Whoa, that was pretty messed up, even by Bored to Death standards. I mean, clearly the show is okay with getting babies drunk and senseless murder in Prospect Park. But incest feels over the line, even if it was accidental and Jonathan had no way of knowing. Bored to Death typically has a short emotional memory, meaning next week either we learn that Jonathan and Rose aren’t actually related, or the entire thing gets swept under the rug and we only hear about it in passing (like the time Ray got stabbed). I’m rooting for either, because knowing how prone Jonathan is to mental complexes, this kind of thing could send him to therapy for many, many foot rubs.
In any case, this may be the first time Bored to Death has ever used the “To Be Continued” trope, and it’s with good reason: “Forget the Herring” was compelling throughout, full of character epiphanies born out of heightened comic moments. And for my money, it doesn’t get more heightened than watching Ted Danson gallop through the streets of New York dressed as a wispy-eyelashed Don Quixote, Ray following behind even though he doesn’t have a costume. They haven’t been that blissfully happy in a while. Ray has been booted from Leah’s apartment and is crashing on George’s couch for the time being, suffering from back pain. George is dreading his performance in the upcoming Yale alumni performance — he still hasn’t had a proper singing lesson; his relationship with Emily is like that episode of Seinfeld where Jerry starts sleeping with his cleaning lady — and is dealing with Ray’s snoring and need for pre-bedtime infantilizing. He just wants the show to happen, in the off chance his daughter shows up.
That’s a lot to chew on, so these guys, naturally, solve their problems with their own minds. Or, specifically, their minds when they’re baked to oblivion. I forget Bored to Death is partially a stoner show, mostly because they’ve thankfully stopped talking about how awesome it is to be stoned every time they get stoned, like they did throughout season one. But it still happens all the time; it’s just subtext at this point. And in this case, it’s a catalyst for some deep spiritual reflection. First Ray wakes up having slept on the back pain book George gave him the night before — plus reading the back cover — and miraculously he’s completely healed. They head to George’s show, where they’re greeted with a fresh batch of Josephine’s pot cookies; and after ingesting a few, they realize they must confront their fears and confess their true feelings to the women who’ve cut them out of their lives. Plus George comes to this realization while he’s onstage singing a selection from Man of La Mancha, so the catharsis is tempered by the awkwardness of leaving the stage mid-song. (I’m sure the performance of arm-sling Spider-Man calmed them down … timely reference, Bored to Death?)
George arrives at Emily’s apartment, and aside from upsetting her menacing-looking neighbor, he manages to smooth things over with Emily and Bernard enough to at least get invited up to talk things out. Ray seems to be doing even better, at least for a moment. He sits Leah down, explains that he healed his back using just his mind (another timely reference, this one Charlie Sheen–soaked?), gets down on one knee, explains that he doesn’t have a ring because he just thought to do this now, and proposes marriage. She says no, but given Ray’s track record lately — seriously, can the guy not catch a break? — I’m just happy he had the balls to do it. It’s a cruel little game Bored to Death plays, building up Ray’s confidence only to shatter it again, and it plays the game so quickly. Once again, the show’s demonstrating almost Entourage-ian disregard for plotting.
And speaking of Entourage, the plot twist at the end of the Jonathan story was so extreme that I’m doubting it’ll last, but it unfolded so smoothly I hardly expected a plot twist at all. At the end of last week’s episode, Jonathan gets a call from a woman claiming to have information about the torched Fair Lawn sperm bank. “Forget the Herring” opens in full-blown noir mode with Jonathan chatting with Rose (Isla Fisher) in his office. It turns out she, too, came from the same bank and has done a fair amount of research into its torching. A lot of research— every question Jonathan raises, Rose has an answer for; it certainly doesn’t take much to rival Jonathan in the detective-ing department, but she really complements him nicely. They have amazing repartee and a solid lead to start, so the two lovebirds-to-be scamper over to Rikers Island to meet with the man responsible for the arson. I don’t remember what his actual name was, but he’s played by a haggard-looking Chris Elliott who forces his way to Rose’s face, so I feel like that’s better than a name.
And more important, they find out that the former sperm bank owner now operates a hat shop in Coney Island. Why a hat shop in Coney Island? Because this is Bored to Death, and a hat shop operator in Coney Island is a much more romantic, Brooklyn fetish-y idea than a bodega in the Bronx. So not only do Jonathan and Rose head down the F train to confront this guy, but they spend a day walking around the boardwalk, riding the Ferris wheel, and falling head over heels for one another, consummating that love in Jonathan’s clock tower apartment as the entire building shakes. Yeah, the show’s pretty fetish-y — plus, when the guy calls later with more information, he requests that they meet back at the aquarium. Bored to Death really likes to spread its shooting permits across all the Brooklyn landmarks we only occasionally go to.
At one point in “Forget the Herring,” the hat shop owner says he likes his herring with a little bit of cream sauce. If only that line weren’t so prophetic; it turns out he was supplying all the sperm samples to the bank, and therefore he’s the proper father to both Jonathan and Rose. Cue shuttering. This is a sticky situation for the show, but given how excellent the past two season finales have been, I feel like Bored to Death has a savvy way to tie this all together, without making us feel dirty in the process.