If the previous episode of Derek was concerned primarily with giving the heartstrings a tug, this third edition of season two would prefer to unnerve you completely. Whether that’s by Derek wandering the common room of Broad Hill proudly showing off Hannah’s positive pregnancy test or the idea of an elderly woman getting waxed in preparation for a big date (“Like a naked mole rat yawning,” as Kev described it), no disturbing stone is left unturned.
The fulcrum upon which this whole episode spins, though, is the varying shades of love and relationships. There’s the warm, happy glow of Hannah and Tom getting excited about their baby to be, the nervous flutters that Tom’s grandmother was feeling after being asked on a date by Derek’s father, Vicky’s troubles with awful boyfriends, and Kev’s woes at getting dumped by his lady love.
The last one provides the most troubling parts of the show so far. Ricky Gervais relies on one of the most overdone tropes in comedy: making fun of the fat girl. Kev’s now-ex-girlfriend is an obese woman not given a line of dialogue in her short scene and made fun of at every turn. After uncomfortably getting into the caravan, Kev comments, “Hardly any room in there for me now. It’s like squeezing into a tin of Spam.” And that’s one of the nicer things he says. It’s all well and good for Gervais to direct the fat jokes at himself, but when he starts pointing his guns at others, it just seems cruel.
I’m failing to see the point of introducing Geoff as the new caretaker if all his character is going to do is make the rest feel bad about themselves. Gervais is obviously setting him up to be the fall guy for someone else’s huge triumph a la The Office’s Chris Finch, but three more episodes of his smugness is going to be hard to slog through.
The best moments the third episode were simply overshadowed by the combination of the scatological and the mean streak that ran through it. There was something genuinely funny about Vicky’s stunned reaction to being asked to do a wax job on Tom’s grandmother. The young assistant looked like she’d been given a cancer diagnosis and sounded genuinely horrified when she told Hannah, “We never speak of this again, okay?” Never content to let a good thing go untrammeled, Gervais lets Kev gross everyone out with his discussion of the old woman’s hairless, ahem, situation. Although the move away from the treacly and sentimental was nice, replacing it with the discomforting might not have been the best decision.
Robert Ham is a Portland-based freelance writer and regular contributor to Paste. You can follow him on Twitter.