Season One, Episode Five — “He In Racist Fire”

© Copyright 2016, Home Box Office. All Rights Reserved.

© Copyright 2016, Home Box Office. All Rights Reserved.

By Brandy Dykhuizen. While this episode may have helped Richie take the implausible plunge into even greater depths of unlikability, it did wonders for bringing a handful of interesting but as-yet-underdeveloped characters to the foreground. Jamie has succeeded in inserting herself into a role that would normally be akin to “manager”, but as she’s the one “with tits,” as Kip eloquently pointed out, she could probably be better described as The Nasty Bitz’ handler. Skilled in telling people what they want to hear yet making them do what she wants, Jamie proves smarter and more intuitive than the AR crowd she worked beneath, and her ability to usher in a struggling label’s makeover maneuvers her into a new limbo somewhere above Sandwich Girl but not quite out of the realm of coffee-and-cocaine gopher. It’s not made 100% clear whether Jules is slow to slap a promotion-worthy title on her new responsibilities because corners are being cut or because she is a young woman in an old man’s world — but we get the feeling that she won’t stay still for long.

And then there’s Andie, a former American Century employee currently working for the competition, and also on the ascent. She agrees to come back to Richie only if he promises her a stake in the company. Through Andie’s interrogation, we learn that Richie chose Devon over her solely “because [Devon] was more beautiful,” which renders Richie even more of a petulant ass when he attempts to use that beauty in the company’s favor to woo Hannibal into signing.

As any good waif with no mind of her own would do, Devon is fully prepared to play the game to keep the paychecks coming, but Richie’s way of viewing every situation as a personal assault on his ego screws up that deal as well. As much money as Hannibal would have dragged in, Richie is obsessed with transforming American Century into a label full of raw, new talent, and Hannibal doesn’t fit that mold anyways. While the loss of Hannibal may serve as fuel for marital conflict, it probably won’t impact the label too much. Besides, the way this show works it will be all but forgotten by Episode Seven.

WHAT WORKED: When the show gives a signal boost to its minority voices, it really feels like Vinyl is going places. The plethora of racist wisecracks and one-liners have mostly just been used to make the rich white dudes in charge look like complete jerks. At this point, Lester and Hannibal have the upper hand over Richie, and Jamie and Andie are largely unfettered (challenged, yes; but not kept entirely back). While we can’t change the history of the record industry of the 1970s, this isn’t a biopic; it’s a relief to see that Vinyl isn’t entirely beholden to its tunnel vision.

WHAT DIDN’T: Oh, there’s that vaguely murder-related closing scene again, that will inevitably lead nowhere until the series culminates in a finale that ignores everything that’s been happening in the show except the murder, and focuses solely on that.

BEST LINE(s):

Richie: “What are you doing up so late?” Sal: “Spoken like a man with a functioning prostate.

Sal: “We went to that movie.” Richie: “’Enter the Dragon’.” Sal: “Stupid goddamn name for a dragon.” Richie:
It’s not a name, Pop… forget it.

I’m Kip Stevens. Fuck your mom. There’s your bio.” – Kip.

Close your mouth before I slap you in the throat.” – Mrs. Feinman

BEST MOMENT: Three cheers to Kip for “keeping it real,” even though Richie still has him by the balls. While I still haven’t been won over by Jagger Jr., or even feel like his name can stand on its own yet, Kip’s beautifully naïve response to record label rigamarole and the undignified ass-kissing of a radio DJ tour was refreshing. Of course it meant nothing in the long run, and Richie was able to put him back in his place with the promise of sharing a stage with the New York Dolls, but it’s always comforting to see someone stick it to the man with such sincerity.

EPISODE’S MVP:  It’s a toss-up between Jamie and Andie. They seem to be iterations of the same type of character, just in different stages of their careers. Neither of them have so much of a “can-do” attitude as a “just try to fucking stop me” demeanor, and it appears to be paying off well for both of them. Andie has been stagnating in her position just long enough to be intrigued by what Richie might have to offer, and I hope his tumultuous nonsense won’t bring her down to a more emotional level.

© Copyright 2016, Home Box Office. All Rights Reserved.

© Copyright 2016, Home Box Office. All Rights Reserved.

BETWEEN THE LINES: 

– The musical segments were much smoother in this episode, though in a way that puts them in danger of morphing into a more normal style of soundtrack. A big difference seemed to be a smoother transition in colors, not just sound, so the jump from reality into fantasy was not as jarring as when presented suddenly in backlit velvety maroons and yellows.

– Guess I never noticed before, but the women in this show largely have androgynous names – Jamie, Devon, Andie, etc.

– I applaud this show’s repeated and obvious dislike for Jethro Tull.

– What could possibly be more “Seventies” than fondue and cigarettes for dinner?

7 out of 10

Next: “Cyclone”, soon.

Before: “The Racket”, here.