This Kidding review contains spoilers.
Kidding Episode 10
Ah Kidding, the feel-good family hit airing its final episode of the season just in time for the holidays. I’m only kidding, of course. Capping an impressive run of episodes that only got stronger, and significantly darker, as the season progressed, Kidding’s season finale highlighted the series’ strengths: raw-nerve performances, bittersweet melancholy, nervous laughter, and magical realism. Jim Carrey’s sad clown routine has never been better, and even though the ending doesn’t completely work for me, it’s still a shockingly fitting conclusion to where Jeff’s story was heading all along.
“Some Day” is wise to jump right ahead to Jeff’s appearance on live TV for the lighting of the national Christmas tree. I was afraid that the episode would end with Jeff delivering something of a verbal pipe bomb and that we’d have to wait until next season to see the fallout from his public unraveling, but fortunately the writers get right to business. Jeff’s speech, delivered directly to his audience of children, talks about parents failing their children by being inattentive and selfish. At first, the speech seems incoherent, but Jeff begins piecing his ideas together correctly and Carrey is able to water his eyes just right to make the whole thing play. Pickles-San’s “Allahu Akbar” moment was probably a step too far, a callback to a joke I wouldn’t have remembered if it were not for the “Last time on Kidding” bit that airs before the episode, but the scene sets the episode up well regardless.
The reception to Jeff’s speech is predictably negative and PBS calls to cancel all Pickles-related projects. Watching Pickle Barrel Falls be quickly packed away is an effectively emotional montage, which is crazy since this is a set of an imaginary TV show I’ve only just learned of. While everything is falling apart, Jeff tells Darelle how it’s always bothered him that Pickle Barrel Falls seemingly does not have an exit; that once you’re down, there’s no way up. I think the line is representative of Jeff’s mental state or his status with depression. Jeff has fallen down the falls and he’s left stranded without a way up, an image that’s reflected in the episode’s closing seconds.
Jeff then goes to talk to Dierdre, who reveals that she’ll be going through with a divorce from Scott and that she’s looking to learn more about who she is as a person individually, separate from her family and work. My main criticism of the character seemed to be the way she mostly existed to worry or talk about Jeff, so at least the show is self-aware. The best part of this segment is when Dierdre reveals that each member of the family serves as the inspiration for one of Jeff’s puppets, and Kidding is able to work a little of its magic recreating past scenes with the puppets subbing in. Even in one of the heaviest episodes of the season there’s still time for fun visual inventiveness.
Right when things seem there darkest, children begin showing up to Jeff’s studio, Pickles dolls in hand, waiting to talk to Jeff like he’s Santa. It’s a cheerful moment that evokes the feeling of a warm and fuzzy, seasonally appropriate Hallmark movie without being too hokey. Jeff’s speech at the Christmas tree lighting may have been in reference to his relationship with Phil, but it also was largely directed at his relationship with his own father. Speaking just as much from the child’s perspective, Jeff is able to understand what it’s like having a parent that doesn’t listen. Seb looks to finally get the message, waiting in line with the children to talk with Jeff and have some sort of heart to heart. Unfortunately, this conversation doesn’t take place on screen, but it results in Jeff’s death episode finally airing on television, which prompts Jill to call and set up an evening walk. It doesn’t result in a romantic night of snowball baseball like the episode initially leads us to believe, but it’s a start.
The only person that doesn’t get a chance to have Mr. Pickles listen is Will. He feels compelled to go talk to his Dad, but once again finds that he has to share him with the entire world. You would think that Jeff would know to focus on his own son first, but the thought evades him. Anyway, while sulking Will discovers that his friends have begun using Jeff’s empty house next door as a party place. When the noise keeps Pete up too late, he goes to investigate and discovers Mr. Pickles’ clothes in the closet, tipping him off to what Jeff has been doing with the house. When Jeff arrives for his walk with Jill, Pete is ready to confront him, but Jeff is instantly ready to fold. He apologizes profusely to Pete and praises the man for being friendly, mature, compassionate, and a good influence for his son. Only it turns out that maybe Pete isn’t the influence that Jeff thought he was, because he offers Jeff a joint, which sends Jeff into such a rage that he hits Pete with his car.
Kidding has been hinting at Jeff doing something violent all season long, through his speech, physical outbursts, and last week’s fixation on the shooting game, however, Jeff’s openhearted warm embrace of Pete didn’t feel earned solely because Justin Kirk hasn’t had much material on the show, especially not enough with Jeff that would warrant this type of apology from Jeff and then such a strong sense of betrayal and anger. So while Jeff getting himself into even deeper shit with a violent outburst seems logical, I’m not sure that the victim being Pete lands with the emotional weight that it should.
That being said, Kidding has been an absolute delight through ten episodes and luckily we can already count on it being back for a second season. Mr. Pickles’ fall down the falls looks like it’s going to go even deeper down and who knows exactly who will get dragged down with him.
Nick Harley is a tortured Cleveland sports fan, thinks Douglas Sirk would have made a killer Batman movie, Spider-Man should be a big-budget HBO series, and Wes Anderson and Paul Thomas Anderson should direct a script written by one another. For more thoughts like these, read Nick’s work here at Den of Geek or follow him on Twitter.