Avenue 5 season 1, episode 8 recap – “This Is Physically Hurting Me” It's Cold Outside

March 9, 2020
Jonathon Wilson 0
TV, TV Recaps
4

Summary

“This Is Physically Hurting Me” takes an exceptionally bleak turn, as mass panic results in several deaths — and we no longer know whether we’re supposed to be laughing or not.

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4

Summary

“This Is Physically Hurting Me” takes an exceptionally bleak turn, as mass panic results in several deaths — and we no longer know whether we’re supposed to be laughing or not.

This recap of Avenue 5 Season 1, Episode 8, “This Is Physically Hurting Me”, contains spoilers. You can check out our thoughts on the previous episode by clicking these words.


What has always been a bit edgy about Avenue 5 is that it’s a sitcom about thoroughly incompetent egomaniacs who are, whether they like it or not, responsible for the lives of hundreds of people. Those people are, admittedly, wealthy idiots, but they’re still people who don’t realize quite to what extent they’re in peril. Previous mishaps that have resulted in the odd frozen astronaut, orbiting turd ring or disastrous stand-up comedy night have been written off as natural hazards of space, but the deaths of seven people, including one of the so-called bridge crew, are less easy to explain – especially when their frozen remains bounce off the supply shuttle containing Rav (Nikki Amuka-Bird), a thoroughly confused pilot (John Finnemore), and one seat fewer than the amount necessary to enact an ill-thought-out kidnapping scheme.

This is a tightrope of tonal balance; in the early going, the show was careful to only off people we either didn’t know or didn’t care about, but in Avenue 5 Episode 8, two of the victims are the parents of a comatose child who, after they’ve been jettisoned into space, “This Is Physically Hurting Me” reveals has just woken up and is asking after his parents. That’s no accident. After being encouraged to laugh at the incredibly silly events that have blighted the crew and passengers of the Avenue 5 so far, we’re now being made to feel guilty for doing so.

Avenue 5 season 1, episode 8 recap - "This Is Physically Hurting Me"

Some might feel a bit annoyed by this, as though the show wants to have its cake and eat it when it comes to depicting the misadventures of extraordinarily useless and self-serving corporate stooges and also make a very serious point about how greedy ineptitude can cost people their lives. But I’d argue this is partly the point. Even as it’s condemning them to death, Avenue 5 Episode 8 makes no effort at all to engender sympathy in these people who, even after concrete evidence to the contrary, are still willing to wrestle their way into an airlock believing it to be fake. It only takes the word of a self-proclaimed VFX specialist – and, admittedly, some ill-chosen words from Matt (Zach Woods) and the fallout from a falling out between Judd (Josh Gad) and Clark (Hugh Laurie) ensuring that nobody is quite sure who has the authority to stop any of it from happening – to convince them that everything they’re seeing is an elaborate hoax. Of course, parts of it are. But the airlock isn’t.

The reason this worked, I think, is that the whole sequence felt very much like an audience – and indeed the passengers – being walked to the brink of a catastrophe that would in some way or another be averted. Earlier in the episode, we’d been reminded of Clark’s pending task of docking the ship, which he’s entirely unequipped for, and of Rav’s plan to take Judd back on the shuttle to answer for his idiocy, which she discovered she wasn’t going to be able to do without staying behind. These are lingering subplots that have been built up over a few episodes, as has the crew dumping their personal possessions. Several times throughout the season we’ve been in similar scenarios of mass panic and potential tragedy, but it has only taken the ingenuity of one of the few right-minded people aboard to course-correct. The airlock debacle felt like that right up until someone stepped inside, and then as people continued to do so on the vague insistence of someone who evidently had no idea what they were talking about, the whole thing became bleaker and bleaker. I get the sense that you’re not supposed to know how to feel after Avenue 5 Episode 8 – my problem is that I immediately wondered how the missing passengers would impact the journey time.

So now I have become at least in part the very thing the show is critiquing, and Matt is responsible for the deaths of seven people – where do we go from here? You have to wonder. Either way, “This Is Physically Hurting Me” suggests that we won’t be arriving with the same number of passengers.


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