House of Lies Review: "Our Descent Into Los Angeles" (Episode 1.06)
Let’s check in again on what’s destined to be one of the more embarrassing IMDB entries for almost everybody involved. It’s probably too late for House of Lies to turn itself around. “Our Descent Into Los Angeles" is the halfway point for the first season, and even though it wasn’t as actively obnoxious as last week’s episode, it’s still a deeply conflicted half hour of television that tried both my patience and intelligence. The writers don’t seem to understand the show’s strength, which is the great cast, and instead of ever finding an authentic voice they defer to “outrageous” situations and over-the-top comedy. It’s all just tiresome.
This episode skips the client of the week format, focusing on the personal relations of Marty (Don Cheadle) and Jeannie (Kristen Bell). Marty’s home life has been the only recurring plotline that’s even intermittently interesting, but even with a Roscoe storyline nominally at the forefront “Los Angeles” is a dramatic miss.
Too much of this episode just doesn’t make sense. April (Megalyn Echikunwoke), the New York stripper from the first episode, surprisingly reappears in Marty’s office in Los Angeles. She didn’t just fly to LA to perform an impromptu below-the-desk blowjob, though; she’s up for second degree murder charges in New York because a one-night stand died after chugging a bottle of GBH out of her fridge. Oh, and the one night stand was a lady, because all hot women are bicurious in the Maxim-ized world of House of Lies. She was also a cop, because why not. And of course Greg Norbert (Greg Germann), the corporate stooge who hopes to buy Marty’s company and force him out because April made his wife realize she was a lesbian, walks in on the two. Maybe if the show piles on unnecessary details the audience won’t realize how nonsensical this entire story is.
“Los Angeles” also stumbles with Jeannie’s storyline. At first I liked the abrupt reveal of Jeannie’s hidden fiancé. We hadn’t gotten a glimpse into her personal life before then, and the fact that she keeps him secret from her coworkers made her seem rightfully embarrassed by them and their attitudes. This episode makes it clear that it’s the other way around, though. Jeannie doesn’t really want to marry this guy. That might carry some weight if we knew absolutely anything about him (seriously, do we even know his name?) or his relationship with Jeannie. As is it’s impossible to care about Jeannie’s gradual transformation into the Runaway Bride. At least it’s good to see the creepy twins from Observe and Report get some work as the pushy cake chefs.
Even the subplot with Marty’s son Roscoe (Donis Leonard Jr.) is a dead end. At school Roscoe kisses a boy named Caleb, who looks like a middle school Pete Doherty and whose dad is a rock star and “90s grunge big money man donor” to the private school. Caleb accuses Roscoe of sexual harassment, and the normally understanding Principal Gita (Mo Gaffney) threatens expulsion. Marty uses Clyde (Ben Schwartz) and Doug (Josh Lawson) to dig up dirt on the school, but before he can use it at the meeting with Gita his dad (Glynn Turman) and ex-wife (Dawn Olivieri) turn on him. They almost immediately make the entire meeting about the suicide of Marty’s mother, a pivotal event the show regularly teases without ever fully addressing. And before this episode can truly dig into it Caleb appears and confesses that he actually kissed Roscoe. So problem solved, and this whole episode was just a roundabout way to raise the issue of Marty’s mom without really dealing with it. Like Jeannie this show fears commitment.
“Our Descent Into Los Angeles” demonstrates everything that’s wrong with House of Lies. It’s obnoxious and asinine at its worst, and at its best it’s still a frustrating half-hour that can’t keep a steady tone, refuses to develop its characters and avoids furthering what few on-going stories it’s introduced. And we’ll back next week hoping for any sign of improvement.