What to Watch Verdict
The juxtaposition of a 13-year-old's coming of age and Dave and Elz' reluctance to grow up offers meaningful insights into how time and age affects a friendship.
🎤 The show skillfully shifts our feelings of who's "right" in Dave and Elz' argument throughout the show to show empathy to both of them.
🎤 GaTa's performance at the end to a crowd of screaming tweens offers a glorious, much-needed victory for him — and the show.
🎤 The scenes where Mike (Andrew Santino) tries to curry favor with the Jewish dad organizing his son's bar mitzvah are cute and funny, but it will be interesting to see if they lead to anything else.
This post contains spoilers for Dave.
Check out our last review here.
It’s easier to tell which of two friends is being an asshole when they’re part of a story you’re watching instead of a relationship that you’re in, but Dave has become extremely skilled at blurring the distinctions between behavior that’s reactive and proactive. In “Bar Mitzvah,” a Jewish father hires Lil Dicky (Dave Burd) for his son’s bar mitzvah, prompting a raucous trip down memory lane for the rapper and his best friend and longtime producer Elz (Travis “Taco” Bennett), whose adolescence was evidently spent either issuing deeply disturbing dares or succumbing to them. Unfortunately, Dave and Elz no longer enjoy the same camaraderie that they did as kids, and a request from Elz’ manager for credit on any song he produces threatens to widen the growing rift between them.
Regardless, Elz seems particularly cantankerous as they prepare to perform for three times their normal fee, and Dicky refuses to back down an inch, because, well, he’s Dave. Nevertheless, Dave attempts to accommodate his client, while Mike (Andrew Santino) becomes oddly obsessed with seeking his approval, lying about a kid that he does not have and manufacturing an elaborate back story about a possible autism scare and anger management problems on the tee ball field. Based on what we learned about Mike in “The Observer” — not just that he struggles to express his emotions, but has some issues with a father who he felt like he had to parent while he was growing up — the father’s compassion and support for his son clearly comes in sharp relief to his own experiences, which is probably why he blurts out “I love you” to the man. But his efforts to get into the man’s good graces feels less like a business strategy than some subconscious expression of his own parental issues, manifested in bonding with the first authority figure he’s encountered in longer than he remembers that he actually respects (or thinks he does, anyway).
After being “interviewed” by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in the episode bearing Abdul Jabbar’s name, Dave doesn’t seem especially more introspective, but he eventually begins to realize that this developing fight with Elz is stupid, thanks to a conversation with the boy who’s having his bar mitzvah and a group of his adoring, endlessly curious friends. The conversation doesn’t make him more cautious — he still divulges way too much about his own teenage shenanigans to these sheltered kids, and encourages them to misbehave, telling them that as kids they have carte blanche to use their still-developing brains as an excuse. But even if he realizes too late that he has said too much, Dave decides to make peace with Elz and at least try to figure out what’s underneath their mutual animosity and inflexibility. Before they can have that conversation, however, they interrupt Dave’s mesmerized charges performing some kind of dare or stunt that even Dave and Elz are weirded out by, breaking the tension as they start to open up to one another.
Again, what’s interesting is how Dave’s to some extent becomes our default perspective so when Elz is so hostile to him, we assume that he’s being the bigger jerk, but as the episode goes on — and especially late in the episode when we see a quick conversation between Elz and his manager — there’s more context to his request, and to their conflict. It’s indisputable that Elz has gotten more successful, maybe even moreso than Dave; he leaves after one scene to work with “Travis,” which presumably refers to rapper Travis Scott. But he no longer needs to play second fiddle to Dave, and there’s likely some feelings on both sides of that dynamic now that it’s changed.
There’s a parallel story in the episode as well with GaTa that becomes a great opportunity for him to experience a nice and well-deserved victory. At the beginning of the episode, he has to ask Dave for money, a humbling request, but after a rendezvous with a young lady, he emerges from her apartment to discover that he’s the latest victim of Los Angeles’ arcane, frequently confusing, and always punitive street parking signs. Unfortunately, his phone also runs out of power, so he hoofs it to a nearby gas station to buy a charger, and then searches desperately for a place to plug in. There’s a multilayered story being told here, of a black man navigating a city (even his own) without a vehicle or a companion, and the risks that entails above and beyond the more conventional problem of a dead phone and no transportation that must be solved. It gives his relatively mundane adventures poignancy, especially on top of the fact that he’s struggling financially, and in another disclosure that hasn’t yet been fully addressed, Dave hasn’t invited him to collaborate on music, which is something he is expecting, or at least hoping for, in reward for his loyalty and support.
The episode ends with GaTa arriving at the bar mitzvah to discover that Dave and Elz left, and the young man on the precipice of adulthood is desperate to keep guests from leaving. GaTa performs the song he recorded as a solo artist and the kids are in absolute thrall. Even at this very modest scale, it’s a level of success and recognition that makes his struggle to get his car out of a towing yard and charge his phone feel truly like the minor obstacles that he reduces so many of life’s other problems to. It’s also the show’s first unambiguous win of the season, and it feels good. Let’s hope that Dave decides to create a few more, because they're missed.
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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