Review of Episode 8 after the jump. Previous reviews can be found here.
Ok, so a lot was goin on in tonight's episode – much of it quite good and … well, the Malik Wright saga continues, which was all wrong in every. single. way.
So I guess we are skipping right on past any real healing to a fake zen Malik Wright. Not really feelin it. I guess we are supposed to believe that not only did Model Jenna save him from himself but that Malik is now deeply in love with her. And I guess we are to believe that he not only goes back to football but appears to suffer no repercussions at all. And I guess we are supposed to accept that Parker goes from cheating wife who is a voice of reason in Malik's ear in her last two appearances to a sociopathic stalker chick.
Except none of these things make any damn sense.
Meagan Good is a gifted actress. Her work in Eve's Bayou and Brick are among two of the great performances ever by a young black woman. But it is clear that she's either allowing her beauty to dictate her career or Hollywood can't see past her beauty to give her roles that allow her to do more than play hoodrat. She may not have the luxury of choosing her roles, but she might want to pull a Nia Long and take some time off until better roles present themselves.
Mara Brock Akil should know better. Good is not only wasted in the role, but Parker is an insult. I want to know who in the writers' room thought it was a good idea to follow up Malik's "no tonsils" line with a completely uncouth (and probably medically impossible) "no uterus" line from Parker. Following a line like that, it is impossible for me to take Parker seriously as a human being. She was completely reduced to "whore" in one line and it was offensive in the extreme. That kind of line is supposed to be funny, but it conjures an image that completely derails the audience's ability to stay in the scene.
Good is, frankly, better than this. The Game is better than this. But Good's casting sort of concedes that, at this point, this is apparently all that anyone wants to see her do. Worse, Parker isn't a role so much as a plot device to advance the next chapter in what seems like the neverending Malik Wright Telenovela. There is nothing about Parker that requires an actress like Good other than the fact that she's a big enough name to draw viewers. But with only three episodes, she isn't present enough to be a consistent draw. Good needs to make this the last role of this type she ever plays if she wants to be taken seriously by any audience ever again. She's dangerously close to being typecast.
Luckily, as bad as Malik's story continues to be, the "Melanie tries to be a freak" story worked completely. It plays directly to Melanie's neuroses and her tendency to make a problem out of nothing. And it brings out the best in Tia Mowry Hardrict and Pooch Hall as comedic actors.
I liked just about everything in this storyline – particularly Hardrict's spot-on brilliant and hilarious reaction to being kissed by a woman – but what I most enjoyed in this episode was the way that it showcases the burgeoning friendship between Jazz and Melanie, tentative though it may be. I continue to be impressed with how matter of factly Jazz conducts herself. And I like how Melanie treats her with increasing respect – and a healthy dose of skepticism, at the same time. It feels like a real friendship between two women who are complete and total opposites. Also – Tae Heckard is really settling nicely into the role of Jazz and is hitting more and more of the comedic beats.
What is most interesting to me is that Jazz is a character that is developing into a fascinating three-dimensional character. She's portrayed realistically and respectfully, which is in stark contrast to the way that other new characters like Parker and Donte have been constructed as, always and only, plot devices. In fact, Jazz is the only new element introduced this season that completely and totally works. This is important because it does give us some indication that the show is still capable of creating and supporting relatable, human characters. I'm hoping that next season this kind of thing is more the rule, rather than the exception.
Few other thoughts:
- The Mo'Nique opening fell completely flat except for the tossed off line about Alfonso Ribeiro playing Malik Wright in a biopic, which is hands down the funniest line all season.
- Model Jenna is not a three-dimensional character at all and completely pointless, but I have to say that I love that the character is played by a dark-skinned black woman.
- The Sunbeams scene was hilarious. The "Girl my mouth was open." and the Stevie prison pen pal jokes totally landed. Interestingly, the girls scenes and Sunbeams scenes have consistently been the best written and funniest scenes of the season. It is not a coincidence that they also tonally feel the most like the first three seasons of The Game.
- Why is Melanie making jokes about Donte? Are we to take from this that Tasha will reconcile with him? Or has Tasha just not said anything about the breakup? This felt to me like as bad case of ignoring story for an easy laugh.