Onto episode two, and we’re now a third of the way through the first season of F is for Family. After an uneven but ultimately promising pilot, The Murphys go their separate ways in three distinct storylines in “Saturday Bloody Saturday.” After Kevin gets a notice that he is failing almost all of his classes, Frank takes him to his job at the airport in an attempt to teach him a lesson about respect and responsibility. Bill is told by his father to look after Maureen, his little sister, which she takes as an opportunity to get into a whole host of dangerous shenanigans. Meanwhile, Sue spends the day doing her “job”, which consists of quality checking a plastic container brand called “Plastiware.” Despite these seemingly mundane plot descriptions, the episode was brutal in it’s depiction of professional and domestic failure, the reckless abandon of youth, and the sadness of a life gone awry.
Here are some thoughts.
1. Sue is drowning
Sue is the mother and wife of the Murphy family, played by Laura Dern. She doesn’t work, save for the side business of what appears to be quality checking shipments of a plastic container brand called “Plastiware.” We start the episode with Kevin’s Prog Rock daydream being disrupted by Sue demanding to know why he’s failing all his classes. The rest of the kids tear around the house while Kevin gives her undue sass, unable to muster one iota of control over her rambunctious children. You can see it in her face that she is on the very edge of her sanity. And the only thing she has to look forward to is… shipping Plastiware.
2. The critique of casual racism is a lot stronger in this episode
Frank comes home after a rough day (more on that in a moment), and puts his feet up to watch his favorite TV Colt Luger. This time the titular hero is flanked by a black sidekick in what appears to be a pimp outfit, while the two of them fight what might be Chinese assassins, although their depiction is so broad it could be any Asian race. Later in the episode, we catch a glimpse of this poster:
The racism is much more clearly being critiqued this time around. The sheer ridiculousness of the images and stereotypes are enough to convince that Burr is making a point of showing us what it was like in seventies without condoning any of it.
3. The undercurrent of darkness is shocking
Certain lines ping distinctly in the otherwise ordinary script that might actually make you gasp. In another show, they might not come off quite as brashly, but weaved into the fabric of what are otherwise ordinary situations make them stand out all the more. When Sue asks how Frank’s day was when he returns home, he replies, referring to his late boss, “Not great. I had to hose a man’s face off the tarmac.” Later, Frank has convinced his alarmed son Kevin that he’s going to ship him off to Vietnam. “You’re done with school,” he says. “And we might get a nice folded flag out of it.” Yikes!
4. Maureen is a little shit
She is certainly not the little princess her father thinks she is. Bill desperately chases her around the neighborhood as she plays baseball with lightbulbs, falls out of a tree onto a roof, and kicks Bill right in the crotch. “Maureen, get out of the tree! You said you were only going to climb to the first big branch!” Bill frantically calls to her. She smiles and looks around at him mischievously. “When are you going to realize I’m a liar?” she asks, all innocence. That girl is going to grow up to be a handful.
Also, brief sidenote: that kid who walks around with a diaper is the worst character on the show. He uses pink insulation as an athletic cup. He’s not funny. He’s weird and gross.
Just needed to get that off my chest.
5. That Holocaust survivor, though…
In an attempt to keep Maureen out of trouble, Bill sets up a slip n’ slide tarp for her to play on. But she accidentally goes flying through the end of it and into the road where she’s almost hit by the kid’s cheerful German neighbor. The kids all run away in terror (they think he’s a nazi), but the man with the serial number on his arm just laughs with joy. He loves seeing the neighborhood kids playing. Where are we going with this character? I feel a moment of realization coming on for the kids.
6. Sue is REALLY drowning
After she’s done with all her Plastiware packaging, Sue sits in the kitchen, absorbing the silence. Suddenly, she starts crying uncontrollably. Her makeup runs and she pulls a clear plastic bowl over her head. Major, the family dog, tries to comfort her by humping her leg. It’s a supremely depressing moment. It’s also the first true moment of pathos for the character, and Laura Dern knocks it out of the park.
7. Frank’s boss, Pogo, is an unsettling depiction
Pogo is Frank’s direct supervisor. He looks like he weighs about 400 pounds. He chain smokes, has buckets of fried chicken everywhere, and throws a hissy fit when he can’t find his fourth biscuit. “This is what’s wrong with America!!!” he bellows, until he lifts up his fat roll and finds the squished biscuit hiding there. The character is appalling and disgusting. He’s played with hilarious abandon by David Koechner, to what I assume is the desired effect.
8. Kevin experiences true horror
Kevin screws off once his father leaves him alone to go hang out with the young baggage handlers. At first, he’s having a good time. They share a deep contempt for school and an affinity for women and drugs. But once the boys show Kevin surveillance footage of Frank’s former boss getting his head eviscerated by an airplane propeller, he has suddenly had enough. The boys laugh at the display, much to Kevin’s horror. And in one brief moment, Kevin understands the importance of staying in school. He does not want to end up a slacking baggage handler, laughing at a snuff film of his boss.
9. There’s trouble brewing for Frank
Pogo has promoted Frank to manager status, and his first order of business is to tell Frank that he needs to quell the rumblings of a strike in the baggage department. The airline can’t afford it. Frank assures Pogo that he’ll handle it. “These are my guys,” he says. “They’ll listen to me.” But later Frank assures one of the possible strikers that he’ll stand with them if things come down to the wire. I imagine a future episode is going to have Frank in the mix, forced to choose sides.
10. The show is undeniably growing on me
Yesterday’s episode was okay, but I didn’t see anything in it that light a fire under my ass. But this time around, I think I can see what might be special about this show. There is, indeed, a darkness to it. Some very real, very painful darkness. But it is undercut by the true love this family has for each other, and the show can’t help but let the little bit of levity sneak in, even if we just saw a guy get brutally decapitated.
Check out yesterday’s review of F is For Family below!
F is for Family – The Bleedin’ Sweden
Tags: Bill Burr, f is for family, Laura Dern, Netflix, Netflix Original