This Kidding review contains spoilers.
Kidding Episode 4
Kidding can get a lot of mileage out of Jeff’s naïveté. Once eternally sunny, Jeff’s nature to give everything and everyone the benefit of the doubt has become much more of a liability now that he’s teetering so close to the edge of darkness. According to Seb, Jeff’s a ticking time bomb just waiting to go boom, and every time that the world shows itself to be the unforgiving place that it truly is and not the cheery safe space that he’s built for himself in Pickle Barrell Falls, he’s one step closer to exploding.
In some ways, Jeff is starting to realize this. For instance, his date last week with Shaina makes him think about the ways that his TV show affects people. He reckons that if someone could learn something from his show that impacts their life in a positive way, then surely someone could do harm to their life by taking the world of Pickle Barrell Falls too literally. It’s good that Jeff is thinking about the possibility of children taking barrels over waterfalls, but maybe he should think about the way his persona and show has warped his own worldview and the potential harm he could be doing to himself.
Jeff’s undying optimism can set him up for some big falls. After enjoying himself with Vivian, he’s floating on cloud nine and already explaining the “temporary” situation to Jill. Getting so enamored with someone who admittedly only has about six weeks to live just spells disaster, as Seb so rightfully sniffs out. When Vivian doesn’t respond to Jeff’s text message trying to make further plans, he jumps through mental hoops trying to convince himself it’s for any other reason than that she doesn’t want to see him again.
Mostly, Jeff just believes that his phone is broken, so he drags Will along with him to a phone store to make certain that it’s working properly. While there, it’s revealed that Jeff is paying the cellphone bill and several other bills for Danny, the man that was responsible for Phil’s death and the man who’s home we see vandalized in the cold open (Kidding’s cold opens have been consistently cool). That revelation leads to Jill visiting Jeff at his apartment and the two having the most emotional scene of the series thus far.
Kidding has mostly kept the grief element more in the atmosphere, but here, it’s brought front and center. Jill laments how her own grief and suffering has been overshadowed by Jeff’s, astutely comparing herself to Mrs. Claus and Jeff to Santa, then giving Jeff some hard truths that ultimately drive him to tears. It’s a powerful outburst and in the aftermath the camera almost shows the darkness enveloping Jeff just before he receives a flirty text message from Vivian, who confirms that, yes, her cellphone was actually broken.
Jeff maybe avoids a meltdown there, but he lets some ugliness out in other spots. When Jeff goes looking for Will, he plays into the rumor about his sniper past and freaks out one of Will’s stoner buddies. Later, when Deirdre is working on the giant Jeff head while giving a rambling apology, Jeff looks on almost mesmerized but clearly unsettled. Creepily, he reminds Deirdre of the plot to RoboCop, an apt comparison. Seb may be harsh and excessively unsentimental, but he’s right to be worried about Jeff; something wicked is brewing.
Meanwhile, Scott tries to determine why his lover, Max, ghosted him. When he can’t get any response, he immediately begins to crumble, telling Deirdre that he has the flu. Finally, Scott appears to gain strength and attempts to have a tearful discussion about his sexuality, but Deirdre coldly dismisses it. Worried about Maddie being a child of divorce, she’d rather pretend that the glaring issues in her marriage do not exist than confront them head on. Scott’s dejection after attempting to open up looked like it hurt and will likely cause more issues between the pair moving forward.
I continue to impressed by Kidding. I think the series is doing an excellent job towing the line between comedy and drama, adding just enough laughs to make the difficult feelings go down smoothly. Add in the magical realism that’s found in the episode’s closing moments, and Kidding has a wistful, blithe feeling that conjures memories of childlike melancholy. I still think that we could use more scenes centered on Deirdre or Jill that are less Jeff focused, but it’s so far, so good for Kidding.
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.