This Kidding review contains spoilers.
Kidding Season 2 Episode 2
After delivering a perfectly suitable introductory episode, Kidding knocked it out of the park in episode two. The season two premiere dealt with the real-world consequences of Jeff mowing down Peter with his PT Cruiser while “Up, Down, and Everything In Between” grapples with the emotional consequences, and the results are pretty astounding. Not only does Jeff finally grapple with the unhealthy behaviors that led him to behave so violently, but we also finally learn the heartbreaking backstory of Pickle Barrel Falls and Jeff’s emotionally stunted nature.
One of the keys to this episode’s success was Seb’s presence, which was sorely missing from the premiere. Obviously, it wasn’t a secret that Seb’s cold, business-focused nature wasn’t good for Jeff while he was dealing with so much personal tragedy and strife, but we finally learn a secret that Seb and his son’s relationship has always had a toxic, co-dependent nature; Seb enables Jeff’s unhealthy emotional behavior by pushing him to do the show and Jeff provides the warm, imaginative, positive influence that’s missing from Seb’s life.
We learn that relationship is the product of Jeff’s mom leaving the family, which Jeff thinks is because she’s fallen in love with Niagara Falls. At first, he’s desperate to find the falls for himself and is angry at his father for driving his mother away. Eventually little Jeff’s imagination gets the best of him, and he invents the magical land that his mother couldn’t help leaving; Seb plays along, and an empire is born in earnest. Seb spends the rest of Jeff’s childhood coddling that creative spirit, not ever asking Jeff to work through his abandonment, and he ends up neglecting Dierdre in the process. This dynamic was always in the subtext last season, but it’s brought to affecting life here.
These flashbacks are sprinkled throughout the meat of the episode’s action, which takes place during Jeff and Peter’s liver transplant. The minute Jeff goes under for surgery, he imagines that he’s in the real Pickle Barrel Falls, but all of his puppet friends are scared and distrusting of him. If there’s ever a show equipped to handle a drug trip or dream sequence, Kidding is the show for the job, and they don’t disappoint here. The episode continues last season’s metaphor of Jeff not knowing how to get back up from the bottom of the falls, and while he continues to grapple with the question, Peter joins him.
Peter wasn’t a character that was as fleshed out as he could have been last season, so it’s nice to see him get significant screen time here. It’s funny seeing him enact revenge on Jeff while Jeff tries to explain their whereabouts, but things really take off once Peter begins singing. In a funny and emotionally complex song, Peter explains that Jeff’s violent outburst was because of his unhealthy habit of suppressing his ugly emotions, and Jeff comes to the same realization mid-song. He also finally verbalizes something that shocks even himself – Jeff is angry at Jill for being behind the wheel when Phil died. It’s heavy stuff, but it’s happening in a goofy musical number alongside puppets. It’s Kidding’s whole aesthetic in a single scene.
The episode then goes completely earnest with a musical number delivered by a giant sasquatch. That’s an incredibly silly sentence on paper, but the song is sweet and almost convinces Jeff that his relationship with his father, the one that led him to be an emotionally stunted adult, is healthy. However, Jeff finally sees the vicious cycle that Seb has held him in his entire life, and when he wakes from surgery, he fires Seb on the spot. It’s a fantastic, abrupt ending that wraps a bow on a half-hour that runs an emotional gamut. “Up, Down, and Everything In Between” is one of the series’ finest episodes and spells good things about the remaining episodes in season two.
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.