After two disappointing (read: dull) episodes in the Funny or Die/IFC miniseries parody, The Spoils of Babylon, the show rebounded this week with its latest installment, “The Age of the Bastard.” The humor returned through a combination of over-the-top melodrama, slapstick comedy, silly non sequiturs and one Haley Joel Osment—who, after this turn as the maniacal Winston Morehouse, may finally shed the remnants of the Sixth Sense mantle for good.
Although bestselling author and miniseries creator Eric Jonrosh (Will Ferrell) seems to be devolving into madness with each subsequent introduction (brandishing a gun at the camera in this episode was a tip-off), he’s very clear about the star of the show:
“Tonight, you’ll see some fine directing from myself, and some decent acting by a cast that I personally put together for Spoils,” Jonrosh says. “Please, dear God, please, pay attention to the young actor playing Winston. His name is Marty Comanche, and I found him sleepwalking through Laurel Canyon high on mescaline. It was a very happy accident that he could act.” Happy accidents, indeed, Haley Joel.
As the episode begins, the country is on the cusp of the Vietnam War. Morehouse Oil is in turmoil as Devon (Tobey Maguire) wages a war of words against the company and his sister, Cynthia (Kristen Wiig), who’s threatened to cut off funding to his underwater ocean lab. She visits to make peace, traveling through the sea on an awesomely cheesy submarine set.
Ripping a page from the Portlandia playbook, Cynthia proceeds to order the prime rib, among a long list of other foods, from a tuxedo-clad waiter who suddenly appears from the bowels of the small sub. Devon, who’s looking for the vegan options on the menu (while steering the vehicle) is reminded by the waiter, “Come on man, it’s an underwater steakhouse. Gimme a break.”
The siblings argue about the future of Morehouse Industries. Cynthia begs Devon to stop his campaign against the company’s offshore drilling, chemical warfare development centers and munitions factories. “Take that away, and what are we?” she asks.
At the ocean station, Cynthia becomes enraged when she meets Dixie Mellonworth (Jessica Alba), a marine biologist and Devon’s lover. The two have a cat fight for the ages, making Barney’s and Marshall’s Slap Bet on How I Met Your Mother look like patty-cakes.
Devon and Cynthia eventually strike a deal to run Morehouse without working together in close proximity. With Devon regaining power, Winston is the odd man out. In an over-the-top sequence that’s oddly reminiscent of Ingmar Bergman’s Persona, Cynthia tells Winston that he’s being sent to Saudi Arabia. In the heated exchange, he learns from his mother that Devon—the person he despises most—is his father/uncle.
Winston schemes to destroy Devon and also deliver nuclear weapons and mysterious “documents” to the Shah of Iran in exchange for the oil that Morehouse Conglomerated needs. The episode sets up the series-ending climax at Cynthia’s arts gala in New York.
“The Age of the Bastard” isn’t perfect: Devon’s daughter, Marianne, who’s becoming a pop sensation in Europe, adds nothing to an already nebulous story. Characters are killed off haphazardly, with their deaths explained as afterthoughts. (RIP Dixie and Chet, Cynthia’s long-suffering husband, played by Michael Sheen.)
The episode, however, is saved from mediocrity by a number of weird, random scenes—like an animated graphic novel dream sequence or a general (Steve Tom) confessing his love for another general (Val Kilmer) after handing Winston the “documents.” The overwrought dialogue, handled expertly by Osment and Wiig, especially, helps the sometimes rambling script along. The episode brings back the fun and silliness that were missing from the previous two episodes, and we can only hope that Eric Jonrosh’s final chapter closes the Morehouse saga with a bang and not a whimper.