Season One, Episode Ten — “Alibi”
By Brandy Dykhuizen. In the moments leading up to the Nasty Bits’ big show, Jules perfectly summed up my feelings going into the finale: “Whatever happens tonight, I remain as confused as ever.” Now, Terrance Winters did spin us right ’round (baby, right ’round, like a record, baby) and brought the story full circle, ending on the same notes with which it began – with a New York Dolls show and a murder. This was a relatively neat and tidy wrap-up for a show that spent much of its time skipping and jumping over tracks, missing beats here and there, and being, at times, downright cacophonous. Overall, we get the impression that Vinyl hit the ground running, used up most of its cliffhangers early on, and spent the last quarter of the season cobbling together the stray pieces to get a head start on next year’s damage control. There was, however, a handful of stellar moments, and no shortage of fascinating characters that could be used to salvage a potentially excellent series in the future.
Corso getting whacked potentially erases Richie’s murder headaches, and did well to relieve the show of a stale plot point that expended too much energy in tying the mob to the music industry. In fact, while I never in a million years thought I would say this, Terrance Winters’ exit from Vinyl may be precisely what the show needs. While undoubtedly a brilliant showrunner, Winters’ Sopranos and Boardwalk Empire inflections overshadowed what this series was purportedly about – rock and roll. Alibi records wants to usher in something fresh, new and raw. The mob connection is far more engaging as a fire-igniting catalyst than a shadow under which the cast strains. So please, HBO, use this opportunity to create something novel, innovative and loud. More music — less noise!
WHAT WORKED: The finale served more to wrap up loose ends and point us in the general direction of where the show is headed, rather than leave us on the edge of our collective seats. If next season undergoes a transformation and gets its shit together, then that’s okay. Because there’s nothing more reassuring about a show than when it can admit where it went wrong.
WHAT DIDN’T: The only thing we really saw of Devon in this episode was her photo of Richie’s guitar through the television, used as the Nasty Bits’ album cover. The episode centered around plotlines that don’t involve her, such as Alibi’s launch and Mafioso dealings, but the absence of such a central character was still palpable.
“The album’s been selling all of a sudden.” – Skip, referring to Indigo. “How is that possible?” – Jules. “They do make excellent Frisbees.” – Skip, still not able to embrace dance music.
“Lady Chatterley getting banned put D.H. Lawrence on the map!” – Richie, dropping some history. “I never heard of that record.” – Joe, not the literate type. “It’s not a fucking…“ – Richie can’t even.
“You know, there are brothers outside that door who would stick a knife in you for a dollar.” – Lester. “I know five people who would do it for free.” – Richie. It’s hard to intimidate a man who knows his place.
“You can suck the permission out of my dick.” – Lester. Well okay, then.
BEST MOMENT: Clark finally had his moment in the sun, during his big reveal that he never actually sent the letter informing Indigo’s manager that American Century wanted to drop the band. After his demotion, he finally found his A&R gumption and dove into the legwork with his mailroom buddy Jorge. After basically bribing the city’s DJs to spin the record at countless clubs, the higher-ups are shocked to see that Indigo found a place on the charts. Clark explains what he and Jorge have been up to, to an incredulous Skip and Jules. In a wonderfully exuberant and hilarious moment, Skip asks “Who the fuck is Jorge,” and Jorge swings open that mailroom window with a cool-as-you-please flick of the wrist to announce “I AM!” These mailroom misfits epitomize the kids in Richie’s speech, who look to music for a comfort and connection they may not find in the world around them.
SEASON’S MVP: One of the pleasantly surprising aspects of Vinyl was to watch Ray Romano’s character develop, and to perceive him as a talented actor rather than just that goofy guy who had that annoying show 10 years ago. Zak’s character has been run through the mill, from Richie’s betrayals to being kidnapped by the mob. Even so, he alway brought a wonderfully satisfying, totally understated comedy to almost any situation. He’s perfectly awkward at times, but down-to-earth enough to realize when he’s being a putz. The scene between Zak and Galasso, in which Zak tries to connect with the boss on his appreciation of The Godfather was priceless. There are really only two options for his character from here on out: either he’ll make an exit soon, or he’ll start shouldering more weight. I do hope he’s in it to win it.
BETWEEN THE LINES:
– Richie witnessing the birth of CBGB certainly bodes well for next season. That entire scene was remarkably off-handed and subtle for a show generally used to slapping you over the head with its references.
– Similarly, we see The Ramones in the crowd a few times at the Nasty Bits show, but no more attention than that is paid.
– Xavier is perfectly content to be a Class A diva, which will undoubtedly give Zak a run for his money, and us some giggle-worthy scenes.
– Enough with the drama already, Kip! Put your big boy pants on! Stop crying and moping about everything – that’s not punk rock!!!
6.5 out of 10
Before: “Rock and Roll Queen”, here.