“Free Range Children” sees Jack and Annie try out a new form of parenting that provides a bit too much freedom for Duncan and Kimberly, who find themselves in the care of a drug kingpin.
This recap of Duncanville Season 1, Episode 9, “Free Range Children”, contains spoilers. You can check out our thoughts on the previous episode by clicking these words.
“Free Range Children” are, one assumes, the outcome of free-range parenting, which according to Duncanville Episode 9 is a kind of hands-off affair in which parents give their kids the freedom to make their own mistakes. It’s a nice idea in theory, but whenever an idea is pitched by the local five-year-old, it’s probably best to mistrust it.
Still, Jack (Ty Burrell) and Annie (Amy Poehler) have to miss seeing Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band because Duncan (also Poehler), Kimberly (Riki Lindhome) and Jing (Joy Osmanski) can’t be left alone for twenty minutes without burning the house down. As for why they didn’t use the fire extinguisher or run to the neighbors for help… well, that’s why they need some experience in fending for themselves. (Jing makes the best effort at a counter-argument: “Do the words ‘stranger danger’ mean nothing to you?”)
Bradley is a local kid who can tie his own shoes, so he’s justification enough for the idea of free-range parenting. The kids are skeptical after previous attempts at major lifestyle changes — cue a flashback to a stint without sugar that plays like a horror movie — but agree to go along with it, only insofar as it doesn’t inconvenience them. Which of course it does, immediately.
The fact that the first hurdle the kids come up against in Duncanville Episode 9 is simply asking for a table in a restaurant and then ordering their own food probably says a lot about soft contemporary parenting, but “Free Range Children” doesn’t really have any major convictions in that regard. Like most of the bigger ideas floated in this relatively toothless show, it’s brought up as an excuse for some topical gags and then swiftly brought to a happy-ish — and largely uncomplicated — conclusion.
Thus: After Annie takes Duncan clothes shopping and Jack leaves Kimberly to see a movie on her own, both feel pretty grown up and offer to go grocery shopping, inadvertently finding themselves locked in a truck of cabbages which takes them to Mexico. Once there, they follow Jack and Annie’s grown-up advice — asking to speak to a person in charge, and treating strangers as friends they haven’t met yet — and find themselves wandering into the mansion of a local cartel kingpin.
This is quite funny, and I rather like how the parental advice gets them into deeper trouble without them even realizing it. But as Jack and Annie are arrested for making a scene in the airport — they’re trying to get to Mexico but can’t get a flight until Thursday — the murderous drug lord, of course, takes a shine to the kids and offers to fly them home on his private jet.
It’s a cop-out, sure. The best gag of Duncanville Season 1, Episode 9 is Jing talking the police into letting her parents go if they promise not to misbehave again, which she takes as confirmation that she’s grown-up enough to be allowed to grill. The show doesn’t necessarily realize that, though, instead allowing Duncan and Kimberly a glamorous return and the kingpin himself to dispense some sage advice to Jack and Annie about letting kids be kids. Jack: “Would you like to go back to being helpless and uncommunicative?” Of course, they would.
Still, at least Duncan tried cabbage.
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