It’s still likable despite being so heavy-handed, but “Good Time” gives the distinct impression of a show trying too hard to provoke emotion without going out of its way to earn it.
This recap of The Village Episode 2, “Good Thing”, contains spoilers. You can check out our thoughts on the previous episode by clicking these words.
Since last week’s season premiere, the reaction to The Village on NBC hasn’t been good. Critics generally dislike it, considering it flagrantly manipulative by-the-numbers claptrap, and a sizeable portion of viewers — if you take reactions on this site as any indication — consider it to be another outgrowth of network TV’s leftist agenda. It probably says a lot about us as a species that any show which values community, understanding, and connectedness is immediately worthy of suspicion and scorn, but whatever. In short: If you didn’t like The Village last week, you won’t like The Village Episode 2 either.
The obvious irony is that the episode is titled “Good Time” and yet nobody seems to be having one. Nick (Warren Christie) is still refusing to accept he has a leg missing, and now he’s grappling with having to limp home and encounter Sarah (Michaela McManus) and Katie (Grace Van Dien), the latter of whom is pregnant with his grandchild — not that she knows Nick is even her father, obviously. Gabe (Daren Kagasoff) is catching flack from his girlfriend for having Enzo (Dominic Chianese) in the apartment and going out of his way to help Ava (Moran Atias), who is still being detained. Patricia (Lorraine Toussaint) tells Ron (Frankie Faison) her cancer has returned. It’s all very morbid.
Of course, this is the point. The Village has to put all these people through the wringer so that, by showing their camaraderie and resilience, it can do the same for the audience. Is that manipulative, as my fellow critics claim? Sure. But the individual traumas these folks are dealing with aren’t just made-up fantasies; they’re real, everyday problems that real, everyday people experience all the time. Not all of us get to live in apartment buildings where musical vignettes open and close our days, and everyone loves everyone else and dances through their problems, but that doesn’t mean the problems don’t exist, or that coping with them isn’t possible for us, too.
Of particular focus in “Good Time” is Katie’s baby, given she is much further along than anyone first thought, and Ava’s trial, given that her son, Sami (Ethan Maher), is still being cared for by her good-guy cop neighbor Ben (Jerod Haynes). There’s evidently more to the latter plot than has been revealed thus far, and it feels a bit discordant when held up against everything else, like The Village is trying to sneak in some conspiracy where it isn’t strictly needed. The show’s better when it’s focusing on the smaller, more incidental relationships between its characters, like Nick and Enzo; two generations of fighting men who have both seen things and lost people they would rather not have. Nick is in The Village, evidently with PTSD, in the hopes of building a relationship with Katie, but his relationship with Enzo is probably the one keeping him going, especially since Sarah still hasn’t told her daughter about him in fear of damaging their relationship even further.
I could, and perhaps should, complain about the heavy-handedness with which a lot of this is presented. I could do without the idea that Sarah decided to give birth to Katie in honor of the victims of 9/11, for instance, or the pointed conversations about the morality of overseas intervention, or lines like, “I didn’t know how to crochet a heart, so I gave birth to mine.” It does feel like the show trying much too hard to be liberal and failing to locate any believable shades of grey in how its characters think and behave. But there’s still a lot to like here, and railing against the show for having its own politics seems pointless considering the show’s politics are woven into its creative DNA; it’s explicitly about these attitudes and values, for better or worse, and there’s still a lot to like about it regardless. What I do hope is that The Village finds a way to better earn the emotional reactions it so obviously craves.