The emotional arc of the Season Two finale will bring you to tears both with its unvarnished honesty, exuberant wish fulfillment and some absolutely sizzling music gluing it all together.
- 🎶 GaTa is a person and a character that audiences absolutely love, and the rapper/ actor gives audiences amazing new complexities.
- 🎶 Lil Dicky's VMAs performance absolutely would have been unforgettable if people saw it on the real awards show.
- 🎶 Unless Lil Dicky is releasing 'Penith' along with the season finale, the only shortcoming of the episode is that we can't listen to the songs afterward.
This post contains spoilers for Dave.
Check out our last review here.
The finale of Dave Season 2 offers a kind of surprise that looking back at the 19 episodes in front of it, you should have expected but also never could. After the end of “Enlightened Dave,” Lil Dicky was creatively renewed, with an opportunity to deliver the legendary, world-changing album that he always believed he had inside him. What “Dave” immediately demonstrates is an important truth about the recording industry: namely, that no level of vision can compensate for the absence of a healthy marketing budget — especially on the same week that Ariana Grande decides to drop a secret album.
Consequently, Lil Dicky’s long-gestating album Penith debuts lower on the Billboard charts than the height of an actual billboard in downtown Los Angeles where the rapper decides to publicly crucify himself. Mike (Andrew Santino) and producer Benny Blanco try to reassure him, but Dave’s accomplishment understandably means less if he’s the only one celebrating it. GaTa, of course, tries to spotlight the silver lining on this dark cloud, but when Dave shuts him down, consumed by failure and a perceived lack of support from his record label, the hype man and hopeful rapper begins to spiral downward. GaTa’s frustrations intensify when his mother asks his sister (instead of him) to add her name to the deed of their family home, a reminder that his gander is no substitute for a consistent paycheck, at least right now. Secretly selling Lil Dicky fans VIP passes to the Penith album release party, GaTa’s hustle is tireless, but the bottomless well of positivity that has made him so indispensable to Dave is starting to run dry.
If the album release left Dave underwhelmed, he hopes to rebound with a spellbinding performance at the MTV VMAs — that is, if Ariana Grande’s last-minute decision to appear doesn’t cut his stage time out completely. Fearing the worst, he decides to do something truly shocking in order to prevent the network from dragging him off camera: get a doctor to perform surgery, live, to correct his hypospadias. Mike is energized by this fearless display of showmanship, but when GaTa tries to make amends to his customers by giving them a tour of the VMA set, Dave sends them all away. It’s not until afterward that Dave learns from GaTa’s mom that he seems to be experiencing a bipolar episode, and he should probably check in on his friend.
Dave arrives at GaTa’s house to discover that he used the $8,000 Dave gave him as a loan to buy a BMW, and plans to shoot a music video with Emma (Christine Ko) as director. Dave tries to comfort GaTa, but they end up fighting; this feels like the final straw for the self-absorbed rapper, who has throughout the journey towards Penith ignored, neglected or minimized the contributions of his friends in his bid for superstardom. If he can’t summon GaTa’s support, then maybe he’s really gone too far in his pursuit of greatness.
What’s extraordinary about the sequence is how it dances this remarkable tightrope with the audience as they worry for GaTa’s well-being, but also litigate the two artists’ perception of themselves, each other, their relationship, and goals that quite frankly should be shared. Dave is certainly wrong more often than he’s right, but there’s a lot of complexity to the dynamic between a rapper and hype man, especially when one is white and the other is black. Eventually, Emma intervenes to point out that Lil Dicky once again is hijacking everyone else’s time for his purposes, but to be a little fair to the rapper, you get the sense that his intention was to apologize, not commandeer GaTa’s time (or his music video).
As Dave prepares for his history-making VMAs performance, he seems to have learned a few lessons — at least enough to pause and appreciate people like Elz (Travis “Taco” Bennett) and Mike who have stood by his side throughout his career. Burd has always been an emotionally expressive person, even if he frequently channels that expression through humor, but there’s a sincerity from him that feels new, and almost like growth. In terms of what happens with him and GaTa, I won’t spoil it, but what Dave has explored so successfully is how artists can have a singular vision, but executing that vision almost always takes a village. There’s a reason that Burd’s name adorns the logo at the beginning of every episode, but it’s because of all of these characters that we watch the show, and perhaps most importantly, we care about him. And minor personal success or public Billboard failure, a cathartic episode like this brings everything that preceded it into even sharper focus, and makes audiences even more excited than before about what’s to come.
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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