The compounding of identity filters into this week’s episode of “American Dad”. Episode 10 entitled “American Data” has Stan’s son Steve and some of his friends wanting to get calf implants because they think this will make them look cool at school. The story of the episode devolves into Roger as an arcane professor conducting experiments on the notion of prisoner and guard psychology through a test lab at Steve’s school. When his initial tests go awry, he brings in real convicts to up the stakes. It just turns out Steve is a follower at heart. He makes the inmates food and sings songs. Yet he could be in “Goodfellas”…he adjusts his behavior to what his captors want to see. When he finally gets out, his friends finally see his true colors. Meanwhile Stan is going into catatonia over the loss of a colleague per se that he reflects in the tone of a leaf blower. As with some episodes, the more esoteric imagery tends to have a bigger metaphor masked in its grotesque outlay. Roger in his own alien way keeps talking about binders like it is the end of the world though both he and Steve have their own safe rooms that exist inside their heads. The question ultimately is what does Steve want versus Roger? Acceptance. Love. Life? Steve is the true trooper here and yet his final resolution places him in the same space he was before. And if he has learned anything, he has learned nothing.
By Tim Wassberg
The Machiavellian approach to the notion of self is approximated in the ideas of what family is and what it is created to be. The 3rd episode of the 5th season of “Billions”: “Beg, Bribe & Bully” is an undeniable truth within that. The indelible aspect about this episode as compared to all the others so far this season has is that it has to do with personal worth and perspective. “Billions” sometimes has problems being subtle but that is just the nature of what the alphas of the series are. The ideal is about winning sure but it is about impact. Both Axelrod (played by Damian Lewis) and Chuck (played by Paul Giamatti) are seeing these ideas from different perspectives which sometimes need time to ferment. Axelrod’s has to do with his son who has the ambition of his father but perhaps not the exact ingredients to be like his dad. Yet he will try.
The question which is pointedly shown by of all people: Chuck’s ex-wife, whois 2nd in command for Axelrod, to Axelrod in confidence is telling. There are paths that these people take, however subtle…and every move creates a different divestment within the portfolio, both in financial and in human tallies, either to build it or break it down until there is nothing left. Some can be rebuilt. Some cannot. In Chuck’s case, it is reflected in his father who has a new family with severe backlash on his part. Granted with both of these guys, it comes out to personal representation and a case of self worth. But even in the case of Asia Kate Dillon’s fixer, there are some cases of doors which she cannot control or necessarily walk through. She makes a decision in logic for the greater good at one point, but what necessarily is interesting and ambitious is that she herself cannot see everything no matter how intrinsically made for the world of numbers as she is.
The kicker is also the double take in the case of Wags who knows how to play the game but sometimes knows he can’t do it exactly like Axelrod. He is outflanked by his nemesis on many points. And yet when you see Axelrod on stage at one point addressing a university body after vapid negotiations got him into play, shadows of Gordon Gecko reach out for a different space. It is not so much a reflection of his own worth but what his son in many ways sees inside him. Beyond that an aspect of dinner and even Axelrod’s simple integration with an artist that is done for the principle as well as the glory creates an interesting diametric of what worth is. Is the metaphor about building or to destroy just to build again.
By Tim Wassberg