This Curb Your Enthusiasm review contains spoilers
Curb Your Enthusiasm Season 9 Episode 10
Let’s get one thing out of the way at the top. No episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm should be 51 minutes long.
Season (or series) finale or not, an hour is far too long to spend in the uniquely demented worldview of Larry David.
But. But. Buttttt. Butttttttttt. Butttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttt. If a hypothetical episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm were to be 51 minutes long, it would probably need to include: Lin-Manuel Miranda, taking a paintball to the mouth in a Hamilton-style duel, F. Murray Abraham keeping track of everyone’s daily attire, and Casey Wilson delivering the line “I’m Larry David.”
“Fatwa!” suffers from many of the same pitfalls that have plagued season 9 as a whole. It’s too long, it takes too long to establish a rhythm and some of the humor is curiously out of touch.*
*It’s not that I don’t agree with Larry’s assertion that “men will always look at tits” over anything else, it’s just that I feel bad for the actress who was undoubtedly stoked to get onto Curb Your Enthusiasm only to be jammed into a busty dress and literally not be allowed to talk.
Even at 51 minutes, “Fatwa!” crams a lot into its running time. There’s the escalating feud between Lin and Larry that culminates in the most incredibly Hamilton/Burr way possible. There’s Larry’s feud with Ayatollah actor F. Murray Abraham (looks like Lin got control of that casting after all) over Murray tracking Larry’s outfits. There’s Larry’s feud with Lin’s cousin Valentina (Tipper Newton) and her husband Ernst (professional Internet German Flula Borg) over their decadent lifestyle.* There’s Larry’s feud with Cody (hey, it’s Nick Offerman!) over Cody getting the gross pay for his day off at the paintball range. There’s Larry’s feud with Funkhouser and the Mirandas over the varying levels of thank yous and apologies. Man, Larry gets in a lot of feuds.
*Speaking of out of touch, it’s crazy that Larry seems so fixated on Ernst’s sexuality at first. But Leon’s IMMEDIATE suspicion of Ernst and Valentina as a married couple is the hardest I laughed all episode and maybe all season.
Improbably, “Fatwa!” is able to juggle all the various feuds and misdeeds nicely. If you squint, you can kind of see the clear through line for a streamlined episode of TV: Larry and Lin clash during Fatwa!, it culminates in a duel and therefore Larry misses Sammi’s wedding and sinks the play he’s spent all season wanting to do. The rest is just window dressing.
But. But. Buttttt. Butttttttttt. Butttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttt. “Fatwa!” is really funny. The lion’s share of the credit must go (as it usually rightfully does) to one Lin-Manuel Miranda. Rarely has a guest star on Curb Your Enthusiasm received this much screen time or have been this committed. Particularly a guest star who could reasonably apply for the title of “Earth’s Most Impressive Human” at the moment.
It’s amazing how much of this episode Miranda is in and just how hard he works to build the hostile version of himself as a character. His introduction last week at times felt wasteful like Curb was covering the same ground it had with previous guest stars. Famous guest star arrives and clashes with Larry is the most tried and true formula in Curb’s casting book. This week very little changes other than the fact that the business of establishing Lin as Larry’s foil is out of the way and now the show can reap the benefits.
And reap the benefits it does, right from the very beginning. The 51-minute running time immediately becomes more palatable when the first five minutes features an actual performance and song from Larry and Lin’s “Fatwa! “Obviously, the fictional Fatwa! is not Hamilton quality. But it’s a lot closer than a silly 3-minute joke on Curb Your Enthusiasm needed to be and we should appreciate that.
Curb Your Enthusiasm leans into the Hamilton mythos JUST enough to make Larry and Lin’s fateful duel seem surprising and fun. It should have been apparent the second Miranda popped up on the show that a duel is where this would end up but at the same time how could any of us have anticipated Miranda would be this game?
The Lin-Manuel Miranda of the Curb world remains a charming dick. He mistreats the Fatwa! costumer (“As long a he’s one foot out the door finding the right robe I don’t give a fuuuuuck.” – Eventual EGOT-winner Lin-Manuel Miranda) to the point where the costumer volunteers to be Larry’s second at their duel. F. Murray Abraham takes the role as Lin’s second due to Larry writing his outfit-tracking misdeeds into the script. What follows is perfect slapstick comedy. Larry, wearing oversized pants because he couldn’t rewear an outfit lest Murray track him, fires his gun directly into Lin’s throat rather than into the air.
The subsequent ambulance ride is a truly fitting conclusion to this season of Curb Your Enthusiasm, and maybe Curb Your Enthusiasm altogether. Lin’s mouth is covered in blue paint and he’s being attended to by a paramedic but still he can’t help but argue and spar with Larry.
He compliments Larry on his apology skills and finally reveals that he knows he slept through Hamilton. It’s the perfect culmination of the season’s disparate jokes and storylines condensed into one ambulance ride. And all the while, Larry is sending a stand-in in his place to the wedding.
Jenny “Marie Duschamp” Johnson (an incredibly welcome Casey Wilson) met Larry when he needed a surrogate to be seated as his table since Funkhouser was late. She moved to Hollywood to follow her dream. “I just figured at 36, if there’s any profession you can get involved in later than life as a woman it’s acting,” she tells Larry. Little did she know that she would receive the role of a lifetime: delivering Larry David’s toast to Sammi on her wedding day to Victor while Larry was racing to the hospital with a seemingly dying Lin-Manuel Miranda.
Of course, Lin doesn’t die. He just needs to recover for 6 months. Fatwa! is cancelled, Larry has nothing to show for all his work and Jeff and Susie are going to have to sell their house. Thankfully, Larry immediately proves that he’s learned absolutely nothing from the whole experience as he begins to attack Funkhouser for pointing out he’s worn the same hoodie two days in a row.
Larry may hilariously never learn from his mistakes, but if we’re to pick up a lesson from Curb Your Enthusiasm’s possible final season, it’s that humor will get you a long way. Many moments of Curb this season have been overlong, unpolished, and tone-deaf. Throughout it all, however, Curb managed to muster just enough moments of pure Davidian humor to make it all worthwhile.
The other lesson of course is if you can get Lin-Manuel Miranda for your show, do it. And fire a paintball into his mouth.