What to Watch Verdict
The show's ability to drill down into the most sophomoric behavior and peel back gender, race and socioeconomic truths continues to be unparalleled.
🎤 The show's different narrative threads explore great different ideas and still all merge effortlessly for larger thematic ideas.
🎤 Mike's explosive, purposeless anger offers a great sendup of internet outrage.
🎤 While it makes sense to explore Dave's friendship with Benny to raise questions about his other relationships, there's not enough GaTa in this season.
Despite breaking the cycle of self-imposed abstinence — at least with other people — at the end of “Antsy,” Dave (Dave Burd) is unfortunately no further along in the creative process on his album. Nevertheless, he seems to be having plenty of fun with producer Benny Blanco during a sleepover where the two of them play, wrestle and shower naked to pass the time, leaving his manager and roommate Mike (Andrew Santino) alone in their label-subsidized Hollywood hills mansion to take selfies and deal with news that his father is moving in with his little brother. But while Dave reluctantly invites GaTa (GaTa) and a friend to check out Benny’s house, Mike launches a stakeout with their doorbell camera to discover which neighbor left a note scolding them for dropping packing peanuts on the street.
When GaTa and Tone arrive at Benny’s, Dave is uncomfortable continuing to behave they were beforehand, prompting a well-deserved confrontation about white privilege and some important cultural differences between them and their guests with regard to race and masculinity. But when Benny tries to force Tone to look at his behind, the EMT points out a troubling looking growth that does not seem related to the bubble gum that Dave stuck in there, or the peanut butter he put on top to remove it. This entire storyline comes at a unexpectedly timely moment in the larger cultural discourse about male friendships and how those relationships can be interpreted (or reinterpreted or misinterpreted) as gay or homoerotic, but the behavior between Dave and Benny serves as a more vivid reminder that there are different spaces in same sex friendships where some men feel more and less comfortable because of external pressure, cultural norms or just a lack of other spaces in their life for intimacy.
Dave, for example, is comfortable telling GaTa that he loves him and receiving love and support from him in return, but refrains from crossing the line into a different kind of physical intimacy with him that he does frequently with Benny. It’s a threshold that, broadly speaking, exists at different points in all of a person’s various relationships, but the juxtaposition of these two people who are both important to Dave’s life — and witnessed by Tone, who views Dave as GaTa’s meal ticket but questions the sincerity of their friendship as truly mutual — throws them into sharper narrative relief. Meanwhile, Mike’s crusade against his mystery neighbor eventually blows up in his face, leaving him sulking alone on their patio when Dave calls to wish him a happy birthday. That Dave is distracted by news of Benny’s diagnosis during the call feels less important than the conclusion to their conversation, where Mike doesn’t reciprocate Dave’s “I love you” sign off.
Theirs isn’t a relationship marked by a deeper, truer affection and intimacy, which is likely the reason that Dave has cultivated these other friendships while his dynamic with Mike remains distant, and little more than professional. At the same time, Dave wrestles with the possible news that Ally (Taylor Misiak) might have blocked his number, and gets rebuffed by Benny for another sleepover because he’s “working with Ed Sheeran for the next two weeks.” He goes to confront Ally, whose name he saw on the check-in sheet at his dermatologist’s office, and discovers that she’s high on painkillers after having a mole removed. They share a nice moment as he volunteers to replace her bandages, but he promptly (if accidentally) ruins it.
The title for “The Observer” directly refers to the author of the letter left on Mike’s trash can, but it also feels like an essential, untapped presence that perhaps each character needs to consult as her or she makes choices: can Dave and Benny continue to drop trou and cut up, call each other “Chuck” and put gum in their asses? Should GaTa hero-worship Dave as the gatekeeper for his own ambitions? Will Mike realize what’s inside him that leads to others isolating themselves from him? The series maintains its incisive eye and skillfully digs deeper into these characters, revealing more about them than we might have expected was possible, while also encouraging us to see ourselves, what we do, and what we want, in their shortcomings, successes and trials.
Todd Gilchrist is a Los Angeles-based film critic and entertainment journalist with more than 20 years’ experience for dozens of print and online outlets, including Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, Entertainment Weekly and Fangoria. An obsessive soundtrack collector, sneaker aficionado and member of the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, Todd currently lives in Silverlake, California with his amazing wife Julie, two cats Beatrix and Biscuit, and several thousand books, vinyl records and Blu-rays.
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