House of Lies Season 1 Episode 10
Can you predict who's going to wind up where, long before they get there? There are lots of jokes about stripper names, and though it's one of those things that's a cliche because it's true, I don't think so many careers are as cut and dried. At least, not on the surface. You couldn't predict that a woman named Jeannie and a man named Marty would wind up where they are. Not by their names, anyway.
But House of Lies has a point to prove and they want you to know *they* know. They know how horrible the people in this show seem to you, and they want you to feel that way. They want all the decisions these people make to feel absolutely repugnant to you so that, when you find out why - what's been going on in their lives that has sent them on this path - you say two things: 1. Well, of course they were going to be messed up, and (hopefully) 2. No matter what happened to me, *I* didn't behave this badly.
I've said before that Jeannie and Marty are mirror images of one another. That they are far more similar than different, that all Jeannie's attempts to not be Marty will be superseded by her nature, just like his.
So despite all her successes and efforts to distance herself from her life in Spokane, Jeannie finds herself running the same patterns she did at 17. The part that hurts the most is what Jeannie tells her mother: that she's good at her job because she knows how to lie, which she learned to do as a child. I loved seeing Jeannie in her childhood environment and especially loved that the skills she undoubtedly learned in pageantry and church, being sweet to the face of the person who is screwing you over, come back instinctually. But it is, of course, not just that skill that helps her. Exploiting people's weaknesses is something she learned far before Gallweather Stearns. Exploiting men's tendencies to do anything for an "unconquered p*ssy" is another. Finding a Daddy who will love and be proud of her? Okay, so it's super-heavy handed, but I bought where it was coming from.
The show doesn't give any indication that she'll be able to pull herself out of the joyless abyss she lives in though, as we know when we see Marty systematically screw up his life. The man has a lot going for him - not least of which is his ability to understand the humanity behind screw-ups. He is Marty Kaan because he knows exactly which portion of his clients' egos need to be exploited or massaged. He has an understanding of people and their intrinsic weaknesses in any situation. He can see the weakest parts of his ex-wife: "You hear yourself, Monica, you're empty. You can't fill that sh-t up".
He knows because he's just like her. He can see that.
But he can't stop making decisions that hurt him, just like Jeannie can't. All the emotional intelligence in the world doesn't add up to being able to protect himself. And so he hurts April, who really wound up awesome, as well as Roscoe and his father and probably his team, when he takes it out on them or messes up a deal. He can't help himself. All because Oh Henry (ew) takes precedence over all the other parts of him. Which, we're meant to infer, is because his mother hurt him so much when she left him.
This is bleak, and though it's very, very interesting to look at this side of the human condition - who do you have to have been to be this cutthroat? What happened to you to give you an utter and complete lack of scruples? I will need to believe that Marty, or Jeannie, or both, can pull themselves out of their crises in order to fight another day if I'm going to invest in more. But given that the show is coming back for season 2(!) I am more than willing to be taken on the ride. This “comedy” is doing far more interesting, dark, and layered work than many of the dramas on TV, and I could care less about labels as long as it stays this interesting and challenging and uncompromising.
Attached - Kristen Bell at a UNICEF event last week.