Just when you thought the stakes of The Grinder couldn’t be lowered any further, “Grinder vs. Grinder” arrives, an episode that relies completely on the presence of a muted Timothy Olyphant and a mock trial between two fake lawyers. As each Grinder tries to out-Grinder each other, The Grinder continues to fall apart around it; whatever clever meta humor the show has to offer in faint glimpses is completely lost among the one-dimensional plot at its center. Even more frustration is how the last two episodes have completely stunted the show’s growth; after appearing to really be gaining some narrative traction with Dean building a house and figuring his life out, The Grinder has regressed back into a much more simplistic, lesser version of itself.
When a character (Claire, who the show allows to be as fun as a wet blanket) mentions that what’s happening is “the stupidest thing they’ve ever done in their life”, and one begins to wonder if they’re actually teasing the audience, it’s not a very good sign. That very moment happens in “Grinder vs. Grinder”, where Claire watches two guys passively fight over her, shrugging her shoulders at every chance she has to express emotion about her job, career, life, or relationship with Tim Olyphant (while they fight over who is the closest to being a great fake lawyer, nonetheless – the stakes for this episode truly couldn’t be lower). And she’s right: the entire exercise of Tim and Dean puffing their chests out at each other (while becoming close friends at the same time) is tiresome the minute it begins, and devolves into utter nonsense long before its over.
“Grinder vs. Grinder” is so oddly pieced together: there’s a subplot about Dean Sr.’s position as the head of a fishery group (which turns out to be a bunch of extremely old, decrepit men) that is barely even addressed until the closing credits. It’s just kind of mentioned a few times, between Dean Sr. randomly yelling at people about how loyal he is to his children, to the point he’ll indulge his petulant, immature son with a mock trail that nobody, real or fictional, could care less about besides him. To the episode’s credit, “Grinder vs. Grinder” tries to tie it to Stewart’s familiar cycle of anger, frustration, and guilt with his brother – but again, the formula is already getting tired, and The Grinder‘s utterly pointless, forced court room scenes offer nothing to make any of it feel fresh.
It’s disappointing to see how haphazardly The Grinder is treating its characters, its meta humor (this week, the opening observation is about how the good guy always wins! wow!), and its plot developments; the only consistent thing about The Grinder as a whole is its rampant inconsistency, a show that feels desperate to break away from the genre conventions it ultimately embraces, and feels proud of. It makes for a weird mix of television, a show with the ability to reflect on the nature of television culture in interesting ways, but only able to deliver those ideas in watered down, conventional depictions moments. And it’s unfortunate; even in its worst moments, “Grinder vs. Grinder” feels like it could really be something; instead, The Grinder delivers another unsatisfying, thoroughly unfunny episode spent indulging its worst habits, both Dean Jr.’s, and the young show as a whole.
The Grinder Season 1 Episode 13 Review:
The Grinder offers up a weightless, laughless episode in this week’s disappointing “Grinder vs. Grinder”.