It’s a shame The Old Man continues to suffer from Bloated Male-Dominated Exposition Syndrome because the fourth episode is where the series’s female characters shift from quiet supporting participants to emboldened main players. Yes, Amy Brenneman’s Zoe is given a scene-stealing showcase at the end of the episode, and Alia Shawkat’s Angela is cracking under the pressure of her double life. But I feel like more time could’ve been spent on developing these facets of the story and less on John Lithgow’s long-winded teases about how much he really knows about Dan Chase.
Right now, my sympathies lay entirely with Angela (and Zoe, of course, but since she’s currently holding Chase by the balls, I’m not as worried about her). Here is a woman who is utterly alone in the world: Her father is no more than a voice on the telephone, and her relationship with her boss/surrogate father, Harold Harper, is far too complicated to be a safe space because Harper has no clue she is Dan Chase’s daughter. Plus, Angela’s personal history with the Harper family continues to be a head-scratcher: Harper vaguely hints at something significant in his past involving his son before getting on the plane to meet with Faraz Hamzad, but I’m still at a loss here. All we know is that Angela was close with Harper’s deceased son, Chip, and that she has an intimate connection with Harper’s grandson, Henry. We also learn Angela was once in a relationship with Harper’s future daughter-in-law, Lily. So are we supposed to assume Angela might have a biological tie to Henry?
That’s the theory I’m working off for now because according to the monologue she gave Waters (as of this episode, Agent Nosy seems to have chilled out, so, whatever), she has more of a reason to stay loyal to Harper. Angela confides in Waters that she felt her mother’s life was “hollow,” that “a piece of her was missing” — and the more we learn about Belour/Abbey, I think that’s another big secret of her romance with Dan Chase: She lost all the power and influence she wielded over her community in Afghanistan by running off with Johnny CIA.
Anyway, Angela made it her life’s mission to find a purpose, which she did, by joining the FBI, and Harper was instrumental in her success. So when Angela Adams must travel with a blackmailed Harper to meet Faraz Hamzad to get the answers they’re seeking about Chase, she wants to do it. Even if it infuriates her dad, who, in a role reversal from the series premiere, is now the one begging her not to abandon him. But this time, she’s not going to make like Daddy and ditch her identity when things get tough because she likes being Angela Adams, FBI agent. That, and she’s not interested in waiting for other people to take care of the man behind her family’s intergenerational trauma. She’s flushing her phone’s SIM card down the toilet and getting on that plane, ostensibly, to eliminate Hamzad herself. And I say, good for her.
Speaking of trauma, let’s talk about Zoe.
As suspected, Zoe was indeed stuffed into the trunk of her own car as part of Dan Chase’s narrow escape from the feds last week. So, it’s understandable that in the episode’s opening scene (and in most of Brenneman’s scenes), Jeff Bridges does all the talking as a broken and devastated Zoe slowly comes to terms with her new reality. Chase can swear up and down that her safety is her number-one priority — which, for the record, I believe to be true — but the fact remains that he kidnapped her, and her life is no longer her own. She must now accompany Chase to his safe house in Los Angeles via an awkward cross-country road trip and adopt the identity of “Marcia Dixon.” She will now be the wife of “Henry Dixon,” Wealthy Investor. For her trouble, Chase promises to pay her $500,000. Excuse me while I scoff.
Within a few days, Zoe is living with Chase at the Dixons’ palatial L.A. penthouse, whiling away her days sipping red wine, snuggling with Dave and Carol, and watching cooking shows. (Look, I am in no way condoning kidnapping, but the girl deserves a little self-care after everything she’s been through.) She also “meets” Chase-as-Dixon’s assistant, Stuart, over the phone. And Stuart is all too eager to see to his boss’ wife’s needs …
When Zoe blindsides Chase over dinner with her own self-preservation plan during the episode’s final scene, I may or may not have screamed, “Oh, SNAP!” I absolutely love that she’s taken the ruthless lessons of her divorce and applied them to her situation: She’s drafted an email to the board of Henry Dixon’s financial company, notifying them of impending divorce proceedings. Unless Chase agrees to her demands, that email will go out in two hours, and when it does, things are going to get very messy at “Mr. Dixon’s” company, making this whole hiding-out-from-the-feds thing even harder to maintain. Dan Chase may have a very particular set of skills, but as Zoe correctly assumes, none of them include knowing how to fuck over your partner in a divorce. She, on the other hand, knows how that game is played all too well, and she knows she’s worth more than a measly half million.
So Chase has two options before the clock runs out on that timed email: Accept Zoe’s help as his equal (apparently, after her divorce “nearly killed” her, she wants to pay it forward by giving someone the help she never had. Okay, sure. Whatever keeps the plot going). Or accept her promise to stay silent and let her go. Both options come with a very hefty price tag: half of everything he owns. Never had Zoe pegged as an extortionist, but she’s my new hero.
After living as a victim for too long, Zoe has found her inner courage and, unlike Chase, who has gone into high-pitched, exasperated Dude mode, remains calm and measured throughout this Very Intense Dinner. What’s also interesting about this scene is Zoe presents these demands without knowing the depths of Chase’s grisly past, making her bravery that much more laudable: This week’s series of flashbacks depict Young Dan Chase brutally seeking revenge on a group of Soviet sentries who threatened Young Abbey. As Young Dan proudly lays his victims at Hamzad’s feet, he has an otherworldly exchange with an out-of-focus Old Abbey (I could do without these muddled ghostly apparitions that transcend time and space, btw). Old Abbey warns him that his violent nature will be what destroys them both, informing the audience that to eventually escape Hamzad, they will become “monstrous.” But idealistic Young Dan brushes her off, promising that such a thing would never happen to either of them.
Again, excuse me while I scoff.
What Zoe has learned from her nasty divorce is that money, as she explains to Chase, is “a measure of discomfort,” and a person’s power is how they use that money to avoid such discomfort. So, she requires an amount that makes her more than just “a complication” in Chase’s story: “You will account for me.” Chase, shitting his pants at how badly he’s been owned, tries threatening Zoe, but she is so over that tired routine, holding firm to her ultimatum.
Although the scene (and episode) ends without resolution, I wouldn’t call it a cliffhanger. It’s doubtful Zoe is about to slip off into the sunset because there are several action-packed clips in this trailer featuring Brenneman in a cocktail dress looking plenty cozy with Bridges. The series has also been renewed for a second season, so it’s safe to say Zoe is about to become Chase’s well-compensated partner in crime.
That’s Like, My Opinion, Man
• He didn’t get much screen time this episode, but Julian Carson remains pivotal to the story: Carson tips Harper off to the fact that there’s a mole in his operation (a.k.a. Angela) because Chase somehow knew he needed to leave Pennsylvania ASAP, thus making it impossible for Carson to finish his job.
• I also thought it was a nice touch to have Carson’s day job be at a hospice. This guy knows death inside and out.
• Upon arriving at the L.A. penthouse, Zoe notices a familiar-looking whiteboard in the kitchen. This time, “Your name is Marcia Dixon” is scribbled on it. It’s a reminder that maintaining multiple identities is a difficult task for anyone, even with their cognitive faculties intact. It’s no wonder Abbey lived in such fear.
• Dave and Carol’s begging faces!!!
• The captured Soviet officer Young Dan brought into Hamzad’s custody is named Suleyman Pavlovich. He’s also the guy Old Dan wants to now form a relationship with through an investment play in the hope that Pavlovich still holds a grudge against Hamzad, allowing them to form an alliance.
• Fun fact: Zachary, the investment bro Chase meets with, is played by Jeff Bridges’s nephew, Jordan Bridges.