Flaked isn’t a show that you watch by accident or because of an accident; it’s deliberate, it’s heartfelt, and it’s challenging. It also is probably a show that doesn’t get the fair share of praise that it deserves.
What Flaked does well is something that it does rather brilliantly: Deliver emotional, thought-provoking drama in a unique setting. It makes Venice feel hundreds of miles away from Los Angeles — think in terms of Venice, Italy as opposed to Venice, California. It’s got a wonderful assortment of colorful characters, and a powerful portrait of a guy who really is sinking to rock bottom at record pace.
Will Arnett is brilliant as Chip, a guy who, almost without question, is pretty terrible. He’s a compulsive liar who hides behind a sacrifice that he made to his ex-wife Tilly in order to feel good about himself. He loved the attention that he received from being a guru, and when his walls came tumbling down at the end of season 1, he does the sort of thing that any fraud would: Flees, and hopes that in enough time, everyone will forget and let bygones be bygones.
Unfortunately, it’s soon clear that Chip is still persona non grata around Venice after his decision to push for a hotel complex comes back to bite him. His former friends around the city now loathe him and refuse to serve him; prices are increasing, morale is down, and getting anyone to even have a conversation with him proves to be a challenge. He feels the sting of what he did, but still, he doesn’t learn much of a thing from it. Instead, he doubles down and continues to refuse that the idea of learning from his mistakes is important. This is something that is frustrating, but also something that is real. Think how often people you know in life are aware of their problems, and still do nothing to change.
Chip still lies, only now the masks he wears take different forms. He refuses to let London see him as the pariah that he is, insisting that things with Dennis are still fine when in reality, he has to try to con him into staying at his place by telling him the truth about covering for Tilly. He’s only truthful to Dennis with an ulterior motive.
It’s not as though Chip is the only guilty party within this, as Dennis feels the need to lie about his own past when it comes to Rosa, a new woman who enters his life because of the business she operates nearby. Clearly, he realizes that she would find his “wine business” a little odd when she discovers his sobriety, so he just pretends that he drinks as a means to build the bond. There are no truly perfect people in the show, and in some ways that levels the playing field and makes most of them endearing.
In going back to Arnett’s performance, his seminal moment is in that conversation with Dennis when you can feel the earnestness reverberating through him. He shows you brilliantly why someone would want to be around a guy like Chip, and why it takes advice from George the Cop + guts of steel to turn him away. He’s almost an addictive vice in his own right.
What needs to change?
The key fly in the ointment for Flaked is, interesting enough, that it tries to play too much like a comedy because of the people in it. It doesn’t have to be funny to be a good show, and many of its attempts at humor either fall a little flat or feel a little forced — the Arrested Development callback line in the London – chip conversation early in the episode, intentional or a not, could’ve easily been cut.
This is a show that should just focus on the aesthetic, the characters, and what constitutes as drama within its world. It can leave the humor out unless it comes naturally.
While not perfect, neither is life and Flaked reflects that. It’s a highly engrossing show about people, mistakes, and effectively how difficult recovery is — it doesn’t quite matter what your addiction is. Grade: B+.
What was your take on the Flaked season 2 premiere? Be sure to sound off now in the comments below!
Meanwhile, be sure to head to this link to see some further news regarding Flaked season 3 and possible premiere dates for the future. (Photo: Netflix.)