This week’s Sirens was a strange and slight episode, but one that managed to stick its landing against all odds. I think that’s in part thanks to the attempt to pull away a bit from Johnny’s relationship and familial woes and again start drawing in the characters that have heretofore stuck to the margins of the series.
In particular, the writers of this edition decided to bring the female EMT known as Voodoo closer to center stage. Poor naïve Brian develops a romantic attachment to her, thrilling at how he doesn’t know what she’s going to say next and tending to overlook the fact that she’s weirdly gruff and morbid. Not to mention completely asexual. Or as she puts it, “Sex … bleccch … not gonna happen.” As slightly uncomfortable as it was to watch young Brian try to negotiate a date with Voodoo, and eventually win her over by bringing the titular finger over to her house, nestled in a birdhouse, the payoff was worth it.
The rest of the episode explored relationships with one’s elders through some pretty hilarious means. There was the rush to help out a “regular,” a senior citizen named Harriet who often needs help getting to the doctor and always greets the EMTs with fresh-baked cookies. Watching the usually gruff and crass Johnny and Hank pour on the charm with this little old lady all for the sake of a small treat was a great excuse to let the actors show off a bit of their comedic chops.
On the flipside of that was Johnny and Hank dealing with their respective parents. Hank, in hopes of avoiding bearing the weight of his mom’s complaints about a recent kerfuffle at church, brings his boss Cash along to her house for dinner. What he didn’t expect was that Cash and his mom would bump heads the whole time, arguing over the meal … or that that would somehow signal the beginning of a romance between the two. I’m very interested to see how this plays out in future episodes.
Johnny, meanwhile, ends up babysitting for the little brother he didn’t know he had—the young son of his estranged father. It was a pretty throwaway piece of plotting but helped put the always welcome and hilarious Lenny Clarke back into the series. No one else could deliver the line (to Theresa), “You don’t understand. You’re a broad. Sorry … a chick,” quite like he can.
This episode of Sirens provides further proof that the traditional three-act structure of sitcoms doesn’t have to be the template anymore. You can play with the formula or eschew it completely and still come up with some genuine laughs and sincere emotion. You never quite know what you’re going to get from episode to episode of Sirens. That may throw off the more timid TV viewer, but for this writer, I think that uncertainty is its greatest strength.
Robert Ham is a Portland-based freelance writer and regular contributor to Paste, and suggests that you run when you hear them sirens coming. You can follow him on Twitter.