This Kidding review contains spoilers.
Kidding Episode 5
Tonight’s episode of Kidding is titled “The New You,” which is sort of funny because at no point is Jeff given the opportunity to be a new person. Though he’s beginning an exciting, but ultimately dangerous, relationship with Vivian, where he can feel comfortable sharing his darker thoughts free from the Pickles persona, he’s still being handled with kid gloves at work. Seb has made up his mind about Jeff being caught in a spiral and he isn’t even willing to entertain that Jeff could work through this down period.
The new blue suede shoes and peppy cloud song isn’t enough to convince Seb that Jeff is on the upswing. Seb’s brutal honesty and lack of bedside manner is wickedly funny, even if it can be maddening and cruel, especially when Seb is talking about his distrust in Jeff juxtaposed with Jeff happily dancing without a care in the background. Seb springs the ice capade show on Jeff with a big meeting featuring an eager Tara Lipinski, and Jeff’s discomfort with the whole plan boils over. Jeff correctly guesses all of the ways in which Seb is planning on replacing him, the moment of conflict showing Jeff at his most frustrated and infantilized.
Jeff is actually being replaced in every facet of his life. Jeff wants to be able to parent Will and keep him from smoking pot with his friends, but it’s Seb that goes over his head and teaches Will the lesson himself. Jeff’s voice used to be heard on the answering machine at Jill’s house, and now his voice has been replaced by Pete’s. After a mentally refreshing, fun trip to the ice skating rink with Vivian provides Jeff with the advice to physically confront Seb, he marches to his office intent on a showdown. However, when he enters the office, he’s forced to confront the giant head of himself, the literal symbol of his replacement. In the moment, Jeff is so deflated he leaves his obnoxiously expensive shoes, almost resigning himself to Seb’s plan to remove him from the Pickle Barrell Falls IP.
Meanwhile, Seb’s casual cruelty also extends to his daughter, Dierdre. Dierdre wants to voice her own puppet on the show, and admittedly her attempts at voicing the puppet don’t seem up to snuff, but Seb rejects her with almost no tact. His utter lack of sensitivity while telling her that she’s better at the “quiet arts” even makes Deirdre laugh with its bluntness. For Dierdre, voicing a puppet on the show would be an exciting distraction from her crumbling home life, but Seb refuses to hear any of this from Dierdre, somehow convincing her that it’s Scott’s life that’s a mess and not her own.
Finally, when Jeff questions Will about his debit card getting cancelled, not realizing that it was his own shoe purchase that did the trick, his paternal nature is laid too thick and causes Will to rebel even harder. Now back to smoking weed, he lures his friends to the house next door, believing it to be abandoned and the perfect place for them to light up. We’re ominously reminded that a few episodes back, Jeff forgot to turn off the oven, spelling certain trouble. I can’t imagine that this show would go that dark by having Jeff lose his other son too, but there’s no knowing for sure.
This conflict heavy episode of Kidding doesn’t forego the kooky directing quirks that the show is becoming known for. The date between Jeff and Vivian focusing only on their feet was a fun flourish and the beforementioned dance sequence with Jeff’s video screen legs was a great little visual too. There was also a disorienting and hypnotic quality to cold open flashback of a young Jeff being coaxed into violence. That same anger is brewing inside of Jeff, and if Seb doesn’t stop piling on, like by making Jeff wear his wedding ring onscreen, he’s going to be on the wrong side of the altercation.
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.