Season 1, Episode 3 – Kyle
When the show began I was at a loss as to why the writers would bother showing us Rebecca and Jack’s struggles at raising their three children. It always felt like their scenes belonged in a different show altogether, because apart from taking place in a different time period, it felt like the scenes from the 70s only exist to support the present-day scenes. It’s a decent idea, but superfluous at best. However, in this episode, the “flashbacks” felt like it flowed more naturally with the current story of Randall trying to reconnect with his sickly biological father.
In the past two episodes the flashbacks felt like pit stops that the main story was taking. We would be following these adult siblings dealing with their own problems, and then everything would go to a screeching halt to give screen time for the parents back in the 70s trying to raise them. The two timelines felt very disconnected, but “Kyle” manages to join both timelines in a more relevant fashion. Despite its soap-opera style plotting (It’s revealed that Rebecca actually met with Randall’s biological father) it was still better than haphazardly doing recalls into the adults’ childhoods, which was nothing more than cheap window dressing to connect the two timelines.
This, however, gives the episode an imbalanced feel. While it’s inevitable that some storylines and characters would take front and center while others moved in the background, the result still feels like the show is half-baked in its execution. Spreading the focus on so many different directions feels unsatisfying. Like I mentioned before, this show needs to have a very specific focus, or at least a lead character of sorts, so that its story arcs wouldn’t feel so convoluted. Watching a new episode of this show feels like a game where you try to figure out which character is only being shown to pad the running time and which character actually adds something to the theme and plot.
Kate’s storyline, for example, is at a complete standstill in this episode. Maybe I wasn’t paying enough attention in the first two episodes, but apparently Kate is an assistant to her brother Kevin. For the first time in the show we see her doing her job instead of being miserable about her weight. This storyline then progresses into Kate being so focused on her job, which is frustrating for Toby (Kate’s boyfriend). Toby complains about this, because God forbid that your significant other should actually do her job, which then progresses to the show saying that Kate and Kevin can’t live without the other.
It’s utterly nonsensical because apart from Kevin insistently calling Kate for his problems, the show never once established that they’re being too co-dependent on each other. I guess those ten missed calls that Kevin left was supposed to show this, but it’s not nearly enough and feels out of character for Kevin. The show is forced to write off Kevin as this incompetent manchild who can’t even begin to handle his own shallow problems (such as finding a service to pack his things and deal with his crazy ex-girlfriend) in order to establish this co-dependency between the two siblings. It’s tacked on and serves as a lazy plot device that doesn’t ring true with what we’ve seen with these characters before.
Thankfully this part of the show only moved in the background, because for the first time I actually find myself interested in Randall’s storyline. Even though they needed to show the elderly Rebecca to add some depth into that tired storyline, it surprisingly works because we also get to see more of Rebecca’s struggles in the past. This added a nice dimension to the cast because this is really the first time that we get to know anything about Rebecca. Even though it’s still related to her struggles as a mother, it’s an effective story thread that ties in nicely with Randall’s present arc.