’s compromising organizational secrecy in order to ogle the water guy. To be clear: Walker’s funny in either mode, and I’m not suggesting there’s not room for a leader character who’s good at her job, but kind of a mess personally. But that tonal wrestling match suggests Ghosted hasn’t figured out exactly what kind of show it wants to be, or what rules it operates under.)
Setting aside my meta blundering, the end result tonight still works, especially the material that sees Leroy go all Relationship Detective on Annie’s romantic woes. Now that it’s clear that the show really is Going There with the unfunnily awkward Max and Annie flirtation, we at least get to enjoy Robinson making fun of it, picking apart everything wrong with Annie’s douchebag boyfriend Tad, and offering up Wendy Williams quotes to keep her pissed off at him instead of nervous about getting devoured by a monster.
I’m a little more mixed on the Barry-Max pairing, if only because Max’s sudden insecurity about being compared to Leroy in a crisis feels like it was invented to give Scott something to do this week, since the writers knew Barry would be taking over his usual annoying sidekick role. That being said, Barry does fit that particular job like a glove; between “You’ve earned this, Barry,” “Let the big man do his thang,” and inviting Max to do a “Shag, Marry, Kill,” between the two of them and Leroy himself, Akhtar had his best night so far.
After a little bit of Scooby-Doo chasing with the monster—R.I.P. Donnie—“Lockdown” comes together with a toilet-inspired plan to basically microwave the damn thing to death, finally bringing our main duo back in sync to save the day. Weirdly, that big reunion between the two of them comes off as slightly lackluster when it finally arrives, if only because, for the first time ever, it doesn’t feel like Robinson and Scott’s chemistry is the only thing keeping Ghosted afloat. Still, the sight of them creeping around, covered in baby powder (because the monster hunts moisture, and they need to be dry), and arguing over sneezes, was still funny enough to keep me laughing through the end of the episode, proving that “Lockdown” really was worth the wait. More like this, Ghosted, please.
- Just some truly ugly, atrocious-looking effects work on the monster. I’m not mad about it—it’s not like I want them blowing more money on this stuff—but it felt worth noting.
- Because Max-and-Annie has moved, probably briefly, off my shit list, I have a new least-favorite subplot: Leroy’s skepticism. You were carrying around an alien head back in the pilot, dude. Lighten up.
- Best Max-Leroy moment: Shrugging awkwardly after yelling out two different names for the lady who gets devoured by the monster early on.
- “I just wanted to say, you’re the best person I’ve ever met.” “Well, that’s only because you’ve never met yourself, champ.”—Bob, we hardly knew ye, presumably because Beck Bennett’s a busy guy.
- LaFrey has a boss, and he’s got the ability to kill everybody in the building if need be. Ghosted doesn’t need, like, a mythology—at all—but it’s nice to get a glimpse at how the Bureau interacts with the larger world.
- Jace the water guy, saving the day: “Time me.”
- Leroy: “I detect things all the time. It’s almost a curse.”
- “Plus, I love juicy gossip.”
- Max, figuring out the monster can replicate himself: “Oh my god.” Barry, not following yet: “Yeah, I know, it’s a pretty cool microscope.”
- “I did see Bigfoot when I was little.”
- Out of nowhere, Annie nails the line of the night, cheerfully quipping, “He has an idea for a magazine!” when Max asks what Tad does for work.
- The World Series means no new episode next week, folks; see you in two for “The Machine.”