There’s always a lot of talk with young comedies like Weird Loners about “the ensemble” and whether the cast “has chemistry” together. Yes, this is important, but even more important is going one layer deeper, and observing the various dynamics within this ensemble between different characters; the formula most comedies follow splits up the cast into pairs, catalyzing stories based on various character quirks (and as a show grows older, established rhythms of conversation). Being able to pair any two characters off for a story that’s both funny and meaningful is key: it allows a show to keep itself fresh by constantly moving parts around and growing relationships, rather than falling into the same patterns of interactions that indicate a lazier, formulaic approach to comedy.
“Weird Knight” is the first episode of Weird Loners that shows flaws in its construction. In theory, pairing off Zara and Stosh should work, her artist mentality clashing with his suit-wearing, hard-headed pursuit of anything in life. In practice, however, their pairing is dominated by Stosh’s self-serving nature, his quest to bring her art to the public really just a ruse for him to get a quick buck in his pocket. Yes, “Weird Knight” does erase Zara’s confidence in her own work for the sake of letting Stosh save the day by lying to her, but their dynamic never adds up to much. Some of this is due to Stosh being a much more prominent, defined character on the show, but the episode doesn’t take the opportunity to give voice to Zara much, either, outside of a few broad strokes about creating for the sake of art and the other typical bohemian material creative types are given in comedies. There’s nothing wrong with that portrayal, per se, but “Weird Knight” doesn’t offer up anything unique to fill out that archetype, leaving its conclusion a little undercooked as a result.
Similarly, Eric and Caryn make for an ill-fitting pair, their story also relying too heavily on the inherent quirks of their characters, wrapped up in this simplistic portrayal of nerd culture. Again, Weird Loners attempts to give a spin on the story by revealing Eric’s nemesis was just using Caryn to make his girlfriend jealous, but this just devolves into an all-out fistfight between people in chess piece suits, which reveals just how seriously this story was taken. Separated from the very moving journey of mourning his father and growing up, “Weird Knight” pokes a little too much fun at its most important character, undermining its own premise of weird people finding solace in the weirdness of others. There are hints of this in the story – after all, Caryn does go on a date just to help out Eric – but ultimately, their story is in service of easy jokes, rather than the characters themselves, and the end result is an amusing, but weightless episode.
Directed by House Party director (and Django Unchained producer) Reginald Hudlin, “Weird Knight” might be the most visually stimulating episode of Weird Loners‘ first season – Eric’s Mister homage and the close-ups on Zara as she paints were both top-notch TV direction – but its script isn’t able to build off that creative momentum, falling flat as it devolves into a predictable ending with Stosh and Zara and a nonsensical one with Eric and Caryn. As fun as it is to hang out with this group of characters in this episode, the previous three have done a much better job turning their defining flaws into something cathartic.
[Photo via FOX]