‘House of Lies’ Open Thread: Mistaken Identities

This post contains spoilers through the January 15 episode of House of Lies.

While I don’t always think it hits its marks, one of the things I find intriguing about House of Lies is the way each case illustrates a different idea about people with extremely large amounts of money. I don’t think this week’s case, clearly based on the incredibly nasty divorce between Frank McCourt and his wife that’s put the fate of the Dodgers in doubt. In this case, it’s the idea that people will do almost anything, even fake their way through an irretrievably broken marriage, to hold on to vast amounts of money. But I also think this case, unlike the last one, revealed one of the central problems of the show as a half-hour comedy: in that amount of time, it’s almost impossible to spend time both developing the backstory of the main characters and really digging into the motivations of their clients.

That was particularly clear since we got our first glimpse of one of Marty’s colleagues’ inner lives tonight (and no, Doug having some Cat Deeley-related airport ejaculation problems doesn’t count as an inner life). I adore Kristen Bell and want only good things for her, and I thought this was nice, if a little slight. Looked up by an old acquaintance, Jeannie decides they’re going on a date. I thought this episode did a nice job of capturing the uncertainty of this kind of scenario, whether it’s Jeannie just not being sure what she’s walking into, or her seeing the earring and the hair flipping and deciding that she’s going to try to be interested anyway. When it turns out he’s paying her a very different kind of compliment, Bell sold the disappointment—sometimes you don’t always want to be loved for your mind. And in her sad report back, where she explains “He was a fucking headhunter,” Clyde’s “That’s funny, because I’m constantly looking for head, also,” encapsulated the ways in which he’s a jerk and the team may not be a great environment for Jeannie.

Speaking of sex, that opening scene between Marty and his wife was convincingly uncomfortable, but I’m not entirely sure to what end. If we’re going to see a lot of them having sex or waking up in the morning afterwards, I’d be interested to hear more about what binds them together, even though Monica is competing with him for work and is pretty awful to Roscoe, who appears to be the emotional center of Marty’s life. That’s much more interesting, or rather, primary question than whether divorced couples have the same rules about consent during sex. And it’s probably one we need answered before we can intuit what it means to Marty to get choked during sex.

The one area where we have clarity, and that not coincidentally works better than anything else in the show, is Walter’s relationship with Roscoe. Early in the episode, we see him run down Roscoe’s Principal Gita, who says things like “A group of the class parent body wanted to put a stop to Roscoe’s unrestrained and joyous disregard for the gender-specific, crossdressing,” and “I wonder if in the future we could speak in less militaristic terms.” But when he’s confronted with Roscoe’s pain directly, he can’t bully anyone, he can’t be belligerent. As they’re playing video games, Roscoe asks him “Hey dad, what’s a fudgepacker?” You can see Marty absorbing the hurt his son doesn’t even know he should be feeling—and Roscoe retreating into silence when he recognizes that he should be hurt. “Did somebody really call you that?” Marty asks. Roscoe’s silence is more eloquent than any of the adults’ dirty talk.