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Thursday, April 11, 2013

House of Lies Implodes in Season Finale

Article first published as House of Lies Implodes in Season Finale on TheTVKing.

Showtime's House of Lies has spent two years crafting a set of characters, known as The Pod, who viewers love. Even while the rest of the world, bosses and clients, conspire against them, these four slingers of bull stick together and triumph over any foes. It's an inspiring group, full of teasing and affection. They may not be professional, but they get the job done.

That is, until the second season finale, "Til Death Do Us Part," when The Pod implodes in a spectacular and messy fashion.

"Til Death Do Us Part" is an interestingly structured episode, beginning with The Pod gathering for a wedding photo with one of their own, Doug (Josh Lawson), and his bride, Sarah (Jenny Slate, Saturday Night Live). From there, we get a non-linear look at each of the four main characters' day. Some, we only see briefly, while others get a longer segment. But it all culminates when the story returns to the photo shoot, where it all goes horribly wrong.

Marty (Don Cheadle) is an extremely self-destructive person. He is so focused on his own wants that he ignores everyone else's feelings, not realizing that he's making enemies that will come back to haunt him. He thinks he is bullet proof. And yet, the choices he makes, screwing over clients, ignoring those he should be caring about, and betraying his boss, are ones that hurt him, almost as if he doesn't want to bullet proof, and is turning the gun on himself until something can pierce the armor.

Is Marty really so unhappy that he wants to destroy his own life? If so, why not make positive changes, rather than purposely setting himself up for failure? Yes, the only way Marty could ever be happy at this point is to rebuild himself from the ground up. But his tear down is painful to watch, and the way he drives everyone away by the end of this season is rough.

He does still have his father, Jeremiah (Glynn Turman), and his son, Roscoe (Donis Leonard Jr.), by his side. But he can't be honest with them, so how can he ever really be connected to his family?

We have Jeannie (Kristen Bell), whom professes her love for Marty, and he blows her off. Why? Marty does love her. We see this. His reflection in the window scolds him for acting like a fool, and yet, Marty leaves her an insulting voice mail, rather than apologizing. At least Marty realizes that he needs her, but once again, he can't bring himself to admit it out loud, and is hurting both her and himself.

Then there's Clyde (Ben Schwartz), who looks up to Marty and fancies him a friend. Yet, Marty totally ignores him and screws up a project that Clyde worked very hard on. It's sickening that Clyde stabs Marty in the back, ratting him out to Julianne (Bess Armstrong), taking a client, and jumping ship to work for Marty's psychotic ex-wife, Monica (Dawn Olivieri). But Marty deserves this sort of treatment.

Doug is a special case because, while Marty does ignore him, Doug still holds Marty in high regard. Doug accepts Marty for who he is, like Jeannie, but actually goes even further. However, Doug has Sarah in his ear now, who is not a good influence on him, and so he, too, decides not to join Marty in his new venture.

It's hard to even understand how Tamara (Nia Long) fits in. I don't think she is playing Marty, per se, but she does use him for comfort when her own marriage goes on the rocks. Professionally, she respects him, but doesn't show him all her cards. They have a weird relationship. I can't quite figure out if she cares about him or not, or how much she might care. I also don't expect her to play a big role going forward, though would be pleasantly surprised if I'm wrong.

Things will have to improve for Marty next season; they can't possible get any worse, can they? He will surely make up Jeannie, whether he admits his feelings for her or not. Clyde will regret going with Monica, who is a nightmare, and come crawling back. And Doug will ditch Sarah, who is crazy and manipulative, which will free him up to return to Marty without the bad advice in his ear.

However, would a return mean that they are all as dysfunctional as Marty? Is it good that a bunch of misfits have each other, or do they just all enable one another's poor behavior?

"Til Death Do Us Part" has a few very sweet scenes. Doug tells Marty how he feels about him, despite Marty trying to dismiss him. Clyde admits that Doug is his best friend and finally says some nice things, which do feel genuine. Jeannie saves Marty's bacon. And the disaster at the end is hard to watch, but it's also a lot of splashy fun.

All in all, I am left pretty depressed by House Of Lies' finale. But it is great fun to watch, and it certainly leaves me excited for next year. Season two is an improvement over season one, more polished and tightly written, with stakes viewers can care about, and I can't wait to see what is in store for season three.

House of Lies will return to Showtime for a third run next winter.

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