This Kidding review contains spoilers.
Kidding Episode 3
People act strange when they’re distressed. Sometimes all we want when we’re going through our darkest moments is for someone to acknowledge our pain. Needing help but not knowing how to ask for it can lead to screaming at inopportune moments, acting recklessly with drugs, or staging not so subtle metaphors for ripping out your own heart. People need to talk about their pain if they ever have a chance of moving past it. Or they just need to bang one out. Either or.
“Every Pain Needs a Name” mostly focuses on Seb trying to help Jeff get a rebound. If Jill is going to be off enjoying the company of Pete, then Jeff would likely be helped by some companionship as well. Seb has a desk drawer full of lusty letters to Mr. Pickles, but Jeff is afraid that stepping out with any of his adult “fans” could reflect negatively on his image. Seb assures Jeff that no one sees him as a sexual being or a man at all, he’s just publicly perceived as Mr. Pickles.
That exact perception is what keeps Jeff’s date with Shaina (Riki Lindhome) from ending in some post-date copulation (don’t use a bad word when you can use a good one.) Shaina is a recovering addict who went from getting used by dealers while wearing a coke mustache to completely turning her life around. That sort of transformation is attractive to Jeff; he would love to find the answers for how to come out of an unhealthy phase and start new. But when Shaina reveals that Mr. Pickles was the key to her recovery, her “savior,” Jeff is instantly turned off.
Like everyone else on Kidding, Shania just sees him as Mr. Pickles, an inspirational figure, but being an inspirational figure is wearing on Jeff when he doesn’t feel very inspired. That’s why he gets such a charge from the terminally ill cancer patient he ends the episode with; she doesn’t need Jeff to save him and really isn’t interested in his whole Mr. Pickles shtick. She tries to see him for who he is. I was honestly pretty horrified when it looked like Jeff was going to take a dark turn and end the episode by having sex with the drunk college girl that came onto him. There’s a whole mess of reasons why that would have been wrong, but on the lower end of the morally reprehensible scale was the reason that this was just another girl that needed saving, another person that looked up to Mr. Pickles. The last-minute surprise was a relief and kept in line with the themes of the episode.
Will has problems with the way he’s perceived by others too. He tells his new girlfriend that when his parents or teachers look at him, he can tell that they see both him and his dead twin. Will may be using bad behavior as way to work through his emotions and even as a tribute to his brother, who previously filled the bad seed role, but you can tell that isn’t who he truly is. Even though he trashes his Dad’s gift, he still fishes it back out later, showing that the old version of Will is still in there somewhere.
Meanwhile, public perception is weighing on Seb in different ways. Seb’s afraid that Jeff’s slow meltdown will harm his bottom-line, so he begins putting a contingency plan in place so that the show can go on. In Seb’s eyes, Jeff “died in a car crash he wasn’t even in,” and instead of trying to help his son, he’s decided he needs to start looking to the future. Seb plans to animate the show moving forward using soundalikes and has other ideas to extend the Pickles IP like talking dolls and an ice show. This movement to remove Jeff from his creation looks like it will serve as the main source of conflict this season, on top of all the internal conflict that Jeff and his family is going through.
Speaking of family, Deirdre is exasperated trying to deal with Maddie, who’s now using screaming to gain attention as she believes her parents are working toward divorce. She’s right to worry; Deirdre’s husband goes to have a special hotel weekend with his lover, but since Deirdre confronted the man last week, he never shows. Deirdre has major issues to deal with at home, however, she spends most of her scenes this week opposite Seb talking about Jeff. Clearly Jeff is a fixture in all of these people’s lives, but more screentime could be devoted to Deirdre dealing with her own issues and participating in her own story.
Kidding continues on a good path this week. I’m so happy that Showtime and the creators decided on a half-hour runtime. The show feels so brisk and satisfying even as its dealing with weighty themes. Every scene feels like it serves a character or plot purpose. It’ll be interesting to see if this crisp focus can be maintained week in and week out.
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.