This might be the most purely funny High Maintenance episode in quite awhile. In the past week I read two especially illuminating interviews, one with Ben Sinclair and the other with Katja Blichfeld, both of which give the impression of a weight being lifted off of the creators which had manifested itself in the show’s first season. Now that the weight is gone, the show in turn mirrors the sense of relief and levity, and I think in the first two episodes we’ve seen prime examples of that. We saw it even last week when the Guy and his city were dealing with a heartbreaking tragedy, and the episode was full of humor and empathy for everyone, with an end on a high note.
This week we get back to the roots of High Maintenance, which were often just about making you laugh at the absurdities to be found in New York life. It also reaches back into the early days by including some OG favorite characters, Brenna and Molly.
But before we get to them, we enter Bushwick via an out-of-town couple finding their Airbnb that their city-dwelling daughter picked out for them. Sharon (Marcia DeBonis) and Ronald (Raymond Anthony Thomas) are delightful throughout their half of the episode. And, while they are clearly out-of-towners, they’re no squares. We should know by now not to expect High Maintenance to serve us traditional sitcom stories. While Sharon and Ronald are not totally feeling the Airbnb before they even see a snake, it’s not totally unreasonable. After all, they’re full-grown adults who have earned their comfort and everyone knows “there is never a Sleep Number at the top of a ladder.” But, yes, there is a full boa named Fagin sharing their apartment with them. Ronald rightfully freaks, but they make it by the a “let’s pretend it’s not there” method.
Sharon and Ronald meet their cool daughter, Claire (Amanda Debraux), and take out her very Bushwick friends for lunch – which ends up costing them about a few hundred dollars, partially because one of the friends apparently uses their generosity to order four drinks. This is a great detail to include because it’s very much something I would believe a starving artist, but still entitled Brooklynite would do when given the chance to eat out with adults. I personally wouldn’t, but I would definitely want to.
But all stays well between the fivesome as they go back to hang at the Airbnb and wait for the Guy, the calling of whom is spurred on by Ronald when he hears one of Claire’s friends say they’re stoned. Parents can get high too, ya’ll! The group has a good old time, but in the middle of the night Ronald emerges from the lofted bed to find that Fagin is not in his tank. Rather than even consider looking for Fagin in the apartment, Ronald and Sharon immediately pack their things and get out and into the closest hotel. They, delightfully, even keep the snake situation from their daughter the next morning as they wait in the vestibule of the building for Claire, still not even wanting to get near where the snake might be.
Then we switch to a new, but familiar, scene. It’s Molly and Brenna’s apartment, first seen in the third episode ever, “Jamie,” and at least once more in “Matilda.” Molly (Molly Knefel) and Brenna (Brenna Palughi) are some of the most consistently amusing customers, as ardent lesbian feminist activists, who live in Brooklyn on top of everything else; they’re easy characters to use to explore and sometimes poke holes in the very serious self-policing modern liberals are often wont to do. Today, they’re holding a small women-only get-together to drink wine and make posters for the Second Women’s March. We also learn that they are now married and even have a young child, Malia (I hope her namesake is Malia Obama).
Although their party is going well – despite a minor hiccup when one woman admits that she’s been spurred to buy a gun, which doesn’t sit well with everyone – Brenna starts to become insecure when she realizes that their party only has one woman of color. Their daughter is half-black, and because she has two white parents, Brenna wanted today to be an opportunity for the girl to see other strong, interesting women of color. This is understandable, but Molly gets a little concerned about Brenna’s stress about this when it leads to Brenna inviting over several WOC that she knows to fill out the room – even if she’s never met the women, just followed them on social media.
Of course, the Guy soon arrives and is cautiously invited in. Before he even gets there a guest at the party is concerned to hear the “Weed GUY” is coming. Brenna asks Molly if she could just buy in the hallway, as he “just has a really intense, male look [and] might trigger someone.” Molly, being no fool, is not going to buy weed in the hallway. And so, Molly invites the Guy in, who tries to suppress his “intense male energy” while trying to figure out what exactly it is. In the middle of taking a group photo, he spots something – and it’s Fagin! I honestly didn’t think we would see the snake again, but I love that it shows up here, tying together the two episode halves in a perfectly conceivable and hilarious way. And then, things ratchet up to extremes when the gun-purchaser from earlier pulls out her gun that she was carrying with her in order to shoot the snake. Everyone freaks out more, partially because there is a gun pointed in their direction and partially because they didn’t even know they were near a gun the whole time.
The Guy is hilariously frozen against the wall during this stand-off, offering up bits of wisdom like “don’t drop the gun, just put it down!” and finally realizing that he “knows” that snake. He – or she! – is named Fagin, and lives down the hall. Brenna shows her Mama Bear side and picks up the snake – anxiously yelling “move! Move!” to everyone in her way – and they all follow her out of the apartment to deliver Fagin to his home. But, I wonder, because Ronald and Sharon are not in the apartment, is the original owner back yet? Is anyone there to accept Fagin? Because we don’t see Ronald and Sharon in the second half at all, they could be long gone from Bushwick and Fagin could have been wandering for days. It’s indicative of how funny this episode climax was that I didn’t even consider this until a day later.
This episode was altogether one of the most madcap and, for a bit, tense episodes High Maintenance has ever done and without changing any of its humor. I’m glad to see the show return to a slightly more jovial spirit, as well as include old characters that we get to see grow in the x number of years since we’ve seen them. From the preview for next week’s episode is seems that we might be getting a few repeat appearances there as well, so I look forward to that. The practice of returning to some of the same characters multiple times is not only believable – the Guy has a loyal client base after all – but also helps to create the sense of a community that the characters and creators likely feel with their own Brooklyn neighborhoods, and that the audience of High Maintenance can then be included in.
- Writers: Rebecca Drysdale, Isaac Oliver, Katja Blichfeld and Ben Sinclair
- Directors: Blichfeld & Sinclair
- “Snake cluuuub biiiitch.”
- There is a call-out from a guest at Molly and Brenna’s to Cannabitches, an all-female weed collective last seen in the Vimeo episode “Esme.”
- The guy quickly changes his frequent sentence-ender “man” to “Ma’am” while at the party.
- Says the guest who tries to pick up Fagin with her poster board: “I’m giving him a platform, we all deserve a platform!”
- The end credits scene is the Guy dancing with street performer Pinky (Jami Simon), who we’ve seen before – also in episodes “Jamie” and “Matilda.” This continuity is amazing.