In Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll, studio time is usually reserved for bickering, sulking and bringing up (Johnny Rock’s) past and present fuck-ups; the actual making of music had been put on the back burner until now, even though the pressure is mounting after the official signing of a contract. In this week’s episode, the studio acts as a kind of Pandora’s Box: it doesn’t contain all the evils in the world, but it seems to house a lot of unspoken truths Johnny and Gigi desperately need to confront. But hey—at least this time a solid tune was born from a sensitive, awkward situation just waiting to happen when Gigi casually asks Johnny, “Dad, do you love me?” with a lot of hope in her eyes and doubts in her heart. Johnny, seconds ago as clear and gentle as we’ve ever witnessed him, starts to stumble over his words like a falling drunk, finding all the wrong ways to articulate his feelings. Gigi, who had been excited by her horny hoard of Twitter followers and her father’s new piano melody, storms out of the studio feeling disheartened. Could this emotional stare down have been the perfect formula for a great song?
While Johnny and Gigi gracelessly side-step their complicated relationship, Ira is hashing out a cunning plan to get The Heathens back on the front page—successfully so. When news of Johnny Rock’s death-by-chicken-bone is made official on stiffs.com, the bands’ album sales go up by an impressive 400%. Meaning they’ve sold 402 albums in less than a day. Not too shabby! That’s why they all decide to stick with the story for a couple of days, to generate some more hype, creating the perfect buzz for Gigi and the reformed Heathens to take to the stage for the very first time. The chicken bone story isn’t rock and roll enough for Johnny, but as he comes up with other sensational suggestions, he realizes they’ve all been “done”: Private plane crash (Lynyrd Skynyrd), electrocution (Leslie Harvey), a helicopter accident (Stevie Ray Vaughan) or drowning (Jeff Buckley). They eventually settle on Flash having shot Johnny. While the rock-history references, the throwing about of legendary names and the glam-rock get up is what gives the show an edgy, insider feel, it doesn’t come across as natural or smooth. Johnny and Ava’s fight about his sleeping with Joan Jett and her having crossed pretty much every member of Bon Jovi but the asshole bass player from her list was a bit blasé. In this episode, these band moments and nostalgic winks feel like mere fillers—a few minutes of wasting time before going back to the core of the story: a strained, not entirely convincing father and daughter relationship in the making.
The day before the big gig at New York’s Bowery Ballroom, Gigi has a bit of a freak out and goes to hide out on the roof top while everyone else is busy organizing and preparing. Johnny comforts her with a hug and some words of wisdom and Gigi, having duly noted her father’s fear of change, tries to express her loyalty to him, her support in bringing his name back to life by telling him the biblical tale of Jonah and the Whale.
“Dad, listen to me, I am your whale. I’m your second chance. I’m spitting you back on to the shore.”
The next day, as Gigi and the The Heathens are getting ready to hit the stage, Johnny shows up. Now this is where I think the plot was lost a bit—it was never actually explained whether the chicken bone story was changed to Johnny having been shot, it’s unclear whether the public is now aware of it having been a hoax. Flash offers an attempt at feigned anxiety when Johnny enters the dressing room, leading us to believe that his appearance could blow their whole dead rock star act, but the moment is so fleeting you can only assume it’ll be explained at one point or another. It’s not. Next thing you know, Joan Jett shows up to offer Gigi a little pre-show advise:
“All the guys out there, they wanna fuck you. All the girls out there, they wanna be you. So just relax, have fun, do your music, seduce ‘em all and you got it”
I’m not gonna lie; of course it’s fun to see an inspiring figure like Joan Jett appear on the show, but her spunky dabs at Johnny and their, apparently, innocent sleep over, felt more like a marketing campaign than a witty exchange. When Gigi and the band take to the stage, she addresses the audience and her father without any mention of a chicken bone, let alone a gun fight and no one seems fazed by this, even though this is supposed to be a memorial concert. The only thing that redeemed the episode was the ending, where we see Gigi deliver her best (musical) performance so far, while Johnny watches on teary-eyed and battling an unfamiliar feeling: Love.