This Kidding review contains spoilers.
Kidding Episode 9
Well, that was certainly dark. In the penultimate episode of Kidding’s first season, Jeff seems to be straddling the line between breakdown and breakthrough, or perhaps he’s confusing one for the other. Though a glimpse of a breakthrough moment peaks through during Jeff’s visit with Will’s principal, most of “Lt. Pickles” finds Jeff unsettlingly focused on playing the violent mobile game of the same name, in which Mr. Pickles begins fragging his fellow Pickle Barrell Falls residents.
The vibe with Jeff gets so malevolent in the episode that for a moment, it looks like Jeff could be heading toward some sort of violent act himself. It doesn’t help that instead of talking Jeff through his dark period, Seb seems to be using brutal honesty and a gross focus on his bottom line to push Jeff closer to a meltdown. Jeff may be acting like a “bagpipe of insanity” and lying to himself that he’s not upset about the breakup with Vivian, but trying to push Jeff away from his life’s work is only exasperating the issue.
Instead of just suspecting that his dad’s business moves are trying to distance him from the Mr. Pickles brand, Jeff gets firsthand evidence in the form of mysterious phone calls from Jeff soundalikes. Soundalikes from Serbia and elsewhere begin calling Jeff, either warning him of Seb’s plans or threatening him to leave so they can take his place. The strange experience of hearing yourself on the other end of the phone causes Jeff to begin losing his grip on reality, but the moment is kept from being entirely unnerving since it gives Jim Carrey the opportunity to play with his voice for a laugh.
The surreal action continues when the Pickles family goes out for hotcakes after an incident at Will’s school. As I said above, Jeff and Jill have to visit Will’s principal after Will unleashes chickens in his school to impress a girl that he likes. In the office, Jeff and Jill realize just how much they love their son when he’s testing their ability as parents and how his recent acting out has reminded them of their departed son Phil. It’s a bonding moment and the episode tries to hint at the fact that maybe Jeff and Jill could mend their relationship. But then at dinner, Jill mentions that she wants Pete to move in with her, and Jeff begins having a fantasy about the pancake restaurant being the same Chinese restaurant from last week’s episode where the Pickles went out to eat with Darelle. It’s played to a trippy effect, made stranger when Jeff begins hallucinating Will and Phil pulling their magic trick while Jeff can hear echoes of his scolding of Phil. It’s another great example of Kidding’s ability to use unconventional methods to hit their dramedy beats.
Jeff’s tough evening continues when he pops into the end of the Mr. Pickles On Ice show and finds that Seb had directly disobeyed his wishes and used the Jeff papier-mâché head in the show. Seb’s decision to call an audible and have Tara’s sister Sara play Mr. Pickles backfires when in the finale of the show, Sara makes a mistake, causing Tara’s throat to be slit open by the end of Sara’s ice skate. It’s a shocking, dark ending that seems to be representative of Jeff’s current head space and creates a new crisis for the Pickles brand to deal with in next week’s finale.
Meanwhile, Dierdre and Scott finally start to air their issues out in the open, thanks to Dierdre’s “special” puppet show with Pickles-san. Scott hilariously still denies that he’s gay, but decides to leave their home until Pickles-san is gone. That prompts Dierdre to proposition Pickles-san for sex, but Pickles-san politely refuses. The sex happens anyway, with Pickles-san saying “no” throughout the entire encounter, making the whole thing uncomfortable and feel like sexual assault. Pickles-san’s lack of consent leads to Dierdre then being unable to communicate with him through puppets afterward, losing their special connection. No Dierdre is truly alone and just as guilty of bad behavior as Scott is. I’m glad this storyline is progressing, but in a short 25-minute episode, more time could have been dedicated to it.
After last week’s sweet, quasi-standalone issue, “Lt. Pickles” tilts the scales in the opposite direction. By going grim with its penultimate episode, it feels like just about anything could happen in the season finale. It looks like everything will culminate with Jeff’s appearance on live TV, and after tonight’s episode, I think I’m just as concerned about Jeff as Seb.
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.