Married’s second episode, “The Shower,” is more balanced and less sitcom-ish than the pilot. After a Russ-heavy premiere, he and Lina get equal screen-time, and instead of building to a silly climax, “The Shower” takes a more nuanced approach that still develops (or at least reveals) characters, and pushes the series forward.
This week features four characters—Russ, Lina, A.J., and Jess—groping for the good ol’ days, with something less than success. In the opening scene, Russ tries to prod Lina into shower-sex; instead of letting him in, she makes him take the dog out. Later they go to A.J.’s ex’s engagement party (A.J. is too busy weeping in his car to make an appearance), where Russ takes another failed stab at shower lovin’. Russ and Lina are separated—the former riding shotgun with A.J., the latter with Jess—and the ensuing events are as funny as they are bittersweet.
A.J. drives Russ to the house he and Roxanne (Regina Hall) shared, dubbing his new condo “a coffin.” He fires his therapist, saying, “I should put a bullet in his head—that’d be closure.” He orders a couple of escorts, telling them on their way in, “Welcome to my ex-home. Try not to slip on my tears.” He gives a grim, TMI tour of the house, and takes a drunken workout in the fitness room entirely too seriously. Brett Gelman shines in this kind of darkness, and the episode belongs to him.
This is great, but it also seems like a problem. (Admittedly, it’s too early to start declaring problems.) So far, Married’s anchors elicit far fewer laughs than its supporting cast (Gelman, Jenny Slate, John Hodgman). With a few exceptions, Russ and Lina play the straight man to A.J., Jess, and the rest. (When they’re together, Lina plays the straight man to Russ.) In my recap of the pilot I bemoaned Lina’s tired role as the Tired Wife—an issue that Married has addressed in “The Shower” (more on this in a minute)—but a lot of the time Russ comes off as the Exasperated Husband (Tired + Horny = Exasperated), which is kind of the point, I guess—children are exhausting—but also not exactly a formula for hysterics.
All of which is a roundabout way of saying Russ and Lina need to be funnier and weirder, like their friends. I think Nat Faxon and Jenny Greer have solid chemistry and I enjoy their scenes together, and another FX show taught me that comedy can thrive without leaving its viewers in perpetual stitches. But I’m not bracing myself for laughter when I watch Married unless Gelman or Hodgman or Slate are on screen. Supporting characters are often fan favorites, and they need straight men to play off of, but the disparity here is too great. I hope that as the writers flesh out Russ and Lina, they find quirks and deformities, and spinach in their teeth.
That was certainly the case for Lina this week. After the party, Jess hauls her to a bar to drink like they’re in their twenties. They throw back shots with Jess’s work crush, a much younger, grungy guy who “made” Jess finger herself in her cubicle the other day (“Like if he challenges me, I’m not gonna not do it”). It’s nice to see Lina cut loose, even if it’s a little sad that it’s Russ’s friend who rescues her from domestic life for a night, and not her own. “Sorry you’re slummin’ it with your husband’s friends,” Jess says. “Maybe you should get some of your own friends.” Yes, please.
When a twenty-something dude asks Lina if her kids are cool, she says, “Not really,” which is funny and cold and a much-needed window into Lina’s mind. One thing we learn this week: Lina can be cruelly honest. She bets five bucks that her daughter Ella won’t make it through a slumber party (which proves true). Thank god Greer is given so much more—and more varied—material to work with here than in the pilot. Slate too, though she’s still freighted by at least one stale my-husband’s-so-old joke.
Unfortunately for Lina, it turns out living in the past can be just as draining as living in the present. We don’t get to see Lina’s or Jess’s or A.J.’s hangovers, but they will be formidable—none of them have any bacchanalian stamina anymore. As Russ and Lina collapse on their mattress, Russ pines for the days when they would spend an hour in an outdoor shower, not caring who heard. Lina, who is about to embark on a job hunt (“My last resume was on a floppy disk,” she says), yearns for a vacation.
Every episode ends in bed, but it seems there’s no rest for the Married.
Evan Allgood is deputy editor of Trop. He lives in Brooklyn. Follow and maybe later unfollow him on Twitter.