***WARNING: IF YOU HAVEN’T WATCHED THE FINAL THREE EPISODES, THERE WILL BE A FEW MILD SPOILERS***
I’ve previously written about my love of House of Lies, but for all it being a series I am obsessed with, I can’t help but feel that I haven’t really engaged with it. I watched the first two seasons in a three day frenzy, egged on by the sensationalist twists and the whole ‘will-they-won’t-they-Jeannie-and-Marty’ thing. It wasn’t until the third season arrived, which also spurred me on to revisit some of my favourite moments from the previous seasons, that I watched House of Lies slowly and let it sink in.
And when I took my time with it, I realised that House of Lies was a far better show than I’d given it credit. I mean, it wasn’t till I read this article that I really engaged with how complex Marty is (and didn’t we all feel a little bit horrified when he endorsed ghetto loans in season 2). On the surface the show is all sensationalism and clichéd developments but it embraces them so gleefully and examines them so thoroughly that it becomes brilliant.
Take Jeannie. Rather a one note character in the beginning of season 1 (a snarky ice queen bitch), her major character development was the unearthing of her daddy issues. Marty points out that she has them about five episodes in, to which she replies ‘that would be clichéd’. The show is so elbow nudging that it takes you awhile to realise the jabs are no longer friendly, and right about the midway point of season 1 when Jeannie tearfully asks the Rainmaker if he’s proud of her the jabs are vicious.
Marty and his pod are normally only a few shades less psychopathic than the creeps they work for, but not only do you side with them, you revel in the way they squirm out of any problem and play people for suckas. And yes, they’re Kings of the Boardroom, and nervous wrecks in their own lives, which is a slightly tired theme, but their inability to face up to their personal problems isn’t eye rolling- it’s heart breaking, and believable.
One of season three’s strongest moments was Jeannie coming off anaesthetic and beginning to cry uncontrollably- on the one hand laugh out loud hilarious, on the other, devastating.
Doug’s character development in season 3 also deserves a mention- the ‘nice guy’ and ‘dork’ of the group in season 1, he has officially become just as shallow and manipulative as the rest of the pod, only not as good at it. A slightly tragic but well executed character arc that hopefully will be picked up again next season.
But House of Lies is not a perfect show, and while there were some brilliant moments (the last three episodes, ‘Boom’ and ‘Middlegame’ were highlights) it did drop the ball. Perhaps not as often as Season 2, but boy oh boy was ‘Zhang’ a waste of everybody’s time. For the most part though, season 3 was sturdy and reliable, avoiding the ‘whaaam!’ twists of earlier seasons for well-paced episodes, a technique that generally paid off. And even though I feel the series finale was a little subdued compared to previous outings, it was still very well handled, and very emotional.
So, what do I want to see next season (apart from the reconciliation of Marty and Jeannie)?
1. More from Clyde and Monica.
I’m really hoping Monica somehow becomes a permanent fixture of Kaan and Associates (or is that Van Der Hooven and Associates 😉 ) and Clyde needs a character arc! The writers have been handing out delicious developments to Doug and Jeannie, and its time to give some to Clyde and Monica… through the bulk of season three it felt like Ben Schwartz and Dawn Oliveri were being criminally underused, with dud storylines that never quite paid off.
2. More from Marty’s new pod.
I love the office dynamics of Kaan and Associates, so more of that please.
3. Finally hit upon a show format that works.
I still don’t feel the show has reconciled its format between the ‘spending an episode with a different client’ of the first season and ‘spending a season with one client’ of the latter two. True, Dollahyde was far more exciting than the Snoregasm that was the Vegas storyline, and T.I. did rock it this season (until he got shot… waaah.) but there were still days when they’d head back to Dollahyde and I’d go ‘reeeeally?’.
4. Have a ‘Marty’s family’ story that I invest in.
Initially, I loved Marty’s family, but after the borefest that was his brother in season 2, and whatever it was that was happening in this season that I just did not care about, I want them all to either be phased out or upgraded. I love Roscoe and Jeremiah but they need better storylines. At one point, they provided the heart for the story, but now that we’re getting emotional payoffs from most of the main cast, Marty’s home life really needs to step up a gear, because I really don’t care at the moment.
House of Lies isn’t perfect. As with many TV shows, the writers are juggling so much that they inevitably drop either a character, or an episode (‘Zhang’, ‘Zhang’, ‘Zhang’, and ‘Zhang’) or an arc, but what House of Lies has going for it is that each season feels like a fresh start. It continues to grow at its own, relaxed rate, and I really do feel that House of Lies could defy my three season rule and come back even stronger with its fourth. It started off as a one man party, but its turning into a dual protagonist show, if not even an ensemble piece of sorts. It’s not quite high art, but it is marvellous, and when it hits it, it’s a home run.