When we last left the Morehouse family in the premiere episode of The Spoils of Babylon, Devon (Tobey Maguire) left the safe confines of his father’s home and sister Cynthia’s (Kristen Wiig) arms to enlist and fight in World War II.
The second chapter in this epic parody, “The War Within” opens with another grand introduction by best-selling author Eric Jonrosh (Will Ferrell), in which he regales the audience with behind-the-scenes tales and words of wisdom from a fully lived life. He describes Hollywood as a place “where dreams come true…unless you dare to dream something bold and original.”
A master of the dramatic pause—probably honed through years of James Lipton impersonations—Ferrell’s character says the latest episode is “based on my own terrifying experience…reading about the war as a child.”
And what an episode it is. Most of the scenes are wackier than the first episode’s, making the straight-laced acting seem even more over-the-top. It’s brilliant, silly comedy, if you like that sort of thing (and we do).
Devon’s plane is shot down in a dogfight in a scene that seems to use a mix of found war footage and really cheap set design, e.g., the wires are showing on the toy planes flying in the air fight. As his plane spins out of control, Devon manages to find the time to do a monologue on how he’s been a fool for love and pour himself a glass of water—from a pitcher.
After crash landing in the jungle, Devon’s taken prisoner by the Japanese, and his family is delivered bad news by military personnel, including a no-nonsense Val Kilmer, who does his best as a pipe-smoking Gen. MacArthur-wannabe. Devon, meanwhile, fights his way out of imprisonment in a scene straight out of Platoon. Now a decorated war hero, he remains in London for the rest of the war to forget about his sister and forbidden love.
His homecoming is bittersweet, and it marks a major turning point in the series’ loose plot. It’s also when this episode gets genuinely zany. As Devon steps back into his father’s (Tim Robbins) mansion, no one says a word about the big banner that reads, “Welcome home, Darin!” Neither does anyone notice anything different about Devon’s new wife, Lady Anne York (voiced by Carey Mulligan). Only voiced, by the way, because his new wife is…a mannequin.
The actors deliciously play against Mulligan’s stand-in, and just as Ryan Gosling did in Lars and the Real Girl, they treat the mannequin a real person. While Devon gets frisky with his wife in a bizarro bedroom scene, it’s Wiig who steals the episode with her hammy acting, letting the green-eyed monster rage against Lady Anne. The two fight over Devon, with Cynthia—his sister—exclaiming, “I fight this war with nature on my side!” At another point in their argument, Lady Anne retorts, “Oh…I’m a real woman.” Yes, it’s completely nonsensical, but it’s entertaining to watch.
The episode ends with Devon and Jonas looking at a new business opportunity with a type of carburetor, but the scene isn’t as funny or off-kilter as the previous ones with Lady Anne. It’s too bad this latest Spoils of Babylon episode ended on such a dud, but we’ll tune in next week in hopes of watching more catfights between Lady Anne and Cynthia.