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Bored to Death: The Enemy Is Everywhere

The three heroes of Bored to Death share similar crises: Jonathan and Ray are creative people crippled by self-doubt in their relationships and flagging careers. George has had success, but he’s past his prime and facing mortality for the first time thanks to a prostate-cancer diagnosis. Nothing much happens, relatively speaking, over the course of this season, but this episode does move the ball in one significant way — the obstacles are starting to disappear.

Jonathan is invigorated by his Harry Parker alter ego, created for his New Yorker short story based on rescuing Louis Green from the heroin dealers in Prospect Park. When Leah comes to him to find Little Ray, the pug who was stolen and is being held for ransom, Jonathan has the audacity to lean in and almost kiss her, which horrifies both of them. Ray’s comic has landed him actual fans, including one elfin-eared girlfriend, but all he wants is to find the dog and win Leah back. They find the pug in an alleyway lockup, but it’s nothing a pair of bolt-cutters can’t solve.

George’s crisis comes to a more unexpected resolution. Just before he rolls into surgery, right after Donna catches Priscella straddling him as he feeds his ex-wife the same line he told her earlier in the morning (“I’m just glad my last erection in life is with you”). George fears the doctor will take out her revenge with the scalpel, while his ever-vigilant private-eye friend and protégé notices that everyone keeps calling George Christopher “Mr. Christensen” — he’s had the wrong file all along. Turns out that sleeping with a patient is the least of the good urologist’s practical flaws.

The episode peaks with a dual chase scene — the dog thief sprinting after Ray and the rescued pups, Jonathan trying to find George’s operating room — to the strains of Titus Andronicus, possibly the most spirited and epiphanic sequence in the series’ history. Both characters wind up saving the day — pretend heroes actually acting heroic, preserving one family’s dog and one man’s prostate, even if George has already lost his natural-colored pubic hair to the surgical prep.

True, George’s false-positive diagnosis turns out to be something of a cop-out, but this is a sitcom — we get the soul-searching and introspection without having to watch radiation treatments. But Ray’s satisfaction in returning the dogs and pleasing Leah is a well-earned victory, even if it doesn’t necessarily lead to anything. Answers do come easily on this show — George walks out of the hospital with his luggage, explaining to Jonathan that he broke up with Donna and that everything’s back to normal, although: poor George Christensen of Ozone Park, Queens.

It’d be good for Bored to Death for its protagonists to get out of their ruts. Struggling and self-loathing make for fine comedy, sure, but it’s hard to see what’s left to mine in that vein. But Jonathan and Ray finding their careers and their profiles and their confidence boosted? George fighting to keep the spot he’s earned in that tony corner office? That’s something new to the show, and, now that the show’s a bona fide hit, renewed for a third season, possibly new to the real Jonathan Ames, who’s always existed somewhere on the fringe of pop culture. As he gets better known and his bills get paid, maybe that in turn will propel the show’s resident sad-sacks somewhere less sad.

Photo: Paul Schiraldi/HBO