Season One, Episode Three — “Whispered Secrets“
By Brandy Dykhuizen. In the third and somewhat plodding installment of Vinyl, I’m coming to understand that this is a show as unable to find its footing as the record label it portrays. While the first episode jumped right into the action and the second episode paid proper credence to pertinent character details, episode number three went out of its way not to combine the elements established thus far, let alone make any movement for the narrative to progress. Instead, plots and subplots continue to be tossed around in draft form, more so than woven into a thoughtful story arc. And sure, Bobby Cannavale remains excellent for the most part, but even his flailing overtures to snorting a fat line remain a overtly theatrical. Suffice it to say, Vinyl is trying too hard in some places and not hard enough in others.
In case anyone needed the reminder, Richie is selfish and more than a bit sneaky, but his wife Devon — who has tolerated his ass for far too long — has to learn from an industry banquet that Richie did not, in fact, sell the company. While we see Devon break and humiliate herself in order to snag a lucrative signature from Warhol, and the murder subplot has resurfaced as more than Richie’s PTSD flashbacks, there are so many moments in which Richie’s dickishness seems to serve no other purpose than to offer a suitable one-liner. Well past character development, Richie’s myopic vision of his place in the world needs to shift to something more tangible lest the series loses its essence.
Cutting the “dead wood” in the boardroom and trimming 70% of the label’s roster allowed room for reinvention and a lovely romp with Alice Cooper, as the untalented and unintuitive Clarke attempts to schmooze with the rock legend. In an industry that has it’s clients’ balls in a vice, Cooper executed a small victory in dragging Clarke around to parties and golf courses as an elaborate way to seek revenge on Richie. Of course, there was no real point to this, as Richie wouldn’t care less about what happened to Clarke (even if he heard about it), but it did well to portray the shifting roles Vinyl likes to keep in flux — victimizing the record industry rather than the artists of which it so fondly takes advantage.
WHAT WORKED: Buck’s murder was brought back into the mix, most likely to drive forward the action of the remainder of the season. While I’d like to see more coherence and cohesion between the various tales, a dead body is always an allegory I can get behind, and I’m glad to see Joe Corso show back up. While wildlife metaphors seem to confuse him, he is certainly dead sure on the leverage he has to manipulate Richie into signing his terrible “talent.”
WHAT DIDN’T: I think it’s time we brought up the Jagger-shaped elephant in the room. While Junior surely looks the part and seems to handle a guitar pretty well, his pouts and flounces speak more of a “poor little rich boy” type of constitution than a struggling artist. I find it difficult to believe the Nasty Bitz are as punk as they pretend to be, and I think the problem lies in their frontman, not in the writing or with the rest of the band.
“Mostly I unclog people’s toilets. Keeps me grounded.” – Lester, describing his duties as a super.
Richie: “Don’t give me that oppressed artist shit. They were a bunch of prima goddamn ballerinas in whatever Slovakatinia they come from.” Richie, regarding Devon’s “dance troupe”. Devon: “Well now they will be living in our basement.”
“Good thing they don’t eat much.” Richie, an optimist even when destroying his marriage.
“How many melons must give their lives to satisfy your ego?” – Alice Cooper’s fruit executioner.
BEST MOMENT: The two aged hecklers giving the DJ a hard time as he was basically inventing hip-hop. They may not have understood what he was doing, and they clearly didn’t care for the truncated tunes, but one of them was still compelled to get up off his ass and dance, and that’s what it’s all about.
EPISODE’S MVP: Lester again brings harsh reality to the show’s proceedings with a lesson in the consequences of thinking you can ever truly emerge out from under the mob’s control. In perhaps the saddest and most effective scene to date, Ato Essandoh trades in his dead-eye, no bullshit stare for a few minutes of complete fantasy. Using the show’s trademark musical segue as a means to sing the blues, he dreams about the life he could have had, radiating pure bliss in a parallel universe. The fact that Lester’s dream culminates in a domestic scene with a beautiful wife and two happy children shows us that he really does seem to be the only character with an overabundance of good inside. Richie’s visit brought back painful but joyous memories, and Lester allows himself a few moments to reflect on the successes and happiness he could have had.
BETWEEN THE LINES:
– John Cameron Mitchell is fantastic, but I keep remembering some pre-Wikipedia Andy Warhol biography I read in high school that portrayed the artist as being very stand-offish and introverted. I always pictured Warhol closer in demeanor to the eyes of Doctor T. J. Eckleburg than an animated party goer.
– Alice Cooper’s snake is named Eva Maria Snake, a tribute to Eva Marie Saint of North by Northwest fame.
– As blues-heavy as this episode was, it did little to incite empathy for any of the characters other than Lester.
6.5 out of 10
Next: “The Racket”, soon.
Before: “Yesterday Once More”, here.