Read my review of Episode 11 after the jump. You can read previous reviews here.
With only one episode left in the season, the writers are clearly trying to wrap up this season's stories and set the stage for a possible Season 5. Tonight's episode did a really good job of doing that and still keeping things relatively light.
The season-long Malik the Asshole storyline is finally coming to a head. But it was nice to see Malik actually try to deal with the consequences of his behavior and for characters to remind him that this is a mess of his own making. I liked that Derwin was able to talk Malik into the meeting with Michael Beach and I particularly liked that last moment where Malik calls Tasha Mack for help. This is the kind of thing that needed to happen more often with Malik this season, but it is nice to see that the writers are actually capable of telling Malik's story and make him feel like a real human being. This episode, in fact, was the very best episode of the season with a Malik Wright storyline. But it is episode 11, so clearly that was much too late. But we've discussed that all season, no? Moving on…
Pooch Hall did a terrific job with that wordless reaction to Michael Beach's "You got a wife too, Derwin?" question, but I have to say that Derwin's whole "I'm tired of carrying Malik" shit might have gone down lovely had he actually ever carried Malik. We haven't seen any of that this season; in fact, the one time Malik asks for his support he doesn't even show up.
Presumably, Derwin's been the franchise player for a little while, so I guess the "carrying" happened in the lapsed time between Seasons 3 and 4. But the show has always made it clear that Malik was the star of the team and that he played a critical role in Derwin's development (not to mention a little favoritism from a former coach of Derwin's and Jason's aging out of the game). It felt wrong to me that Derwin so easily folded in that meeting, even though Hall played it beautifully. But I guess I can accept that the new pressures make him a little less compassionate.
Story two was another wacky Melanie obssession – this time, it's having a baby. The show weirdly doesn't address the lie that Melanie told her mother at the end of Episode 9, but it is just as well since that scene didn't make any damn sense.
As much as I think it's completely too fast for Melanie and Derwin to have a baby so soon after major baby-related drama, it is totally in their characters to jump first and ask questions later.
A baby on a show of this type would be an interesting challenge. Mara Brock Akil handled the transition for Toni Childs on Girlfriends quite well and managed to work the baby in in a way that didn't wreck the flow of the show. In fact, it helped to further Toni's character. But Jill Marie Jones left the show shortly after that so who knows if the show could have sustained that.
The Game will have an even bigger challenge because there will actually be two young children on the show, or at least, could be. The logistics of that, storywise, will have to be addressed. With Melanie and Derwin's baby likely to be a regular presence at some point, the show will need to accept the fact that Derwin has two kids. I mean, we haven't even seen DJ since Episode 5. It would be weird in future seasons for only one of Derwin's children to be a regular presence, though I suppose it could be done.
All that to say, it looks like this is going to be the major storyline for Melanie and Derwin in Season 5, so I hope the writers use it as an opportunity to move Melanie toward really dealing with the fact that Derwin already has a child.
The third story, Tasha dating Mario Van Peebles as a suave dude with terminal cancer, worked better on television than it does as an idea. It's a more traditional sitcom one-off story designed to let Tasha blow off steam but also heal a bit. And it really worked almost entirely due to Wendy Raquel Robinson's total commitment to the absurdity of it. She's a gifted actress and she managed to sell the story so much that the final moment when she reads the note and cries actually worked on an emotional level.
That said, I'd like in Season 5 to see more of Tasha the businesswoman. So much of who Tasha Mack has been on the show is a no-nonsense businesswoman trying to establish herself. We are meant to believe that she's at a certain level now that she manages a major player like Derwin, but we've seen so little of what that actually looks like.
And a lot of that has to do with the fact that each character is getting storylines but there isn't enough relating between the characters. Every scene doesn't have to be just about the drama or the comedy but can also be about the lives of the characters. What exactly does Melanie do all day? Can we see Derwin at practice or in the lockerroom (elements that made frequent appearances during the first three seasons)? Do any of the characters work anymore?
I'm sure the budget cuts means that there are only so many sets that the show can have and this limits what the writers can write, but it seems to me that cutting out the workplace elements of the show makes The Game even less about the game than it was in its first three seasons.
Anyway, what did y'all think? Only one more episode to go, how are you feeling about this season and the prospects for next season.