These episodes feel too short. The show just wants to do too much to try and cram its ideas into sitcom-length episodes, especially while, when the show does have some funny moments, it’s not really a comedy.
As a result, we get an A and B story that both feel rushed. Flora takes Cootie to the back room of Bing Bang Burger to consummate their second date. He’s endearingly awkward as usual, forgetting to take his shoes off before his pants. But seeing him naked for the first time, she realizes what should have been obvious from the beginning — “that’s not gonna work.” After trying various mostly-off-camera things, she eventually tries to “ride it like a balance beam,” hence the title.
The scene is a combination of dirty and sweet, and like any good sex scene, tells us about the characters. Flora’s a lot more worldly, and happy to lead Cootie through his first time by the hand. Cootie’s shy and sweet, but also has to unlearn the bad advice he learned from Felix about how to treat women. But the scene feels like the end point of last week’s second date between the two, and not enough of a story to hang an episode on.
The other story has more heft, but the running time means it happens very fast. Felix tracks down Jones at a house party to break the news of Scat’s death. She immediately puts together a protest against the hospital that turned him away, but Felix is upset that she’s more focused on organizing than mourning. This is a conflict worth exploring, but we get a ten-second conversation, and then Jones is giving a speech to the crowd.
Her speech ends up being a screed against the crisis of capitalism that results in a spiral of lower wages, higher prices, and people being commodified to the point where the system doesn’t think they deserve to live if they can’t afford to pay. None of it’s wrong, but it also feels like Boots Riley pressed pause on the story and handed her a manifesto to read. (Obie-winning theater director Whitney White has writing credit for the episode, but the speech sounds like a Schoolhouse Rock based on Riley’s Twitter feed). Sorry to Bother You managed to make all of the same points with the story, without having to spell it out to the audience.
Which means we very quickly get to the climax. When the cops start teargassing the protesters, Flora uses her super speed to bat the canisters right back at them. Seeing his friends taking action finally inspires Cootie to join the fray, spray-painting Scat’s name onto the medical company’s office, until he gets interrupted by The Hero. We’ve seen Walton Goggins’ billionaire vigilante in a few background moments, but this is the first time he comes face-to-face with any of our characters. Let’s hope next week we get to spend some time with him instead of just rushing on to the next thing.
• Sorry for the delay between reviews; we put our I’m a Virgo reviews on hold for a few weeks as there was a glut of good TV to write about in July, and not much going on in August. So we can round out the summer catching up on this one.
• I’m a Virgo is far from the first show to find the correct pacing for streaming television’s shorter seasons. In fact, very few shows have found a good rhythm in six-to-ten episodes. But one can’t help but think this could have been either cut down into a two hour movie, or expanded into a ten-hour season that lets us spend just a bit more time on the characters and their various conflicts.
• We see Jones’ speech visualized onscreen, with a model factory literally crushing model workers under the wheels of capitalism. But Cootie also experiences the speech that way, as some sort of hallucination. Is this a power Jones has? Or is it some unique way Cootie experiences the world? Or is it just another surreal touch in a show that’s full of them?