As the second season of Dave Holstein’s Kidding begins its send off, it appears as though many pieces of this strange, wonderful jigsaw are coming together in ways I wouldn’t have predicted. As we’re taken back to the aftermath of ‘Lt. Pickles’ and Tara Lipinski’s accident. As a young boy worries it’s his own fault, Seb places the giant paper mâché Pickles head in the dumpster. But that’s not the end of this idol. Oh no. Very soon two armed robbers use the head whilst holding up a convenience store, resulting in Jeff taking a face full of buckshot. There the head sits in storage until Bobby Belongo (Matt Gourley – our homicidal pickle platoon leader from ‘A Seat on the Rocket’) shows up and retrieves it…
It’s an ominous start in-keeping with last week’s action. But if there’s one thing I’ve come to discover about Kidding it’s that even the small moments that feel like wasted potential are never what they seem. Instead the show feeds back into itself and presents ideas and themes that will hit emotionally at the perfect moment. As Jeff hops garden fences to chase Bobby down after starting the fire, he has a tense standoff in the road against the fictional him in the car. And as Mr. Pickles attempts to run Jeff down there’s the obvious metaphor of the creation attempting to kill its creator. But those comparisons will have to wait. Jill is furious at him for putting them in danger as Jeff begrudgingly (but genuinely) offers congratulations on their future engagement. The friendship of the ‘liver brothers’ might be one of my favourite things about this season.
Maddie’s axe Deborah might be a close second too. And as Dee returns home after her ‘negotiation’ with Scott she tucks into her young daughter’s homemade risotto. Both Piccirillo children are remarkably independent in their own ways, and this small realisation for Dee spurs her on. Meanwhile to stay safe Jeff decides to sleep on the Puppet Time set, but he awakes to find Seb by his side with a rifle cocked, ready to protect his son.
“The world is full of lunatics who think the world is full of lunatics” – Seb Piccirillo.
But as he reveals he’s been trying to cook Jeff an egg tart to help him feel better, something’s wrong. He gets angry at the fake Puppet Time kitchen appliances, and tells Jeff of his plan to go on holiday with his mother the next day. There’s a picture-perfect depiction of oncoming dread in Jim Carrey’s performance as he realises alongside us that his dad is losing his grip on reality. Frank Langella commands this whole scene with a dominating and scary disgust at the fact that the walls of their home has disappeared, and what starts as a touching moment of parental care very quickly becomes tragedy as the two head off to the hospital.
As things take a turn, Dee confronts Bernard White’s Scott at his huge mansion with his ‘female girlfriend’ Amber, and agrees to give him full custody of Juliet Morris’ Maddie in exchange for Astronotter, Ennui Le Triste, Thump Thump, Oops, UkeLarry and Snagglehorse – she’s giving up her real child for her fake ones. Of course Maddie understands, she just questions if it was her cooking that pushed her mother to the decision. The timing couldn’t be worse either. Catherine Keener’s Dee has finally done what it took to become her father in order to save the show and yet…now he can’t even listen to her. As Seb becomes silent we learn that he has developed vascular dementia after his stroke last week, he can still walk and eat but his memory and talking days are over.
“I got it all back because you taught me what to sacrifice” – Deirdre ‘Dee’ Piccirillo.
But Bobby is still out there posing as Jeff Pickles, and in a chilling sequence he reveals himself to Cole Allen’s Will at school, prompting Will to follow him outside in silence. Director Jake Schreier fills us with that familiar feeling of dread again, and it only escalates when Bobby begins to spout hatred of Jill for breaking her Nightingale Pledge as a nurse for harming Jeff. He gestures Will to get into his car with him, at which point a valiant Jeff shows up and beats him bloody on the pavement after ripping him from his car. All to the crowd of kids with smartphones filming from across the street.
Whilst I admit I was expecting more of a visceral and violent end to Bobby’s story, it helped progress Jeff, Will and Jill’s story. It allowed Jeff the catharsis of proving he can protect his family, helped Will prove himself to make wise decisions in choosing not to trust Bobby, and unfortunately helped communicate to Jill the idea that some see her as the reason for Phil’s death – something that we found out in ‘Up, Down and Everything In Between’ is actually a torturous truth for Jeff. As Will chooses to go with his dad to the hospital, he finally tells him he likes the new haircut. Then, as the two arrive to visit Seb, Will’s hair is shorter like his dad’s. This moment caught me completely off-guard. Will has always tried to disguise his idolisation of his father because he’s the idol of millions, but understanding now that his long hair was to fit in alongside Jeff is remarkable and Cole Allen continues to shine alongside the rest of the cast. His epiphany comes in the form of telling Bobby that Phil isn’t dead because his organs are within others’ bodies and the script this week from Holstein and Dylan Tanous is filled with so many small, beautiful and life-affirming moments that it’s hard not to get swept up in.
“I talked to his heart on the phone after it ran twenty miles. His heart is trained to run a marathon. Phil is trained to run a marathon” – Will Piccirillo.
After spending some time with their silent grandma, Will asks his dad if he’s ever wished he could turn back time, and before you know it we’re back at the memory care facility with a brief-but-welcome return of Tyler, the Creator’s Cornell. There, Seb sits amongst the other patients in a fictional 1960 as his kids watch on hoping he can feel at ease. In classic Seb fashion he steals two drinks and begins walking towards them offering a glimmer of hope that he recognises them, but this is snatched away as he goes straight for Louise (Annette O’Toole) – Dee and Jeff’s mother.
In his moments of tragedy Seb has always gone back to the woman who left him, whether that was in the form of a young enthusiastic black man or his fellow dementia patient. Whilst attempting to reintroduce himself and woo her (he’s talking!), Louise tries to get away at the bus stop. But Seb is persistent and isn’t letting her leave him again. Jeff and Dee watch on as their parents playfully bicker together, and it’s yet another defining moment from a show that’s earned praise the world over. This is Will’s introduction to his grandma, and it’s the way he should remember her too – with her husband, caught in a pleasant fantasy for the rest of their days. You could hardly ask for a more bittersweet ending for Frank Langella’s Sebastiano Piccirillo.
Elsewhere Jill is scourged by the idea that she could be responsible for her son’s death, and as she sits on her floor buckling and unbuckling a backpack-strap, I think I know the terrible truth that the season finale is going to revolve around. Not even Justin Kirk’s Peter can offer kind enough words to prevent people from getting hurt here.
“Don’t let the words of crazy, large-headed-sized people get inside your normal-sized head” – Peter.
Whilst driving home, Will tells his dad about Phil’s organ donations and notices a bus heading the opposite direction that carries yet another number of his Fibonacci sequence for time travel. Sure enough, the magic is real. The bus arrives back in 1960 and picks up Seb and Louise together, and they head off into the unknown and out of Kidding with a smile. Never has the magic of time travel been more subtle or empowering, and I hope Will realises the effect he’s had on his grandparents.
I just hope his actual parents survive the season…