This post contains spoilers through the January 29 episode of House of Lies.
I thought it was smart of House of Lies to move beyond Marty a bit this week to start fleshing out the other characters. But the way it happened reaffirmed for me that the show should really be an hour rather than a half-hour, given how surprising some of the character reveals were, and how little we still know about Clyde and Doug other than a semi-generic bullying story.
First, take Jeannie. We’ve had essentially no sense of her personal life at all before it’s suddenly revealed that hey! she’s engaged!, her future mother-in-law is a drunk, and her fiance is a semi-conventional but very rich dude. It doesn’t strike me as particularly surprising that Jeannie is resisting introducing him to, as he puts it as they head off for their respective engagements, “these guys I share you with every week,” given that they’re jerks. But it does suggest that there’s a totally different Jeannie than the relatively restrained one we’re seeing as part of the team. The show’s version of introducing us to that side of her is to have Jeannie moon over a bad cafe musician in San Francisco all night, and then go to bed with him. It might be a meaningful sequence if we had any sense of Jeannie’s relationship to her boyfriend-now-future-husband and why she might be anxious about the engagement (given her behavior at the end of the episode, she appears to be hiding his very existence from Marty and company). I’m more inclined to believe Jeannie when she tells her hookup “You, this, tonight, and your penis, and your mediocre weed, they don’t have anything to do with my real life,” than I am to believe the musician who is psychoanalyzing her. But something’s up, and we don’t have the context to be able to think about it in a meaningful way*.
Speaking of context, I’m getting increasingly frustrated by the dynamic between Clyde and Doug. Honestly at this point, Clyde may be the character I least enjoy watching on television, and as y’all know, I watch a lot of television. The hookup points schtick is sort of gross on its own, and given that we’re getting the impression that’s what Clyde lives for, that it may be the sole substance of his personality other than humiliating his friends on airplanes and giving terrible advice about “being Clooney,” he’s not a person I want to spend any time with whatsoever.
Doug, on the other hand, has some interesting things going on. His over-identification with Harvard is understandably irritating to his coworkers, but it’s at least an indication of some deeper need. And I appreciated the way he clumsily tried to step up with Roscoe tonight, whether asking if he needed to be watched going to the bathroom, hitting up food trucks with him, or solving his “case.” “There was a kid who was handsome, not in the classic sense but smart, but handsome, and smart, genius-level, and there was this other kid who tortured him,” Doug tells Roscoe. “He really just tortured him. And the kid’s mom was like ‘Stop all the crying, doug.’ But then this kid realized that the other kids were just jealous. That’s all. Jealous of his awesome awesomeness. He went on to be super-awesome. And today that kid is Justin Bieber. True story.” It’s a nice little moment, and it made me want to get some more details about Doug’s backstory. He deserves more than tics and a Harvard-seal-embossed briefcase.
Then, there’s Marty, who’s stuck with the client from hell, abandoned by his father, who’s left him “off to speak to a bunch of swooning Jungian analysts in Taos,” and feeling angry at his unreachable ex, who is”dependable, that is, in her psychosis.” He does badly with Roscoe in San Francisco, pawning him off on the team and feeding him out of vending machines, and I wish the show hadn’t pulled a punch by letting him off the hook for it, and having Roscoe over his bully problem by the time Marty got around to paying his son a little attention. I’d honestly watch a family show about Marty, Jeremiah, and Roscoe with a dose of Roscoe’s mother on the side, and even though I know this show is not that, I can’t help but treasure the moments when we see glimmer of the real pain, and fear, and love they’re all experiencing together. There’s something genuinely tragic about Marty’s rant on the phone to Monica that “You know what he understands now? He understands that life is unsteady, and full of regret and recrimination. You have let our son down because you are not there.” But like so many other things in House of Lies, this would be better if Monica was an actual person, if Marty had to take real responsibility, if we could spend time with the story of his mother’s death instead of some fraud-committing former-hacker twerp.