“Love is a Weapon of Choice”
February 22nd, 2009
After last week was, without question, my favourite episode of Flight of the Conchords’ second season, “Love is a Weapon of Choice” has a lot to live up to. Not only did last week’s “Unnatural Love” give us two of the season’s better songs, but it also delved into the wonderful Australia/New Zealand feud that has often underscored the series. It was vintage Conchords, directed by Michel Gondry, so expecting another episode to compare to it is probably unfair.
As a result, it is with tempered expectations that “Love is a Weapon of Choice” succeeds, if not overwhelmingly. Kristen Wiig proves that she fits well into this universe, something that we could have called based on her great work on Saturday Night Live, and while none of the three songs in the episode prove especially groundbreaking they fit into musical genres the show hasn’t often delved into, and were connected well enough to the romantic hijinx of the episode that I’ll forgive the lack of outright quality.
It’s not one that we’re going to remember, but it’s at least one that get a few laughs, a few catchy lyrics, and a commendation for some cleverness.
Sometimes, there are storylines that Flight of the Conchords can take too far. Kristen Wiig’s character, who we presume for most of the episode is named Barbara but is actually named Brahbrah, is an example of a character who on occasion seems to be teetering on that line between sanity and insanity. I usually like it better when Bret and Jemaine have love interests who are almost entirely normal, so as to bring out their humanity while simultaneously demonstrating their awful social skills, but last week’s Keitha and this week’s BlahBlah are making me reconsider this somewhat. Wiig was believable in her scenes where she was somewhat more balanced, but those moments of crazy (the dog pictures, the fact that she was holding someone else’s dog) were understated wackiness that fit in very well.
The episode’s other main storyline, the Benefit Concert for canine epilepsy, could have been nothing but a punchline but actually resulted in some actual content. The episode’s most clever lyrics were in their benefit song, and even if it did evolve into the techno dancefest with strobe lights (hence, you know, giving the dogs seizures), it was one of those things where a very simple (if zany) scheme by Bret and Jemaine to get Brahbrah to like them becomes something much larger and doomed to implosion. Murray tagging along as the witness to all of this was good: while I liked Murray as their friend, Murray as their hapless manager (trying to discern whether an Anti-Aids song would anger the Pro-Aids crowd, stopping the recording to find the hidden piano player) is often more enjoyable for me.
The songs in the episode were a mixed bag in the end: of the two real musical numbers in the episode, the first (“I’m in Love with a Sexy Lady”) was actually the single the group released this week, which is surprising in some ways but not in others. It doesn’t seem like it would work without the context of the episode, but it actually contains a lot of the traditional Conchords zaniness, and I was particularly fond of the lines about whether it was possible that they were thinking what the other was thinking. The song had a lot of fun word play, and I’m guessing that makes it play better. Plus, if they’re trying to create some diversity with their singles, the R&B groove is close to their rap songs but different enough to stand on its own.
The episode’s other song, “Love is a Weapon of Choice,” was really all about the music video: I actually couldn’t tell you a single line from the song, but the Total Eclipse of the Heart-inspired images, complete with Kristen Wiig’s getup and Bret and Jemaine’s dramatic stair entrance, were quite fun to watch, and the duel part of the episode at least felt like a storyline reason for the song to exist. After last week’s “Carol Brown” so brilliantly married video and song, this was back to only one or the other really operating: the first song featured a fairly mundane video for a slightly better song, and the real showstopper in terms of video was saved for the second, less eventful song.
After last week, anything was going to see like a letdown, but this episode just kind of kept up the status quo for the season: it was pretty funny, the songs were pretty okay, and the show still has a unique charm even if its own use of that charm is becoming a wee bit predictable. Part of me hopes they will at some point break out with something that totally surprises me, but in the absence of that an episode of Bret and Jemaine one-upping one another in an attempt to woo a crazy lady with a crazy name is fine with me.
- Speaking of Bret and Jemaine’s one-upmanship, I like how their past song-writing experience showed a legacy of such battles, such as when Jemaine was writing his song about forests and Bret’s song was about being a tree. I also enjoyed the meta-commentary inherent within that conversation, considering their own struggles to create new material for this season.
- Canine epilepsy, by the way, is a real thing: you can find more information from the Canine Epilepsy Network.
- One of the episode that didn’t work for me was Bret creating a vaccine: but then he mentioned that his latest recipe included toffee, and I realized that his past history with gadgetry (camera phone, hair helmet, hand gloves) would lead him to try to create something to solve the problem. Sometimes the show really comes together like that.
- The stops by to visit Dave in each episode are starting to become a comic highlight: I greatly enjoyed his sheer confusion at the very idea that a love triangle would involve something other than two ladies and himself.
- Kristen Schaal continues to creep the hell out of me with her Jemaine/Bret baby fantasies – I kind of liked Mel when she was a bit more innocent than this, but I can’t lie: she knocks crazy out of the park every time.