‘Fresh off the Boat’ Episode Review: “Bring the Pain”

Fresh Off the Boat, Season 2, Episode 24: “Bring the Pain” (Season 2 finale)
Original airdate May 24, 2016.

Microsynopsis: Louis’s brother Gene drops in unexpectedly, causing stress for Louis, who hasn’t seen Gene in ten years and finds him annoying, and for Jessica, who’s been trying unsuccessfully for ages to repay Gene $200 she borrowed from him.  Louis doesn’t want to make nice with Gene, but he wants to set a good example for his sons, who are fighting over whether or not Eddie should see Chris Rock’s HBO special Bring the Pain.

fotb_s02_e24 (2)Good:  If you don’t want the funniest joke in this episode spoiled, skip this section, because I have to say something about it.  However, I first need to say that Ken Jeong as Gene works really well here, perhaps better than Randall Park worked when he was a guest on Dr. Ken.  Jeong is a gifted physical actor, but he often seems out of control on his own program.  In “Bring the Pain,” however, an early scene where Louis and Gene get into a “Chinese polite fight” over who will carry Gene’s luggage is cute and silly.  This was good enough for me, but then when the gag carries into a later scene where he and Jessica fight over a restaurant check, it’s just hilarious.  There’s nothing especially clever about the scene, and the only dialogue is a repetition of the word “no,” yet it’s visually terrific, and honestly something I’ve not seen on TV.  For all my criticisms of Dr. Ken this season, I have consistently been impressed with how easily other actors seem to work with him.  Despite all the space he takes up, he seems to leave the right amount of room for other actors to get in there and do their thing.  It’s harder to notice when the material is so-so, but when it’s strong, as it is in this episode, it’s super noticeable.

Eddie finally convinces Emery and Evan to watch the Chris Rock special with him, appealing to their desire not to be feuding brothers like their father and uncle.  “Let’s come together, like Voltron,” he implores.

“I don’t care for all the bad language,” says Emery, “but this is just as educational as Square One.”

I’m just glad he doesn’t do lame Asian jokes,” adds Evan, dropping the mic.

And the Huangs head into summer hiatus with sudden plans to visit Taiwan and the promise of a third season.

fotb_s02_e24 (15)Bad:  I kind of hoped the Hot Springs Incident would never actually be revealed (as with the Calvin and Hobbes Noodle Incident).  When it’s revealed (via flashback featuring naked Louis and naked Gene), it’s not as great as what one might have imagined, but it serves the plot well and gives the characters backstory and depth.  Also, I find it impossible to believe that Grandma would allow herself to be spirited away with no conversation at all with Louis.  She understands Gene’s frustration, of course, but would she leave, even temporarily, without saying bye to her boys?  No way.

FOB moment:  Gene’s “You stole America from me” accusation is a reminder that many of our families have to come to the U.S. in phases, something that has touched almost anyone with immigrant friends.

Soundtrack flashback: “We’ve Got it Goin’ On” by the Backstreet Boys (1995).  “Tha Crossroads” by Bone Thugs-n-Harmony (1996).

Final grade, this episode:  A solid conclusion to a solid season.  Fresh off the Boat steps confidently into something interesting almost every other week, and I love the way the characters have settled into their spaces while still adding new facets once in a while.  It doesn’t always work (as with separate psycho-Emery and psycho-Evan episodes), but I admire the consistent effort to make something different.  Let’s do it again in the fall.  B+.

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About Mitchell K. Dwyer

@scrivener likes movies.
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