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Living in Your Car, “Chapter 7” (1.07)

“Yeah, I’m basically fine, yeah.” – Steve Unger

The seventh episode of HBO Canada‘s new original series, Living in Your Car, written by George F. Walker, and directed by David Steinberg. Review after the jump…

Seeing Steve traverse the mental hospital was one of his batter capers in weeks. He finally got to show that he was pretty crafty, he had some genuine emotions, and he did procure some justice for a girl who deserved it, even if that wasn’t his primary intention.

There were some interesting issues brought up here, now that the universe has been established. Is Steve beginning to fall apart mentally, or is his talking to the statue just a way for him to have communication after all of his personal relationships have fizzled? Where is the line between deserving ire from those he ruined, and unjustifiable malice and intent to harm?

I may be overidentifying with Steve, due to his being our protagonist, but I feel pretty sympathetic to the guy on both questions. When you have nobody to talk to, even if you’re completely sane, doing things like talking to a statue for companionship isn’t actually completely out of hand. Steve is a person who survived on admiration and respect, able to blindly assume it was there even if it wasn’t outright stated, and now the former wunderkind gets nothing but venom from anyone who knows what he did. With nobody left to admire him, it makes sense that he’d ‘create’ a friendly ear, because none are available (beyond Carol, but she only rarely will accept his bullshit).

And yes, for the first time we see antagonists that actually put Steve into real, genuine danger, and we know that unless he pulls off his trick, he’ll be unfairly drugged for the rest of his natural life. This episode subtly addresses the powerlessness of the mentally ill against the analysis of their doctor, while giving us a real villain to work with. Ultimately, despite his selfishness, Steve comes out of the hospital looking a little heroic, for once, even though everything he did was for selfish reason. And, for once, he can admit it: he knows he helped Elena, but he also isn’t so desperate for praise that he’d cling to the lie that he did it to help her. He’s becoming, inch by inch, more self-aware.

Why did this episode work so well? The above elements, plus a reliance on the stronger, rather than weaker, castmembers of the show. Ingrid Kavelaars, Colin Cunningham and John Ralston are the show’s most engaging performers, and they all had something to do here (and Cunningham has the most meat he’s had in weeks, and relished the opportunity to show how much of a slime Neil really is). Not only that, but Diana Leblanc, who IMDB tells me plays the judge, was also excellent (as usual) in her scene playing against Steve, and the guest cast were strong this week as well. It also had the right balance of comedy and drama, nicely balancing over-the-top (andyet in terms of threat, realistically-scaled) villains like Neil and the psychiatrists, versus solid moments like Steve acknowledging that he didn’t do the scam for Elena, even though he was happy it might help. Strongest episode since the porn job.

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