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'Dave' 2.04 Review: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

An encounter with the basketball icon leads to some fierce self-examination as Dave takes a look at his public persona — and private goodness.

Lil Dicky (Dave Burd) sits down with the legendary Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to discuss a song the rapper named after him.
(Image: © FX Networks)

Our Verdict

The show's skill at dissecting contemporary issues — in this case, how "good" a person is both in private and public — offers some harsh lessons for the characters and audience alike.

For

  • 🎤 GaTa's indefatigable positivity ends in some heartbreaking moments, even as he turns moments of failure and embarrassment into opportunity.
  • 🎤 Burd's performance during his moment of clarity offered a needed moment of sympathy for a character who is, as the show acknowledges, endlessly narcissistic.

Against

  • 🎤 As funny as some of the escalation is in the final scene, it felt like it was from a different series, with dumber characters.
  • 🎤 I don't like it when anything bad happens to GaTa, and the TikTokers deserve a cruel comeuppance.

This post contains spoilers for Dave.
Check out our last review here

If Dave’s writer’s block was beginning to get a bit tedious, at the beginning of “Kareen Abdul-Jabbar” he’s thankfully preoccupied by his reunion with Ally (Taylor Misiak), which ended with him staying the night on her couch. He’s eager to rekindle their friendship, but she is justifiably cagey — for multiple reasons, probably including the fact that he vomited on her shoulder wound. Nevertheless, she leaves quickly for work while Emma (Christine Ko) tries to figure out what happened between the two of them, unconvinced by their individual assurances that no romantic lines were crossed.

When Dave returns home, he learns that Kareem listened to a song that he recorded a year prior and named after the basketball legend, and he’s asked for the two of them to meet. Dave’s childish enthusiasm gets the best of him, and when he learns that Abdul-Jabbar now writes about social issues, he begins to question internally whether their conversation will hurt or help his career, especially given the fact that the song transplanted his head on the athlete’s body. After promising to spend a day with Kareem so he can see the real Dave Burd, Dave calls an unofficial conference with Emma and Mike (Andrew Santino) in order to figure out how to present himself as a Good Person. “Or you could just actually be a good person,” Emma suggests.

This feels like a very real concern not just for celebrities but anyone who lives a life that others can scrutinize in the court of public opinion. Dave of course is already navigating his way through a minefield of sociocultural issues by building a music career in a genre created by black artists, but he is possibly right to second guess himself about old social media posts given the inevitable, and constant, shifts in rules, boundaries and beliefs about what’s appropriate and what isn’t. Meanwhile, his budding self-awareness comes in stark relief with the news that Mike has taken on other clients — a pair of TikTok stars we first meet when they stage a prank claiming that a restaurant is serving horse meat, much to the chagrin of its owner.

Dave eventually confronts his insecurities more honestly after an argument with Ally where she points out that he’s still as self-centered, and self-serving, as always, after he makes a spectacle of showing up at her school to offer her a check to support arts funding. Deflated from the confrontation (“This is why when we were together, even though I loved you, I did not like you,” Ally mercilessly admits), he lowers his defenses in front of Kareem and explains that his biggest fear is to not be seen as a good person, which prompts him to be more selfish because he believes that becoming the biggest star in the world will effectively be a net gain both for the world, and allow him to be the good person he truly is. “That’s the most creative excuse for being narcissistic I’ve ever heard,” Kareem responds. But before they can maintain their peaceful accord, Kareem gets locked in Dave’s bathroom, leading to an incident and an injury that jeopardizes the article Kareem intended to write, not to mention the relationships between Dave, Mike and GaTa.

The episode simultaneously marks an important step in GaTa’s career — or so he thinks — as he continues to figure out how to make his ambitions into reality, and come to terms with a career and a lifestyle that comes with so much opportunity gatekept by others, and in the meantime disappointment and sometimes humiliation. His indefatigable optimism, and his ability to turn around failure into opportunity — if only by matter of perspective — is a constant inspiration as a viewer, but when an audition doesn’t work out like he hopes, his decision to lean into it is more than a little bit heartbreaking. The show has offered an identity to a character audiences have kind of never really seen before — a hip-hop hype man — and allowed GaTa to create something special and beloved for which audiences rightfully feel a sense of protectiveness. Honestly, it’s as much for GaTa’s gratification and fulfillment as Dave’s that we want to see Lil Dicky succeed, and to grow; but until Dave can get out of his own way, finish this album and start thinking about someone other than himself, we’ll continue to rely on him to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat — or at the very least, to find the silver lining to all of the dark clouds that obstructs the rapper’s potential success.