Ah, Flaked. In a weird way, it’s nice to have this dramedy back, and I say that despite not really thinking much of the first season. Will Arnett stars as Chip, a self-styled fount of inspiring advice and supposed reliability who was shown in season one to be more of a pathological liar in some respects. here is a man who has taken the fall for a devastating accident, and used that lie to fashion himself into a tragic life guru – dispensing ‘bad guy turned good’ advice to help him coast through life, and get him laid.
Season one was watchable because, as an Arnett vehicle, Flaked is a precious rarity. Here is a show that doesn’t just allow Arnett to coast on his gravelly voice and comic timing, but instead drives him to be a little more low-key. Though Chip shares the narcissism of many of Arnett’s more humorous characters, this is definitely more drama than comedy, and Arnett rises to the challenge. Flaked’s biggest issue was that the supporting characters beyond Chip himself just weren’t very interesting, especially when it came to his love interest, London.
This slightly truncated follow-up season (offering six episodes to the first’s eight) seeks to remedy that by inserting subplots for the co-stars. And it actually sort of works. In parts. Ish.
Before we go further, do be aware that things get a little spoilery within!
One of the best aspects of season two is that we get to explore the character of Dennis in more detail. Everyone in season one existed by virtue of having something to do with Chip, but in season two, we actually get a sense of who Dennis is beyond the context of his supposed best friend. His relationship with Lenora Critchlow’s Rosa is a sweet one, even if the show runs out of time to fully explore the intricacies of the emotional damage wrought by Dennis’ own attempts at shielding others from his painful truths. The irony of a recovering alcoholic opening a wine store is realised in its fullest when Dennis falls off the wagon mid-way through the season. The result is quite shocking to begin with – his state of being, the store in tatters around him – but it doesn’t quite go far enough.
Part of the issue with Flaked is that it never fully commits to the seriousness of its subject matter. There’s often a misguided attempt at levity around the corner, taking the sting out of scenes that could and should really be devastating. But instead, both fall flat. It’s a delicate balance, and I certainly don’t mean to say that big themes must be dealt with in the most serious fashion. But Flaked never commits to the drama enough to fully explore a heartfelt message that feels sincere, and the jokes aren’t good enough to really conjure laughs. What we’re left with is a mumblecore indie film, spread across six episodes, that isn’t sure what it wants to be, and veers away from confrontation.
Part of that is purposeful. After all, this is what Chip does. He lies his way into and out of sticky situations, surrounding himself with fabrication so that he doesn’t really have to confront reality. But that only proves interesting for so long. The second season begins with everyone in Venice shunning him, but we don’t see that hugely. The weight of his homelessness and desperation isn’t really felt, partially because the scripts seem insistent on trying to achieve some gentle bicycle-based physical comedy half the time. I just find it difficult to come away feeling anything about Flaked aside from its easiness to watch, because the show itself, its execution and structure, so closely mirrors the slacker insincerity that is Chip’s fatal flaw.
George William Basil’s Cooler sort of personifies this inconsistency. Evicted from his house after skipping six months in rent, Cooler ends up living out of a tiny Winnebago. His optimism and bright nature are balanced out by the fact that he’s not the sharpest tool in the shed. He’s basically a dim hippy, stumbling through modern life, but with a heart of gold. But he strikes up a completely unbelievable relationship with a woman from Chip’s AA group, that begins with him pretending to be a plumber and ultimately breaking her shower. The woman, Alex, a single mother with a job that clearly pays well (given her home) seemingly falls for Cooler’s slacker charms, branding him reliable for being around, but apparently ignoring the fact that this is because he literally has nowhere else to go.
Once again, the female characters in Flaked are reduced to being plot points. London is really just a barometer of Chip’s restlessness, and eventually flees for home to give Chip someone/something to fight for. Alex is a bed for the night for Chip, and a Good Thing in the life of Cooler. Even Rosa is really just defined by her relationships with Dennis and her alcoholic father. She is a catalyst for change in the plot arcs of two male characters, and doesn’t really exist outside of them. Even when London goes home, Chip presumes it’s for a man – so she can finally marry her jilted ex-fiance. In actuality, it’s for another man – her dead brother, the one Chip supposedly killed in a car accident.
And herein lies another big issue: the accident at the heart of the show. Since pitching sharply from hipster comedy into melodrama halfway through season one, we have really always been building up to the point where London learns that Chip didn’t kill her brother. But the trouble with that is London isn’t enough of a character for us to really care about her reaction, and indeed the show seems to realise this and gets it all over in the space of two minutes in this season’s final episode. But given her questionable motivation for meeting Chip in the first place – i.e. wanting to meet her brother’s killer and then somehow, despite a lack of chemistry, logic, and decent writing, falling in love with him – this then leads to a very swift ‘I guess I wasn’t the right man for her moment’ that falls flatter than a pancake.
It falls flatter than a pancake run over by the car that Chip was supposedly drunk driving.
Cue an outro to the season that features Chip riding around on a bike while gentle obscure indie music plays.
What have we learned?
There are constructions I can point to and acknowledge the effect that they’re supposed to have – Cooler’s thing with Alex is supposed to be this sweet, kooky romance; Rosa’s eventual re-connection with her father should be cathartic – but none of it feels earned. In the end, although I don’t regret watching the series from beginning to end, it’s not one that will linger for very long. It has nothing to do with the pace, or the lack of action, to be honest. There are plenty of shows and films that serve as languid, melancholic character studies – fellow Netflix stablemate Love is a great example. It’s simply that Flaked isn’t very interesting.
Have you check out Flaked? Are you a Will Arnett fan? What did you think of Season 2? You can follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and don’t forget to subscribe to the YouTube channel for videotastic awesomeness. Streaming coming soon to Twitch too!