Season One, Episode Nine — “Rock and Roll Queen”
By Brandy Dykhuizen. You’ve gotta hand it to Richie – he looks like he’s convinced even himself that he’s ready to really, truly come clean. And maybe he will. Confessing a murder to your wife is something you’d be hard-pressed to come back from, and it isn’t quite in Richie’s wheelhouse to use something that massive as a mere excuse for his behavior. Richie has thrown up his hands and let outside factors determine his chaos. Devon knows he murdered Buck Rogers and Richie agrees to take the deal and rat on Galasso. Giving up control and trusting other people with his demons are massive turning points for a guy whose entropy is usually of his own making.
But to break for a moment from The Richie Show, who is the eponymous Rock and Roll Queen? Is it Devon, with boxes of undeveloped film in her attic containing pictures of Jimi Hendrix wearing her underwear, amongst other frolics? She tells her boytoy Billy “that it was just something to do,” as though sitting on potentially thousands of dollars of undeveloped photos is far less valuable to her than the control she felt directing powerful men from behind a lens. Or perhaps it’s Andie, appalled and angered by the actions of young Cece and Jamie, who, in her eyes, have gone the bandwhore route rather than take their positions at the label seriously. Andie’s rage comes from a deeply frustrated place – where her memories of climbing up the ladder as Richie’s girl on the side creep into her subconscious at wholly inappropriate moments. Her nasty outbursts towards Cece and Jamie are really that of a misguided mother figure, who doesn’t want the girls to waste their time under the boys they should be bossing around.
Or is the rock queen simply little Jamie, the frontman’s handler, eager to shack up when kicked out of her posh house and just as keen to dive into a bandmates’ threesome? While the finale will undoubtedly center around the more immediate mob-and-murder-related concerns, I hope next season picks up where this episode left off, with the ladies of American Century front and center.
WHAT WORKED: This was probably the most lucid episode of Vinyl yet, with a smooth flowing storyline, a well thought out and poignant soundtrack and clear, intriguing direction. Pity it took so long.
WHAT DIDN’T: Lester seeing Maury Gold in the boardroom really deserved much more than fifteen seconds. While Ato Essandoh could no doubt prompt or placate entire wars with those soulful eyes, the terror, torment and betrayal Lester must feel to see one of Galasso’s men back in cahoots with Richie would have been better served with more than a handful of lines.
Harlan: “Jesus Christ he’s burning up – you couldn’t have called a doctor?” The quick-witted NYPD: “Give him two aspirin and call me when he’s not a junkie.”
Jamie: “This is what you eat for breakfast?” Kip: “If you’d ever stayed, you’d know that.” (Touché, lover.)
“Why are the women such fucking twats?!?” – Andie passes audible and severe judgment on certain promiscuities.
“Alllllright. May the road rise up to meet you, motherfuckers.” – Skip wants as little to do with the mob’s involvement as possible.
BEST MOMENT: Zak’s realization that he is not exempt from Richie’s unapologetic selfishness. From the moment he pieces together the Vegas betrayal (against the backdrop of Dusty Springfield’s “The Windmills of My Mind”) to the absolute shellacking he doles out to Richie in the elevator, Zak wastes no more time on heartbreak and jumps to pure berserker mode.
EPISODE’S MVP: Ray Romano’s Zak delivered not only the best scene of the episode, but one of the best moments of the entire series. Zak is a touch smarter than Richie, though his big heart and genuine concern for other people leave him trailing Richie in the manipulation department. We ache for Zak as we see the growing recognition spread across his face that his best friend has done the unthinkable – put him through emotional torment just to hide yet another whimsical, selfish act. Richie won’t be able to plead for forgiveness and talk his way back out of this one. If he is to ever have Zak on his side again, it will be after a long and Herculean effort to prove his worth.
BETWEEN THE LINES:
– Richie’s frenzied attack on the bat echoed the much scoffed-at use of the tennis racket during their therapy session in Episode 4 (“The Racket”), though this time the tennis racket was used to swat at a much more palpable marital speedbump.
– Clark is digging the R&B club, and his unapologetic awkwardness makes him all the better for it. While I cheered for him and his mailroom buddy when the club reluctantly came around to enjoying the Indigo tune, I also giggled out loud when suddenly everyone on the floor seemed to become a professional disco dancer.
– So is the new label still going to be called “Alibi” now that Richie has reached some sort of don’t-look-back confessional epiphany?
7 out of 10
Next: “Alibi”, soon.
Before: “E.A.B.”, here.