Ground Floor Season 2 Episode 5 Review: “Mano-a-Mansfield”

Ground Floor 2.05

Ground Floor is adept at quite a lot of things; however, the show’s writing is consistently its most impressive feature. A show aware of both its position in the television landscape and its creative scope, Ground Floor understands the concept of balance, never dipping too far into slapstick, or bitterness, or endearment. It is a show that moves, and sometimes to a fault; able to capture moments effectively so quickly, some scenes rush by, lost in the flow of the episode from top floor, to ground floor, and back again.

“Mano-a-Mansfield” encapsulates the strengths and weaknesses of Ground Floor‘s creative formula, an episode that turns on a dime halfway through, transforming the episode that naturally seemed to be pausing after an important moment into another landmark moment for the show, with Brody and Mansfield’s confrontation (and subsequent reconciliation). There’s an important balance between the light and heavy in “Mano-a-Mansfield”, and that allows the episode to effortlessly shift gears from one act to the next, letting the episode’s surprisingly cathartic, decisive conclusion spring out of nowhere, yet fall into place naturally.

What makes Brody and Mansfield’s big scene together so effective is how it operates on the comedic and emotional levels of the show at the same time; for the first time this season, the real Brody/Mansfield dynamic was in play – because let’s be honest, Brody and Mansfield’s scenes together take on an entirely different weight when they’re both wearing suit jackets.

No, seriously; previous interactions between Brody and Mansfield existed in the aftermath of the season one finale, with Mansfield clearly sitting in the taller chair, looking down on Brody with his wounded pride. It’s allowed the show to reflect Mansfield’s stubborn attitude towards addressing his hurt feelings, accessing the vulnerability that he’s lost without Brody around, something that’s even beginning to creep into his professional life. “Mano-a-Mansfield” throws all this exposition about Mansfield’s business at us in the space of the last two episodes, but it all serves an important purpose in showing us who Mansfield is; after all, he’s never going to be the character who explains his feelings with complete honesty himself, so “Mano” fills in the blanks through other characters, to tremendous effect.

The only frustrating part about this is that it’s so effective, and so focused, it leaves a bit to be desired in the ancillary pockets of the episode; the parallel between Mansfield/Brody and Jenny/Harvard feels a lot more clumsy than it did in “The Break-ups”, a resolution that’s added to a string of genital jokes for the sake of narrative symmetry (which I appreciate, but it’s not nearly as affecting as last week). Harvard’s journey to find a girl really only gets going in the final seconds of the episode – again, something I appreciate not being stuffed into this episode, but something I do wish was built up a little more than a combination of Tinder/Nigerian email scheme stories, on a character level for Harvard (though him talking to Lindsey is a big step in the right direction; Ground Floor is a romance (and bromance show, and Harvard shouldn’t be left out).

“Mano” unfortunately backseats Jenny and Harvard (even Brody and Jenny only share a scene or two in this episode), but it doesn’t come without its benefits: Lindsey and Threepeat’s “competition” to be Mansfield’s second is hilarious (and hilariously one-sided), a B-story that is able to integrate cleanly with the much more serious story at the core of the show – and leads to the funniest image of the entire season, with Mansfield pulling back the blinds to reveal the two possible Brody replacements he has in training: Lindsey’s on a table yelling in her deep nervous voice, and Threepeat’s desperately listening on the other side of the window with a cup to the glass.

It’s a beautiful moment, one that bridges the conflict preceding it, and the surprising resolution (if only for when it occurs on the show’s timeline this season) to follow, bringing the first half of the season to a neat close while establishing a few interesting stories for the show’s second half (a jaded Threepeat? Remington Steele Goes Down? Lindsey and Harvard doing weird stuff to each other? I’m in for all of them). And the signature moment is a doozy: Brody and Mansfield’s awkward hug is a monumentally satisfying moment for the show, a moment that embraces every note within it, from the physical slapstick of their hug (Mansfield’s arm placement is a riot), to the emotional undercurrent of mentor and student reuniting.

While I can complain that Lindsey, Threepeat, and Harvard are all cut a little short in this episode, none of that can take away from the climatic moment it replaces, when Brody and Mansfield spend a brief moment in each other’s shoes. That moment is an important marking point in what’s shaping up to be a terrific second season, one that continues to quietly challenge its own status quo on a near-weekly basis, a refreshing approach to the traditional comedic format its constructed in, and clearly understands so well.

[Photo via TBS]

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