Brothers & Sisters – “Moral Hazard”

“Moral Hazard”

May 4th, 2008

There is no storyline in television more hazardous at the moment than the fatal attraction of Justin Walker and Rebecca Not-Walker. It is an incredibly dangerous storyline for the series to engage at this point in time, but the real hazard is very simple: it’s actually really entertaining to watch.

Way too entertaining, too – Dave Annable and Emily VanCamp are both fantastic, and the scenes in the episode that deal with this issue fly around in a way that is humorous enough to make me forget the huge psychological ramifications at play. Based on these scenes, the show clearly understands the dangers they face and are willing to take the right steps to make it work.

That’s not to say it’s not still frakkin’ creepy, but it’s not quite as reprehensible as it could have been.

Getting towards the end of the season, many shows are devolving into endless amounts of drama – of course, Brothers & Sisters is particularly great at this particular conceit, so what they are managing here is a lot of pieces moving towards either tragedy or epiphany.

First and foremost, we have the O’Jai Foods drama that continues to divide the family and our storylines. As Sarah and Nora have to attempt to find a way for their company to pay off their debts while maintaining their integrity. This evolves into a deal wherein Tommy and Nora’s vineyard merges with O’Jai (Was it not always a part of O’Jai?) and all of a sudden Holly is in control.

All of this is rather mundane – everyone is really dramatic, and while Nora’s various reactions are wonderfully acted the story itself doesn’t really hold my attention. By comparison, the human impacts of the storyline are far more engaging.

For example, Holly taking over is far more interesting when you consider that it is taking place after she learns without question that her daughter is not a Walker, and that her involvement in these companies is not quite as legitimate. I don’t know how far we can take previous evidence of her character here, but one certainly has to wonder how Nora will react next week after she has found out everything.

Justin and Rebecca’s little mess of a situation evolves as we’d expect: a nice piece of comedy with Justin and Kevin, some awkward small talk, an embarassing movie date, Rebecca telling off her mother, and then Justin feeling betrayed by her lies and telling his mother the truth. And do you know what? Even though the show really needs to address how creepy this is within an atmosphere that is less comic, it felt right: some great acting from all parties (Emily VanCamp really needs to be in the Emmy race over any of her castmates this time around), and some hope for the storyline’s future.

I still am weary about where they can go from here: they will eventually be pairing the two characters together (Otherwise, this was too contrived a piece of drama creation), so whether it’s a heartfelt speech from Rebecca or Holly that does it I expect Justin will come around. Considering how well I thought it came off in this episode, I am willing to see it through.

The episode also finally got to the point wherein the spoilers leaked in an interview with Luke MacFarlane, the actor who plays Scotty, came to fruition: Kevin proposing to Scotty after recognizing the tension in his life and how lucky he is to have someone who makes him happy. It was nice and romantic, and very subtle in its observation of just how screwed up everything else is by comparison. It was a nice scene to close the episode on, a nice symbol of happiness in a sea of madness.

One of the things that really spurned that proposal was Saul’s decision, after driving his car into a tree, to finally come out to Kevin. I don’t quite know if I buy Saul’s deal-making ways being a result of a personal identity crisis (Dear show: please show us this when it happens to help explain it, rather than after the fact exposition), but it does finally return us to this storyline that we had all but abandoned post-strike. You can tell that the strike interrupted a story like Saul’s, and all of them: the drama was really rushed forward in just a few episodes this time around.

It left loose ends like Kitty and McAllister trying to get pregnant (Both boring and pointless) and Sarah’s relationship with Graham (Snore) on the back burner for very good reason, and leaves us instead with things that will have a far broader impact on the series as a whole. Even thought I may not particularly dig the incest storyline, I do think that it has provided strong, impactful drama with great acting – and if this is the storyline that could get to that point most quickly, perhaps it was the best decision overall; moral hazard and all.

Cultural Observations

  • This is one of those weird shows where there are way too many Emmy contenders – at this point, Dave Annable and Emily VanCamp deserve special attention, although the chances of them rising out of the shadows of Griffiths/Flockhart/Field/Wettig seems unlikely. Silly Emmy voters.
  • There is a lot to be said for Nora’s reaction to this crisis, something that the episode never really spent enough time with: the scene between Nora and Sarah discussing their father, and why Sarah took over the business, was a nice moment for all parties, and really contextualized it well beyond Nora’s initial reaction of pure anger.
  • Also on the Nora front, we’re still missing the piece d’resistance – Nora digging into Holly over the Rebecca situation. The episode ended only on Nora finding out the truth, so I look forward to seeing her anger emerge in Emmy-bait style.

1 Comment

Filed under Brothers & Sisters

One response to “Brothers & Sisters – “Moral Hazard”

  1. I agree that the Justin/Rebecca storyline is creepy, but you just can’t take your eyes off the screen when Dave Annable and Emily VanCamp are on it. Unfortunately, you are probably right and they will be overshadowed by the bigger names in the show in regards to Emmy consideration.

    What I don’t get is the people talking about not watching this show anymore if they take the story in this direction. I mean, it has provided for some truly brilliant scenes. It would be like not watching Dexter because he is a creepy serial killer. Just because a situation is creepy, gross, weird or whatever, doesn’t mean that the story isn’t worth watching.

    I can’t wait to see what happens at the wedding next week, let the Emmy-bait fly.

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