Frasier Season 1 Episode 5 Review: “Here’s Looking At You”

Frasier

Frasier is a show that finds its groove quickly – as shows written primarily by industry vets often do, it’s not hard for Frasier to find rhythms that work, and run with them as the rest of the material finds its footing early on. “Here’s Looking At You,” while continuing this synergistic trend of previous episodes, also adds another familiar Frasier wrinkle to the mix: the disguised resolution, something the show would often tap into in some of its best episodes. It’s still a bit of a dry run with “Here’s Looking At You” – but like many of these early episodes, they establish an important blueprint for the series to follow.

The idea behind this Frasier mainstay is simple: as a show about a psychiatrist, the episode structures often embody that of a man in the practice, only on a larger scale. We’re initially introduced with a specific conflict – in this case, Marty not wanting to date the cute woman he’s been talking to via telescope across the city – which occupies most of the first two-thirds of the episode, with Frasier and company trying to figure out what’s going on with the character in question, which is most often Frasier, but regularly moves to other characters for cathartic and/or revealing moments, in this case doing so with Marty. In many of the episodes in this format, Frasier finds himself swinging and missing every time he tries to address the problem, and after Marty brushes him off, saying she’s just not his type, he’s obsessed with figuring out why (because he is Frasier Crane, after all).

Eventually, it leads to a climatic moment that is already becoming familiar: Frasier and Marty addressing some unspoken conflict between them, alone in a room with nothing but silence underneath their voices. These are the Serious Moments, and Frasier never shies away from them; but when these moments are the most effective are when they are used as the true reveal for one’s inner conflict, again mirroring the journey of a psychiatrist with their patient as the culmination of working through numerous mental gates to access those dark spots. “Here’s Looking At You” hits audiences with a doozy, here: Marty doesn’t want to date his neighbor because her middle name is Rose, the middle name of his wife. This silences Frasier, stunned that he would be so arrogant as to pry into something so personal (let me quote Niles here: “Do you forget what you do for a living?”).

Until Marty reveals that’s not the case at all; when talking with Daphne in the kitchen after, she points out that he’s not going out with her because he’s afraid he looks weak with his cane. Without trying to make him look like a fool, she slyly mentions that he’s always hiding his cane before he goes to the telescope to talk to Irene – and Marty’s stunned face when she walks away sells it all. It brings everything together, in that one silent moment: afraid of looking weak and emasculated (something that no father would be able to admit to their son, especially one steeped in the traditional masculinity of Marty’s upbringing and profession), he tried to pretend he wasn’t attracted to Irene at all.

It’s a strong moment, one completely sold by John Mahoney’s ability to convey Marty’s embarrassment and shame – the look on his face when Daphne smugly walks into the dining room is powerful, only heightened by the director Andy Ackerman’s long shot from outside the kitchen, leaving Marty wide-eyed and alone, framed by the wood trapping him in the lonely kitchen. It’s really quite a beautiful shot, that makes for a beautiful metaphor of Marty’s masculinity (all that manly wood surrounding him) trapping him in, leaving a neat hole by his side in the kitchen. Admire along with me:

Frasier

Ironically, had this moment occurred in the episode, it wouldn’t work nearly as well. While the ruse “Here’s Looking At You” sets with the telescope isn’t all that entertaining (though a nice metaphor about presentation of self to strangers, who could be viewing you from anywhere out in public), and it doesn’t conjure up any kind of entertaining B-plot to spend our time, the episode knows that Marty’s internal resolution can’t happen until those final moments. Why? Because of the final seconds, when Marty finally goes on a date with Irene, which leads to yet another fantastic shot:

Frasier

See how those two shots sit in contrast with one another? By embracing the advice of those he loves, Marty has opened himself up to a world of possibility. The empty space is gone, replaced by the support of family – and that allows Marty to be happy, to allow himself to open up again as a human being. And here, we get a true glimpse of Frasier‘s inner musings about the psychology of family, and the unlimited potential for healing and reconciliation it offers us as adults (of course, the Jung v. Freud debate would wage for years between Niles and Frasier, but that’s another story for many other episodes). Where it seemed “Here’s Looking At You” would end on a somber moment, it ends on a hopeful and cathartic one, suggesting that, sometimes, we need the love and understanding of others to help us unlock the parts of ourselves we may have forgotten.

That’s a powerful message – and it ends “Here’s Looking At You” on a breathtaking image, Marty beaming while the family (minus Niles; blah blah blah, something about an annoying aunt and Maris) watches on, excited to see what happens with Marty and Irene. We’d never see or hear of Irene again, but that moment is an integral one to Frasier realizing its own potential; those cathartic moments would grow to become the show’s most powerful weapon, and seeing the writers wield it for the first time in “Here’s Looking At You” is an impressive thing.

Other thoughts/observations:

– Frasier: “If people were so concerned about their privacy, they wouldn’t leave their blinds open at that certain angle, where you can see the mirror over the mantle that reflects down the hall, to the waterbed in the back room.”

– Daphne: “Little Eddy’s in there twitching; I think he’s dreaming about rabbits. I can’t explain your father’s twitching, though.”

– When Niles convinces his friends to trick a wine club president into drinking a chateau petrus while he thinks he’s drinking a forcus dupre (I have no idea if that’s spelled correctly), chaos breaks out: “And as it so happens, rough house turns to tears.”

– Aunt Patrice, you are a loon. G’s at the end of every syllable – who would even play that game?

– “Did you ever meet someone and know she’s not the one?” Frasier: “Yeah, five years after I married her.”

– Daphne: “I found a box of pizza rolls in the freezer one day past the expiration date. We game?”

– Marty, to Frasier: “There’s nothing you don’t say often enough.”

– I love Daphne’s little monologue about history being full of limpers.

– Another fantastic character detail: Marty’s ties are always covered in dog hair, because he has to tie them on Eddie first.

[Photos via NBC]

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