We’re half way through the first season of F is for Family, and I think I can now firmly say that the show has found it’s footing. “The Trough” is the strongest episode so far in the chronicle of the world-weary Murphy family, and sets the stage for further conflict ahead. After Frank gets a call from Kevin’s school that he is still failing history class, he rescinds his offer to bring him to the football game and instead brings Bill. Sue leaves Kevin to do his school work and brings Maureen shopping, but is cornered by an oblivious, bloviating acquaintance who won’t shut up about her terrible life. And instead of working, Kevin goes to hang out under a bridge and get high with his friends, where he comes to a realization about his father. It was another deeply sad story with the family’s own existential panic rising to the surface.
Here are some thoughts.
1. I want to see more of Vic
As Frank prepares to drive off with Bill to the game, Vic saunters over with an iguana on his shoulder. “Oh, yeah, I was gonna go to that game,” he says lazily. “But my lizard is sick. Thinks he’s a dinosaur.” Literally every time this guy opens his mouth, I laugh. I want to see him in a central place in a story. Sam Rockwell is too funny to put on the sidelines.
2. Racism has firmly become a theme of the show
As a shortcut to get to the game, Frank drives through a predominantly black neighborhood. As they drive down the street, Frank tells Bill to role up the windows and lock the door. And when a black man approaches them to ask for help, Frank screams “Don’t kill me, I have a family!” And tears off down the street. This is the third episode to feature a moment of racism front and center, but this is the first one that allows it to become part of the narrative. More on that later.
3. Sue can’t escape how depressing her life is…
She brings Maureen along with her to go shopping, thinking it’ll be nice to get a little mother daughter time. But because Maureen is a little shit, as we’ve established already, she ruins it for mom. Sue tries to tell Maureen about her “job,” which is just putting tupperware into shipping containers. But Maureen is nothing if not shrewd, and gets her mom to admit that she doesn’t get paid, so it’s not really a job. “I should really focus on the road,” a dejected Sue replies amidst her daughter’s questioning.
4. …But at least it’s not as bad as Jenny’s
The day wasn’t going great for Sue, but when she sees Jenny, assumedly an acquaintance from the neighborhood, she knows they have to peace out. But alas, she gets cornered and Jenny yacks on and on and on about how she can’t understand why her husband left her (we have a pretty good idea), and poor Sue has to sit there and listen for what appears to be hours. But once Sue puts her foot down and says she has to go, Jenny gets high and mighty on her. “You only ever think about yourself, Sue,” she says, walking off in a huff. No wonder you’re divorced, honey.
5. The callousness of the reaction to Ed’s death is startling
Over and over again, we’ve had scenes where Ed’s death has been discussed by various people who knew him. As Frank and Bill settle into their box seats, courtesy of Frank’s boss, a man and a woman arrive, claiming they’re in their seats. Frank quickly learns that the man is Dunbarton, his boss and owner of Mohican airways. They get to talking and Dunbarton brings up Ed’s death. “It’s horrible,” Frank says. “You’re telling me!” says Dunbarton. “You have any idea how much a new propeller costs?” Referring to the fact Ed was decapitated by a propeller. Later, Dunbarton says, “I think God put Ed’s head in that propeller so you could be here today, Frank.” Jeez, people really didn’t like Ed.
6. That trough scene
Every man has at least one memory of being a child and being sent off to a public restroom on their own. The men’s bathroom, especially in a place like a stadium, is a harrowing place. And when Bill enters and sees the urinal trough, replete with sagging testicle, misshapen penises and men vomiting, it changes him. You can see it as he walks out. The sheer grotesqueness of men and what he has to look forward to. It was actually a very beautifully realized sequence, if also completely revolting.
7. We finally get some time with the holocaust surv- oh, wait
As Kevin escapes from the police, his neighbor (“Mr. Hitler’s brother”) pulls up and offers him a ride home. Kevin reluctantly agrees. And that’s when he notices the star of David hanging from the rear view mirror. It would appear that all has become clear for Kevin. Until he’s talking to Bill later. “That guy, Mr. Hitler’s brother, he’s not a Nazi!” “He’s not!?” Bill asks. “No! I saw something hanging from his rearview mirror. One of those pentagrams. He’s a Satan worshipper!” Well. So much for that.
8. This is the second episode in a row where Kevin has a “realization”
So the show has been pretty clear that Kevin isn’t a bad kid, he’s just confused. We’ve been treated to his kindness a couple times so far. And when he snags a double album record from the house to roll weed in, we get another side of him. The record he took was one him and his parents listened to when he was younger and it elicits a memory of a day he had with his parents when he was little, with his dad saying, “Remember, I’ll always be your father. Remember that when we’re not getting along.” The memory makes him emotional and he runs back home, intent on making his parents proud of him by studying hard.
9. Frank has put himself on both sides of the labor dispute
After Bill and Frank leave the stadium, their car runs out of gas in the same black neighborhood they had passed through earlier. Luckily, Rosie, a black man Frank works with, happens to be at a nearby bar and offers to help him. Over a few drinks, however, Bill accidentally spills the beans that his dad was cozying up to the big boss man, which makes Rosie irritated and he asks them to leave. The labor dispute and Frank’s place in it have now been exponentially raised.
10. And he may have touched off an escalation due to his racism
And it doesn’t help that the man who had asked Frank for help early in the episode was actually an undercover reporter in black face make-up trying to uncover racism. Putting aside the irony of that for a moment, it does not make Frank look very good. And when Rosie sees him on TV being racist as hell, Rosie calls up somebody to tell them that Frank can’t be trusted and to start planning the strike. Looks like things are about to come to a head at Mohican Airways.
Check out previous reviews of F is for Family below!
F is for Family – Saturday Bloody Saturday
F is for Family – The Bleedin’ Sweden
Tags: Bill Burr, f is for family, Netflix, Netflix Original, the trough