Monday, April 2, 2012

'The Mayan Apocalypse' almost devastates House of Lies

Showtime brings the first season of House of Lies to an end with a near-apocalyptic series of events in "The Mayan Apocalypse." Using a framework story set at the party celebrating the acquisition of the firm by MetroCapital, the episode flashes back to show how The Pod copes with events moving towards that moment. Greg Norbert (Greg Germann) leaks to the team that a massive, class action sexual harassment suit could bring down Marco (Griffin Dunne), the sneaky mastermind of the deal. They search in vain for a woman willing to step forward. That is, until Jeannie (Kristen Bell) herself fesses up, rallying others around her, and the merger is killed.

Jeannie has been an interesting character to watch this season. Played expertly by Bell, she begins as a tough, secretive person, and ends as one who will expose parts of herself for the right reasons. She is never going to be the typical girl, perhaps, feeling more comfortable in the boys' club. But by getting in touch with a shameful moment, one that bonds her to her "sisters," she saves the day. Then she breaks off her engagement because, well, accepting the truth about this makes her accept the truth about not being ready for marriage, too.

To celebrate, she goes shot for shot with Marty (Don Cheadle). Why does she do this? Could it be that she just needs to get drunk after a long, difficult evening? Could it be to wash away the embarrassment, even if only for one night? Or is it to prove to Marty, The Pod, and herself that she is still as strong as ever? That admitting a sexual affair does not weaken her or her ability to do her job? Whatever the reason, it's a moving scene that certainly conveys a message, even if it is one left open to interpretation. Awards bait for Bell, perhaps?

It's gratifying to see the merger killed. If this hadn't happened, there is no telling where season two might go. Much is still up in the air, but at least Marty's entire world isn't destroyed in a single episode.

That doesn't mean that he escapes "The Mayan Apocalypse" unscathed. In fact, Marty faces a very difficult decision in this episode. He must choose whether to spend his time looking for ways to stop the merger or help his son, Roscoe (Donis Leonard Jr.) with a school project. He picks work over family, naively believing that family will wait, as they always do. However, this time it's one push too many. Not only does an upset Roscoe choose to live with his mother, but Marty's father, Jeremiah (Glynn Turman), is so ashamed of Marty's actions, that he leaves, too, at least, for awhile. As Marty's work life rights itself, his personal world falls apart.

How long will it take Roscoe and Jeremiah to forgive Marty and return? They are certain to do so. Jeremiah just needs some time to cool down, understandably. Roscoe's mother, Monica (Dawn Olivieri), has shown no characteristics of being a decent mom. Even if Marty doesn't always give Roscoe the priority he deserves, Marty is a much better parent than Monica because he accepts Roscoe and loves him unconditionally, and is usually dedicated to doing right by him. Balance will be restored. It will just take some time.

House of Lies has more special effects than most of its peers, frequently doing a freeze frame that Marty will walk and talk through. "The Mayan Apocalypse" takes this technique to the next level. Not only does Marty go into the clouds to turn around a plane, he also stages an elaborate massacre, shooting down many of the party attendees. These fantasy sequences enhance the show, and seeing them ratcheted up into something so elaborate makes for a satisfying finale.

House of Lies airs on Showtime. If you like my reviews, please follow me on Twitter!

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