We’re still not where we need to be with The Brink: there’s a whole storyline that’s pretty painful to watch, easy and hacky shit/piss/puke jokes run amok and water torture is played for a laugh… maybe? Still, The Brink is definitely taking some steps to move away from the brink this week–hey, that’s a fresh joke, I bet–with a better understanding of its main characters and more interest in being legitimately clever in the face of all its junior high-level potty humor.
This weeks The Brink sees our crew taking up where they left off in the arguably tense final moments of last week. Larson (Tim Robbins) and the rest of the President’s cabinet, argue over whether to attack Pakistan, Talbot (Frank Black) turns himself over to an angry militia while Rafiq (Aasif Mandvi) attempts to rescue him, and Zeke (Pablo Schreiber) and his co-pilot count down the minutes until they unload an unholy payload on the city of Islamabad. Things get zanier from there.
Did I mention that those last two–the pilots that is–are tripping on Zeke’s own pain medication, a dosage that is far too potent for Zeke’s co-pilot, Glenn? In fact, it’s this storyline that does this week’s The Brink the most damage. Playing a similar role as the classic Slim Pickens part–Major T.J. “King” Kong in Stanley Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove–Zeke and Glenn are largely at the whim of their superiors, their fingers on the trigger nevertheless. Here though, they’re also at the whim of this bad mixture of medications that have at least left Glenn–the one helming the missiles, of course–completely out of it and actively dangerous, covering the fighter plane in vomit and firing off a missile after trying to wipe down his own mess. While this moment of “vomit for vomit’s sake” certainly up’s the ante from Slim Pickens’ earlier depiction of a good ol’ boy out of his element, Zeke and Glenn’s many moments leading up to their anticipated attack, do nothing more than point out how frustratingly awful these two guys are. Where Major Kong’s actions grew out of an endearing naiveté and a strong willingness to follow his orders until the very end, Zeke and Glenn are just idiots. Loud, pill popping, pill puking idiots. Sure, they serve the plot, but each time they show up on screen, it’s groan-inducing.
Luckily, in contrast, Jack Black and Tim Robbins have rebounded from last week’s premiere, showcasing some actual character moments here and there in this second outing, and thus getting a chance to utilize some of their considerable acting chops. Talbot proves in form that his role as cowardly no-life is still up in the air, after he commits a few noble acts for the people he already screwed over. Sure, he’s still quick to get himself out of hairy situations any way he can, but it at least seems to be outside of ruining other people’s lives. Larson meanwhile, has a conversation with his wife that shows a different side of him; one that has respect for a woman other than his assistant, mainly due to his and his wife’s shared debauchery and interest in getting ahead in politics. When she proves to do as much manizing as he womanizing, we’re left with a relationship far more interesting than the classic “politician who cheats on his wife” scenario. We also get some male nudity, which I give The Brink credit for in contrast to its consistent objectification of women. On The Brink, all sexes are objectified! Meanwhile, this week’s The Brink finds its sideline characters getting less play, with Rafiq starting off slowly on his own journey to save Talbot whilst his family disappears after the first five minutes. Larson’s assistant, Kendra, gets some nice scenes bouncing off of her boss, but it’d still be nice to see the supporting cast get a little more screen time.
The Brink is definitely heading in the right direction–especially since the more ridiculous pilot scenes should be in the rearview–but it’s nowhere near above water. The writer’s room will need to up its ability to satirize the ridiculousness of foreign policy and U.S. officials, rather than relying on two idiot pilots vomiting all over a camera broadcasting directly into the Situation Room. It’s something we haven’t seen before, sure, but clever, calculated and biting it isn’t.