The first unsettling episode of HBO’s newest show Random Acts of Flyness was an uncompromising look at race relations in America. The debut was creative, original, lively, and indescribable. It was also almost unwatchable. Terence Nance used his show as a vehicle to openly talk about the things everyone knows is going on but no one wants to talk about. The second episode is just as determined, easier to watch, and just as effective.
Race and sex are still topics of discussion, but the two take a secondary role to the episode’s main theme of gender roles. There are video essays, confessionals given on camera phones, and some very creative sketches that play with the idea of masculinity and femininity.
The most noticeable difference between the first two episodes is the second one has a much tighter focus. At times, the debut almost seemed content to wrap itself around the title of the show. The randomness certainly brought a freshness to the show, but many times it straddled the line of being too off the wall. This ultimately may have impacted the show’s overall message.
Instead of using seemingly every idea, episode two focuses on the strongest. Each segment plays out over the course of the thirty minuets, with the stories forming natural segues into each other. This method is a welcome change that was used with the ‘Everybody Dies’ sketch in the debut. None of segments go too long and never have a chance to wear out their welcome. They also naturally build a storyline that draws the viewer in for the entire episode. The subject matter may be just as hard, but the delivery is much less disquieting.
The most emotionally moving moments of Random Acts are the “selfie interviews.” In these segments, various people speak into their camera phones and discuss what they think of themselves and why they made certain decisions in their lives. The tales range from being motivating to sad. In possibly the show’s most powerful moment, one person tells a story of walking down the street when a woman comes up showers them with numerous kisses and tells them how fabulous they are. The person goes on to tell how the seemingly heartwarming moment was just as bad as a punch in the face since both reduce them to less than human.
What makes the interviews work so well is how natural the subjects come off. Maybe it is the lack of interviewer or perhaps it is a commentary on how comfortable today’s society is in front of a camera, but the people speaking sounded better than many professional sports coaches. The already touching stories take on a more relatable aspect that helped the show.
There were also two sketches that were highlights of Random Acts. One had a running story that took place the entire episode. It reversed the roles of a woman walking down the street and constantly being detoured by catcalls. This one plays itself out a little differently and is able to deliver its message in a funny matter.The second story is a different take on the story of Peter Pan. While still maintaining the childlike innocence of the original story, the version in Random Acts not only deals with coming to terms with growing older, but also with the show’s gender role theme. The dance sequence may be the best thing so far in the short season, while the acting definitely is. The two sketches do run a little long, however.
The second episode of Random Acts of Flyness is an overall stronger showing from Terence Nance. The more focused direction of the show makes for a much more palatable experience for its audience. Best of all, the show is still filled with amazing creativity while delivering important messages.