While High Maintenance can often mine treasure from the everyday meeting of strangers and old acquaintances, “Voir Dire” makes those interactions feel more random and pedestrian than usual. Additionally, while the naturalism of High Maintenance is one of its most refreshing features, some episodes such as this one can become a little too grounded so that it ends up lacking any dramatic tension that we expect from fiction. Of course, the brevity of High Maintenance is also one of its foundational characteristics, and the two plots that fill this episode benefit from their length and relative simplicity.
We spend a lot of time in a karaoke bar with The Guy (Ben Sinclair) and his fellow jurors who just finished their duty. Being a jury, this group consists of a variety of people who likely wouldn’t hang out otherwise. This time in the karaoke bar feels longer than it probably is and unfortunately doesn’t do much to identify or differentiate the jurors, who we will likely never see again. We glimpse Sonia (Opal Alladin), the controlling mother of a “chubby daughter,” Gemma (Michelle Vergara Moore) and her creepy husband Oscar (Sean Martin Hingston), and Keesha (Julianna Luna Vasquez) and Roman (Eric Tabach). We only learn about Sonia through Roman and Keesha snooping through her phone, an action that eventually results in nothing. We get a couple of interactions with Gemma and Oscar, which does offer a brief payoff in the second half of the episode.
However, the result of this outing with the jurors can be tracked through a few simple steps. First, Roman tries to spend the rest of the night with Keesha. Then, they get stiffed by Gemma and Oscar or hoodwinked by the karaoke club owners (likely for smoking in the bar), and are told they didn’t pay for the room or drinks. Next, they run out of the club and are forced to run down the streets until they lose the guy. They don’t lose the guy, and to get out of this terrible night, Keesha slips into a cab and leaves behind the karaoke club along with Roman. It’s a semi-humorous look at the unexpected turns a night out can take, particularly when you’re spending it with people you don’t truly know. Keesha’s eventual escape and sigh of exhaustion in the cab is also a bit cathartic, as we see her (and us) finally free from this chaotic night. However, this plot isn’t quite naturally humorous or exciting enough to be completely compelling. It just ends and you find yourself pretty glad that it has.
The next portion of the episode has a different tone, but still follows two characters who find themselves in a situation they wouldn’t expect. The introduction of Violet (Ruby McCollister) and Freddie (Edy Modica) is a uniquely High Maintenance (and HBO) one, which doesn’t shy away from the nitty gritty of life. Violet meets Freddie as she rushes around their apartment Winnie-the-Pooh style, declaring that she needs to wash her vagina. This scene not only offers the kind of subtle visual humor High Maintenance likes to incorporate via naked bodies, but also economically illustrates the comfort and lack of boundaries between Violet and Freddie. These boundaries get further obliterated when they discover that Violet has been having sex with Eddie (Dariush Kashani), a man who dated Freddie’s mother for several years when she was a kid.
They learn this when crossing paths with Eddie at a club, which is possibly a club geared towards foot fetishists, and which happens to be run, at least in some capacity, by Gemma and Oscar. This makes perfect sense for Oscar because for the brief moment we saw him at the juror party, he definitely had a sex club vibe. Eddie and Freddie are remarkably cool with coming across each other in this situation, and Freddie only seems mildly surprised that Violet has known him for a while.
When Violet accepts Eddie’s offer to house-sit for him, she and Freddie briefly move into the house, which Freddie lived in with her and her mom all those years ago. The scenes between Violet and Freddie in this house are primarily reliant on the natural comedy of two friends hanging out. The way they interact with each other is enjoyable to watch, simply because we can recognize ourselves in it. The best moment between them may be Violet asking Freddie to watch Leaving Neverland with her because she’s “never been in the right head space” before. Of course, we cut to them finishing the documentary and sitting there shell-shocked.
The sweetest moment comes when Freddie discovers old photographs under Eddie’s bed, including a small photo album from Freddie’s youth and his relationship with her mom. Freddie lost her copies of these photos in a fire and thought these memories of her youth were lost forever. This subtle, surprising find of a personal treasure is the last thing you would expect while snooping around your “almost Dad’s” home with the friend who is currently letting him suck on her toes.
The mix of genuine, heartfelt character beats with slightly more outlandish plots makes High Maintenance special. Unfortunately, “Voir Dire” has a bit too much filler around the main plots, and too few compelling character beats to be a truly memorable episode of the series.
- This episode was written by Katja Blichfeld and Adele Thibodeaux.
- The credits scene is an extended instructional video for a grand jury, hosted by The Guy. I wonder if this is a real script for these videos because they commit, and this thing lasts forever.
- Like any good citizen who has seen The Social Network, I know that “Voir Dire” refers to jury selection.
- That Leaving Neverland mention is Netflix-level synergy for HBO
- Watching the episode, I thought Keesha’s voice sounded familiar and well, yeah—she was also in the web series episode “Genghis,” alongside Avery Monsen, who starred in last week’s episode. She played one of the hard-to-control students he, well, could not control. “Genghis” actually has quite a few returning characters.
- While re-watching “Genghis,” I discovered that Dyllón Burnside from Pose was also in that episode! High Maintenance is second to the Law and Order franchise in terms of “before you knew them” actor appearances.
- I absolutely love Violet’s iridescent coat.
- It may just be me, but I would never want to hang out with my fellow jurors after our job is done.
- Although Julianna Luna Vasquez has a beautiful voice, it’s my personal opinion that people who can actually sing are only fun at karaoke if they sing fun songs. For instance, when someone can nail the high notes in “I Believe in a Thing Called Love.”