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Living in Your Car, “Chapter 3” (1.03)

“So, you think you’ve found a good place for yourself?” – Julio

The third episode of HBO Canada‘s new original series, Living in Your Car, written by George F. Walker, Dani Romain and Joseph Kay, and directed by Paul Fox. Review after the jump…

The first pair of episodes were, for the most part, about establishing Steve’s situation. Yes, last episode he had a brief attempt to restart his life with the worm-picking, but ultimately that felt like an extension of the establishing phase, with him screwing it up almost immediately by trying to barter for better pay. That was still Steve trying to reclaim his crown, rather than Steve trying to find a new path. This episode, at first, seems to be the same, but then begins to move his journey forward: now that he’s stopped trying to break back into his old world, he can start trying to find a place in his new one.

Steve Unger, somewhat like the (presumably) undocumented immigrants he worked alongside last week, is considered a ‘nobody’, and can’t enter the workforce in the ‘real world’ – legally or, due to his reputation, actually. So, like them, he has to achieve something in a secondary world, where ‘real people’ would not be able to work: though he’s lived long enough in the ‘real world’ to gain the experience that gives him mobility in this new life, he’s still stuck alongside Julio here in the underground.

I’d actually compare Steve Unger to Weeds‘ Nancy Botwin here, actually. Where Nancy was unable to break into the ‘real world’ due to her place as a woman with no experience in it, while needing the money to support her family, both she and Unger fell from a great spot in the ‘real world’ and have been forced to enter the ‘other world’ because they lost their privilege: Nancy lost the husband that brought in the money and financial viability, while Steve lost the respect of the world he relied on. He “got caught, and that’s a sign of weakness” (Neil, 1.01). And while Nancy turned to pot-selling on the joked advice of her brother-in-law, Steve stumbles into… porn.

Instead of being the CEO of a giant corporation, Steve finds himself a job as a porn agent and, possibly, finding some early success in it. And he’s surprisingly good at it. He negotiates literally as the producers are getting ready to start filming, earning Julio three times their opening offer and potentially a piece of the DVD sales.  Whether or not this will actually help Julio’s career remains to be seen, as this could get him a reputation as someone worth paying or, conversely, as an uppity newcomer not worth hiring, so it’s a gamble.

This clarifies the plot with Steve and his car. He’s so worried about looking like he’s at the top, because back then, being at top was mostly about looking like you know what you were doing. He’s learning that everyone’s got his number and that looking like he’s on top of the world still won’t erase the moment of weakness that landed him at the bottom. He’s got to accept his sullied reputation so he can feel comfortable, at least for now, sleeping in a dented car and working on porn. Only once he accepts his new life, while striving to success within the lines now made for him, will he actually begin to move forward.

Of course, Steve’s always been tossing himself into situations in which he knows nothing. And this episode repeatedly advises against it, first with Neil being taken down by the judge during his show for his flashy ignorance, and then at the end of the episode with the guy who stopped working on Steve’s car because he doesn’t know how to fix it. So the fact is, the show is definitely opening itself to Steve’s new venture falling completely on its face. I’m not sure whether that was a criticism of Steve trying to work on Kevin’s accounting without any training, or whether that warning also extends to working as an agent for Julio. Will his skills in negotiation and charming people make his new career a success, or will he fumble yet another job on his route to finding a new life?

As for the cast, the show’s an odd mix. I’m not typically going to name names, because there’s not an easy method of attaching actor’s names to characters. HBO Canada has really dropped the ball here, as their website offers nothing in the way of helpful cast listings. I may email them soon to request help for this, because it would make discussing the show much easier. Anyhow. The new additions of Neil’s mother-in-law and the odd twin brothers (who may or not be the same guy) are very strong, and Julio (George Tchortov) shows himself to be quite loveable and definitely someone I root for. Lori was pushed back into the background here, sadly, but I’d rather the show only use her when needed and keep her worth watching. I’m of two minds about Mariah Horner, the young lady who plays his daughter Kate: all of her lines are performed with a lack of conviction that makes me wonder if she still needs a lot of training, but that awkwardness plays well into the character. I’ll have to see how I feel by end of season.

That said, this was the first episode of the show that felt like a real episode of the show, and pulled me in. Everything involving the porn shoot, in particular, worked very well. I’m definitely getting into this show, much moreso than I worried after the pilot.

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