This review contains spoilers.
1.9 Projections & 1.10 Mexican Angel
Well, the end came sooner than I was expecting. There I was preparing myself for the penultimate episode of the season only for Marc Maron to announce on Twitter that the two final episodes would air back to back. A pleasant surprise, but sad to see the series end so quickly.
The double header starts with Projections, an episode – like Sponsor – that stands apart from the season not only in the sense that it doesn’t really fit in with an established narrative and as such can be enjoyed out of context, but also in the fact that it’s by far and away one of the highlights of the season.
Marc looks to take a lunch meeting with a former college friend of his, but whereas Marc has stuck to his principles and slowly crafted a career, albeit one that doesn’t seem to be going anywhere fast, his friend Danny – played wonderfully by Eric Stoltz – is an incredibly successful Hollywood director of mass appeal, lowest common denominator comedies.
Danny is happy to see Marc and is more than happy to reach out and offer his old friend a hand by giving him a role in one of his films to ensure he secures health insurance. Indeed Marc has much more to get out of this than Danny, but still treats the meeting as an inconvenience and as an excuse to criticise the choices of his old comedy partner.
During the lunch, whilst reminiscing about former friends and their life choices and the career paths of Marc and Danny, Marc drifts off and fantasises alternative timelines where he made different life choices. We have him as the father in a loveless marriage with two kids where his creativity is being suppressed in favour of selling out to advance his career as an advertising exec, one half of a gay marriage who wants a baby with his much more successful boyfriend, a chef who gave up on his dream of show business who’s trying to discourage one of his waitresses from pursuing her dreams whilst cracking onto her, and finally a homeless guy ranting about the Man and the government to no-one in particular. Which do you think is the closest to the Marc we’ve seen this series?
Stoltz’s character is a broadly drawn Hollywood cliché but he plays it wonderfully and makes an unsympathetic character the good guy in the situation. He doesn’t say anything particularly original to Marc but the “You know why you never made it? Because you’re afraid to try” line holds a lot of truth and shows the level of awareness Maron has gained to this point. Wonderfully self aware and self deprecating, it shows the personal growth he has made since he hit rock bottom and started the podcast out of desperation to the man he is today.
The episode also features the glorious sight of Marc and Bobcat Goldthwaite (director of some of the season’s episodes) co-star in a fake crappy movie where they both play crazy homeless types looking to venture up to space on a garbage truck. It acts as a nice wrap-up to the episode as it shows that Marc can have fun even if he doesn’t necessarily believe in the film he’s making. Sure, it probably wont be to the tastes of the majority of the audience, but securing health insurance and boosting his profile and maybe attracting some new fans in the process is a reasonable trade off.
Next up is Mexican Angel which returns the focus to the relationship between Marc and Jen. It looks fine as we first see them relaxing on the sofa watching TV as normal couples often do but the situation soon turns sour when Jen says that she’s being evicted and needs to store some stuff at Marc’s house. Marc reluctantly agrees but feels that it’s too soon for them to be living together.
Marc soon gets suspicious that she hasn’t been evicted at all, and that she has lied just to move in with him. This turns out to be true of course and we see the biggest riff in their relationship to date which leads to Marc going to a party at her friend’s house to resolve the situation, get mistaken as her dad, and be escorted outside by two guys when the situation once again goes awry.
When Jen returns to the house the following day, the argument flares up again but is interrupted by a man standing on the lawn, the titular Mexican angel, who in a hugely emotional scene explains that he has recently lost his wife and asks them to stop fighting. He asks Marc if he loves Jen which leads to the first time he makes her aware of this. It lifts the episode above the middle-of-the-range episodes of the season and makes up for the lull experienced at the party scene that preceded it. It’s all the more touching knowing that the basis of the scene is from real life, it’s covered in previous stand up material and Marc’s latest book Attempting Normal.
Marc’s acceptance of the relationship with Jen and acknowledgement of his feelings for her is a logical end point for the season, but it does lack a punch. It’s a quiet bow out rather than going out with a bang. In truth, Projections would have been a much stronger closer, perhaps not from a narrative stand point but it’s the episode that demonstrated once again that the show is at its strongest when it ditches convention and plays around with the format.
Mexican Angel, whilst strong in its own right, does have dips in quality which are highlighted all the more by just how strong an episode Projections was. No doubt, should the show get a second season there will be a strong focus on Marc and Jen’s relationship so this sets the foundations in place but having it end a run of Jen-centric episodes could have worked better as this offers a type of resolution to ongoing plot points and Projections would then show that Marc is slightly more open to new ideas going forward. Same resolutions, just less fragmented.
After last week’s episode where Josh Brenner’s Kyle character really came into his own and seemed to assert his place in the dynamic of the show, it was odd not to see him in either of these episodes.
The positives shown in this first series far outweighed the negatives and Maron is certainly a show that deserves a second season. The first seasons of sitcoms are rarely viewed as the best and this should be taken into consideration. Sure, there are elements of Maron that could have worked better and the focus of certain themes when the show, for the most part, lacked a definitive ongoing narrative, did make some episodes considerably weaker than others. Instalments like Projections this week and Sex Fest, toyed with sitcom conventions with impressive results, showing just what a good series this is. If you want one clear example of why we need more Maron, it’s the Sponsor episode which is one of my TV highlights of the year. Shows of any kind are rarely this touching and well crafted let alone a sitcom. Any potential guests who passed or were on the fence about appearing in series one should look no further than that episode to see why it’s a good idea.
If, for whatever reason you’ve happened across this article and haven’t yet seen the series, please do check it out. The first series of Maron was an occasionally funny but always thoughtful and moving sitcom that featured flashes of brilliance and a whole lot of promise.
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