On the pilot of Ben and Kate, the story of a reunited brother and sister helping to raise a child was heartwarming for sure, but lacked the comedic punch that was expected. Star Nat Faxon went for a broad comedic approach, but it just sort of fell flat at times. The show’s second episode “Bad Cop/Bad Cop” combines the family dynamic with much stronger comedy, yet it never feels like it goes overboard with either aspect.
This time around, the attitudes have changed, as Ben is the more focused character, while Kate is constantly on edge. Kate has told her daughter’s school that she lives in a different area so that Maddie will be able to go to the school that she and Ben went to as kids. Thanks to Ben making Maddie late for school every day that week, Ben and Kate go in for a conference with the principal Geoff Feeney (yes, Mr. Feeney). Feeney is played by Alan Ruck, and the show throws in a hilarious reference to Ferris Bueller as Ben explains how he used to prank call the principal’s office all the time. There is a school board meeting that Feeney wants the two to come to. A poor choice of words means that there will be an after-school-board party at Kate’s fake house.
Watching Kate freak out, since she’s horrible at lying and afraid of authority figures, is the highlight of the episode. Dakota Johnson as Kate brings more laughs during her nervous attempts to seem normal than anything previously in the show. Faxon also scales back just enough to make his character not as over-the-top as he was in the pilot. Ben’s best friend Tommy also gets toned down a bit as well, which was also badly needed. As always, Lucy Punch’s BJ steals any scene she appears in and the dynamic between her and Maddie remains one of the show’s highlights.
Speaking of Maddie, Ben and Kate never makes her the focus, instead making the relationship between the two main characters what matters most. Maggie Elizabeth Jones as Maddie is adorable, but after seeing her in We Bought a Zoo, where she is put too much in the forefront of the story, let’s just say she’s better placed sporadically throughout the episode.
“Bad Cop/Bad Cop” shows more behind this dynamic of Ben and Kate. An opening conversation about how to let each other know when they have someone over is awkward and one of the funnier scenes between the two, as they use waffles and chess as metaphors for sex.
One thing that “Bad Cop/Bad Cop” doesn’t do as well as the pilot is show glimpses of their childhood. It’s talked about briefly, how their family was filled with screaming, which we also saw in the pilot. But seeing their dysfunctional and apparently harmful childhood life would give these two characters more depth.
This second Ben and Kate episode irons out some of the wrinkles the series had in the first episode, calming down some characters, while making others even more insane. Ben and Kate is still a show trying to find its legs, but it seems on the right track so far.