Vicious Review: “Stag Do”

photo credit: whro.org

photo credit: whro.org

Here’s my review of Vicious season two episode “Stag Do.” Please note that this isn’t a recap of what happens. I’m assuming that you’ve already seen the episode. There are spoilers in this review.

Like usual, the plot of this week’s episode, “Stag Do,” was simple. The whole thing revolved around wedding planning and Ash throwing a party for Freddie and Stuart to celebrate their engagement. Of course, tensions get high, tempers flare, and not everything goes according to plan. But in the process, the whole thing is an entertaining and hilarious half hour. So I wanted to spend this review examining the humor and why it was so effective in this episode.

The first thing is the running gags. I personally love this kind of joke, especially if parts of it are tweaked each time, building it into a funnier joke as it continues. A lot of jokes in Vicious are set up this way which helps establish the world and the characters better. For example, this episode featured a callback to Violet carrying a bottle of alcohol around in her purse. It was funny in the season opener because it was unexpected yet totally in-character. Pulling out bottles to spike the punch in this episode was funny because now it is expected. Having Violet do this multiple times makes it more of an establishing character trait instead of a one-off joke. If a joke has purpose, it’s much more effective than something random purely for the sake of humor. (I mean, otherwise, it’d be like you’d just be watching someone’s stand-up comedy routine, right?)

My favorite running gag in this episode is the trying-to-avoid-someone-in-public one. The joke starts with Freddie and Stuart trying to avoid Violet, which makes sense because they try to avoid everyone. What’s funnier is the second time they try to hide from Violet because the point of view has switched. In that scene, we start with Ash and Violet talking together before they run into Stuart and then Freddie. The audience isn’t expecting them to turn up in the scene, so when Stuart turns the corner, gasps, and then ducks away again, it’s funny. And the joke expands when Freddie arrives because he tries to avoid everyone, even Stuart. And to complete the whole scene, they see Penelope across the road who swears because she’s been spotted. The entire sequence works nicely.

The second thing that makes the humor work are the jokes focused on old people. Like I said in my first Vicious review, senior citizens are too often relegated to the sidelines of storytelling. But here, they are the focus, so even the humor is given a chance to poke fun at their age. These jokes are never very complicated. “You’d be a matron of honor. Or… is there anything older than a matron?” Freddie says, not missing the opportunity to snark about Violet’s age. And then there’s the joke at the audition when Freddie remembers someone died, but he doesn’t remember who. That joke is followed up a few moments later when Freddie leaves and another of the actors has kicked the bucket. As people get older, death is an all-too-real part of reality to be confronted with. Poking fun at it makes it easier to deal with. Actually, that’s how Freddie and Stuart deal with anything: by making fun of it.

The third thing to make effective humor is Penelope. Just simply Penelope. She’s always popping in and out saying the weirdest things. Her clueless, senile demeanor makes it funnier (and the rare, lucid moments are even funnier because they aren’t expected). She had an amazing amount of one-liners in this episode (including my favorite: “how old is Moses?” she scoffs). She’s always there to provide a good punch line but is never around enough to distract from the plot or slow down the pace. I can’t really explain it other than she’s inherently funny.

This episode really was a lot of fun, and it even had some good drama to go with it as well. I’m looking forward to the rest of the season to see how things turn out. And also to see if Violet has anymore bottles of alcohol in her purse.

Vicious Observations

  • There’s a fourth thing about humor I didn’t mention and that is the acting. I have zero experience with acting so I can’t critique, but I always think the performances are excellent. Marcia Warren has excellent comic timing, and Ian McKellen and Derek Jacobi are also great with line readings and facial expressions. Or maybe I just really like their faces.
  • We get to see Ash’s flat this week and it’s tiny! I love that they’ve expanded to sets this season.
  • The one thing I disliked was the end with Ash and Violet waking up together. 1.) It was super predictable and 2.) Violet’s flirting is still too forcful in my opinion to be anything but creepy.
  • It was nice to bring Chloe back, I suppose, but I’m not sure it served much of a purpose. Oh well.
  • “If we’re lucky, Freddie is gonna get attacked with a crowbar.” “Fingers crossed!”
  • “Do you know the television show Broadchurch? Well this is a complete ripoff of that, so it’s bound to be just as successful.”
  • “I was thinking punch and mini-sausage rolls.” “Keep thinking.”
  • “I don’t think you’ll want this gift then. It’s a negligee.” “No, that’s fine.”
  • “Corpses would make it more festive.”
  • “If anyone exhales, I go right out the window.”
  • “This is what I imagine it would look like living in a pair of underpants.”

So what do you think? Like it or hate it? Just want to throw your own party now? Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments.

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