Entourage – “Fire Sale”

“Fire Sale”

September 28th, 2008

Let’s go through the laundry list of usual complaints labeled at Entourage: episodes are too short, not enough happens in the span of an episode, the show is dangerously cyclical in nature, and its major plot developments can be seen from about a mile away.

Now, as someone who was highly negative about the show’s fourth season for at least some of these reasons, forgive me for not being nearly as negative about the fifth season exhibiting some of the same traits. The difference between “Fire Sale” and some of the episodes I had trouble with last season is that the repetition and cycles were, then, about pointless antics of glorified children prancing around with their petty little lives. Here, meanwhile, the plot is circling around characters without glory, where the feeling of running in place is not just writers’ laziness but an actual reflection of the characters themselves.

Yes, not much happens in the span of the show’s twenty minute run time, but what does happen feels like the show continuing to tread carefully to the series’ grounding in an actor searching for his place in Hollywood. While I might be tiring, as many are, with the writers’ inability to find Drama something interesting to do, watching as E and Vince chart the group’s next path can circle around as long as it wants as long as it keeps Entourage this focused.

What I like best about this little stretch of episodes is those moments where Eric is turning into Ari – it’s been happening for a few weeks now, but this week had the most profound example. Look at how similar Ari’s goading of E into thanking him for getting him a deal is to E’s demand for an apology from Nick and LB. He’s turning into Ari primarily because he has to, because he has to learn how to be cutthroat: look at how Amanda tears him apart for suddenly emerging as this bigshot, something she wouldn’t do if he wasn’t acting like Ari would act. There’s always been this sense from E that he is beyond reproach, but he is slowly going to have to realize that being a manager/agent type is turning him into someone that people aren’t going to like, period.

Vince, meanwhile, is starting to humble: it was pretty easy to call that he was going to have to step down to a supporting role on the film in order to be a part of it (Either that or Benji in Alaska), but I just like how cool he is about it. Vince without demands is barely Vince at all, which makes the character far more interesting in my eyes. It’s not that I have an intense dislike for the character, but he just hasn’t been interesting since Aquaman. This has, at least, given him a new purpose; it’ll be interesting to see, of course, how he handles his Aquaman-refusing past coming back to haunt him once more now that Warner Bros. has put in the largest offer on the Smoke Jumpers script. As long as the show demonstrates no wish to go back to the old Vince, I’d actually like to see where the character goes once he’s even more humbled.

The rest of the episode was all about Drama, which I find is a dangerous proposition. This tangent, though, had some good moments, most outside of the central drama. I found the entire View segment to be too far outside of belief: maybe it was that Elizabeth Hasslebeck just annoys me, but there’s no way The View would ever actually do that to someone, especially not someone who would surely have a reputation (based on past behaviour) for being unstable. It was one of those issues where they’re manipulating the world too much in order for it to be a poor reception for Drama, and it feels false. That said, the storyline had its strong points: I’m glad to have Shauna back in order to add some fresh comedy to the proceedings (I’ve missed Debi Mazar), and the fellow inmates yelling “Victory!” as Drama left prison was one of those moments where I miss the old Drama who wasn’t just pure comic relief.

On the whole though, albeit short and somewhat repetitive, it’s hitting the right notes so far this season. We’re four episodes in, and I feel like Vince has come a long way, Eric has stepped into a rather large potential conflict, Ari remains funny, and they haven’t driven Drama into the ground as much as they could have. For Entourage, that’s a good start.

Cultural Observations

  • As many have started noticing, and as one of the nice points where stretching things out comes in handy, it’s pretty clear at this point that E’s writers have no idea what Ed Norton intends to do with the script. E has been silly in not being more realistic with the two of them, clearly just as naive as they are in many ways, and that he didn’t tell them so plainly that “Ed Norton thinks your fill should be an entirely different film” is going to come back to bite him no matter who gets control of the movie.
  • Carla Gugino is really quite perfect for this world, which makes me sad that she will eventually have to leave: she just bring this very straightforward energy to the series, and her end of episode phone calls have this amazing quality of cutting right through any bullshit. It’s a great character for the writers to have at their disposal, and it’s being used well here.
  • I know that Shauna is a bit of a pitbull as a publicist, and that Drama’s audience is not exactly middle-aged women and gay males, but I would think that any publicist would see that Drama came off as more dramatic than pathetic to a majority of the show’s audience, and that this isn’t going to kill his credibility…or, more accurately, whatever credibility he has. Compared to Vince, it seems like he has very little.

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