So…life happened and I couldn't keep up with reviews. But I've had a chance to watch all the episodes I missed OnDemand, as well as tonight's episode.
Before we get into tonight's episode, here are my thoughts on what I missed:
- Overall, this back set of episodes is more consistently funny and traditionally sitcom-like than the first 10 episodes and most of Season 4. I think this has a lot to do with the end of the Tasha/Melanie feud, which lasted too long and sapped all the joy out of the show (what little there was). I am pleased, if cautiously so.
- I am not sure that I understand why Derwin and Melanie would want Tasha to carry their baby. As a human with a Y-chromosome, I want to tread lightly here but: isn't it harder to carry a baby to term after 35? Why would they want a 40-something surrogate?
- I still think Coby Bell is the series MVP and any scene he's in is going to be better than any scene without him, but the "friend" party did sort of raise the glaring issue that the show has gotten so far away from these people being friends and being in each other's lives that it, in some ways, makes no sense for this show to be on the air. It'd be nice if they found a way to reintegrate Bell into the show and find ways to have the five leads share scenes together.
- These episodes have been good for the development of Derwin as this brand new balla who is basically feelin himself a bit too much. Not blocking for Kwan is a major, in some ways unforgivable, mistake and I'm glad the show treated it as such. I am really hoping the writers use this as an opportunity to ground him (and Melanie too, for that matter) because not having them as the heart and moral compass of the show is a big part of the reason the BET version is so off-balance. Pooch Hall – always the show's weakest actor – stepped up nicely in the Kwan episode.
- I love the Tasha/Pookie relationship story. I think there is tremendous potential here. And who doesn't love the gorgeous and supremely talented Rockmond Dunbar. More of him is a good thing. Tasha Mack deserves more and so does Wendy Raquel Robinson.
- Lastly, Loretta Devine as Grandma Mack? Genius! And so emotionally rich. She and Robinson had a great scene at the end of Episode 13.
So that's it for the episodes I missed. Thoughts on Episode 17 after the jump. As always, reviews of previous episodes can be found here.
It's strange that I get to say this, but this was by far the best episode of The Game that BET has aired. Hands down. By far. No question. Everything worked from the writing, which gave every character some place to go that felt right, true to who these people are, and was emotionally satisfying as a viewer to watch. All the actors did tremendous work and it genuinely felt like the show I used to love on the CW.
Let's start with the Tasha Mack story. I really appreciated that the writers took seriously the tension between Tasha's desire to do something nice for Melanie and Derwin by being their surrogate and her genuine desire – a powerful desire – to be with Pookie. I like that they let her agonize about it a bit. I like that Tee Tee got to be the one to tell her – in a terrific, beautifully written scene – that she should for once chose herself.
But most importantly, I like that the show is finally starting to get past what has seemed like an interminably long period of treating Tasha Mack like some kind of man-repelling kryptonite. As I said in my short review of the episodes I missed, there is so much potential in Tasha and Pookie building a relationship that I'm glad they didn't take the easy way out and kill it before we even get to see how these two lifelong friends will go about the work of building a loving, committed relationship. I think Tasha has deserved that. And, again, we the audience deserve as many chances as possible to see the gorgeous and incredibly talented Rockmond Dunbar.
The Chardonnay/Jason marriage has felt at times like a gimmick designed to be a showcase for Coby Bell's amazing comic timing. But tonight's episode did a brilliant job of pulling together all of the little things that have been slowly bringing these two individuals together in one episode where Jason finally realizes that he loves her. It played perfectly as a story and Bell gave a nuanced, deeply affecting performance at every turn. That moment where he says, almost involuntarily, "God! I love you" was both surprising in the way it happened and genuinely moving as Bell played it.
In that moment, we get it. We get that Jason's struggle to say "I will give you the money" to buying Chardonnay a car to getting on a bus and being charmed by something as simple, quirky and silly as Chardonnay flipping through a magazine and pointing out what she'd like to have is all about Jason's growth as a character. It's about the breakdown, on some level, of the "Jason Pitts" that he has created in his mind. Here is a man in love with the very thing he always thought he would never love and doing things he never did for Kelly (or any woman). And he's charmed by her! Genuinely. Some very very nuanced writing with this storyline bolstered by great performances throughout by Brandy and Bell.
The one element of the episode that didn't quite work for me the way the rest of the episode did was the final scene with Melanie and Derwin. It's always been annoying to me that their "truth moments" are always half-truths. We know that this last setback has awakened in Melanie a desire to work. This is a woman that has spent the last two seasons playing this football player's wife – essentially becoming a Kelly substitute – and she's not feelin it anymore. Tia Mowry-Hardrict's ability to play these heavy scenes, to cry but not weep uncontrollably, to convey the weight of Melanie's fed-the-fuck-upness as a crushing fatigue is truly remarkable.
But I kinda wanted her to just say it. "Derwin – I need to work." I get that the show is setting this up for the next episode. And I get that, on some level, Melanie is just tired of it all. But it felt like there was too much unspoken here. I did admire how effectively Pooch Hall played the subtext of not wanting to hear those words, "I want to work", underneath Derwin's concern and comfort. Really astute acting there. We can see and feel that he's terrified to hear those words.
Overall, just an outstanding episode. Really really enjoyed it.
What did y'all think?