(Beware, spoilers below!)
The second season of Alpha House features the big issues: women, homosexuality and even the ALS ice bucket challenge. The show was released all in one go on Amazon Instant Video on the 24th October. So I’ll be reviewing the season all in one go, whilst namedropping a couple of episodes which I really enjoyed.
As could be predicted, the second season opens up the world of the four senators, whilst surprisingly managing the balance between all four storylines and then some. The main four ones feature Robert getting an unexpected divorce from his wife, Andy still philandering and losing Adriana in the process, Gil John dealing with his daughter’s new family show and the best one of all: Louis dealing with the changing views of the public.
Alpha House has always balanced their humour with current stories: I’m not an American, so I don’t know a lot of in depth information about some of the issues that are raised. I’ll keep it light and start off with Robert. Of all of the stories his is arguably the less interesting. We see the most of him come out in “The Retreat” (episode 5) when the gang visit a Virginia plantation as part of a Republican retreat. He brings a woman that he’s recently gotten to know and we discover a bit more about his personal history, as well as his struggles with his future. The loss of his wife has seemed to unravel him in a way we never really saw the previous season. Even though this gets a little lost throughout the season, by the end of the last episode we’re left on his cliffhanger – will we see him reelected? As a 1.17 million dollar worth senator, I’m sure he’ll do ok whatever happens, right?
We discover in the very first episode that Andy’s been sleeping with the housekeeper, and by mid season both him and Adriana are separated. A little surprisingly we see him try (and succeed) to win her back. He worries about his sexual habits, and tries to get treated for ‘sex addiction’. Yeah, that old hat: there’s a nice insert of questioning the fine line between illness and excuses which is certainly thought provoking. However, in order to win Adriana back, he starts dabbling in a little International politics which turns out more interesting that might be considered. If you’re more into the conflicting politics side of things, however, this is a storyline you’ll care little for.
Gil John is centre focus when it comes to the issues of both women in politics, but also women voters. Sometime later into the series he tells the boys ‘women are the new men’. He’s not wrong. All the women in the show are empowered and powerful women, irrespective of personal views. Gil John manages to work to secure a 60 vote majority over a bill in congress, an action that has him not only pipped for running for office, but also connects him more with female voters. Given the parallel early in the season over a disconnect with his daughters but a strong affection for an old army student he used to coach, it’s a strong story all the way through.
Last but not least: Louis Laffer. Even last season he was the best of them, with the best character nuances and lines in the show. Not only this, but the people he is also connected to have great stories too. We can see this in his daughter Lola and her secret relationship with his aide Jimmy – note to all: if you didn’t know what stewing was you will now – as well as the relationship and later pregnancy of his chief of staff Julie. In fact, it’s the scenes between Julie and her partner Katherine which make up some of the most poignant moments seen in the show but also addresses the important issue of what gay marriage means to different people. In this case, one of the important ‘people’ is Louis, who has been notoriously anti-sodomy form the start, but evidently has conflicting feelings on the matter throughout. He struggles not only with what he really feels on these issues but also how he feels he should feel. As his wife announces she wants to move in with her husband and daughter, I get a feeling these feelings will come to a head.
Alpha House is not the strongest of comedies, and it’s hard for me to condense a review of a whole season so quickly. The show is once again propped up by John Goodmand (Gil John) and Matt Malloy (Louis Laffer) whose performances are truly great: their ability to convey such expression on their faces makes for far more fleshed out characters than their friends. For the best of the season, I recommend starting from ‘Shelter In Place’ (episode 4), which is when the show picks up pace and really digs deeper into both the humour and the issues it tries to raise. Some of what it features seems ludicrous such as robot videocams (you’ll understand) but the cameos from greats such as Bill Murray or Penn Jillette work deftly (the cameo from the former is in fact extremely funny). In a non instant season TV world, I’m still not sure Alpha House is the kind of show I’d be rearing to watch week after week. But as it stands, I’m happy to watch it and I’m looking forward to next season. Let’s hope Amazon give it a renew!