Review: ‘Man Seeking Woman’ Hits Its First Rough Patch with ‘Gavel’

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Since its pilot episode, Lizard, Man Seeking Woman has been building upon its premise in each successive episode. But the series’ ascension has hit its first bit of turbulence in its latest episode, Gavel. Sadly, the episode feels like one really strong segment sandwiched between two chaotic, rambling segments. It is by a considerable margin the weakest episode in an otherwise very good show.

Gavel opens with Josh (Jay Baruchel) meeting Kayla (Anna Konkle) then proceeds to go over the various titles Josh bestows upon her – friend, plus-one, date, and, eventually, girlfriend. It’s a brisk sequence that identifies the semantic games we sometimes play when meeting someone new. After settling on the latest title for their relationship, Kayla is mysteriously paralyzed. Aliens from the planet Sex want to have sex with Josh because he exudes confidence due to being in a committed relationship. Once again, the show uses its weird world to tackle relatable topics. However, the bit doesn’t work too well, and rambles on for far too long.

The episode picks up steam, though, around the time that Mike (Eric Andre) fears that Josh may be sinking himself too deep within a committed relationship. Fearing that his friend might one day wind up – gasp! – married, Mike takes Josh and a group of other men in committed relationships on a Scared Straight journey into the suburbs. No Scared Straight journey would be complete without an impassioned speech by an inmate, and Jon Daly’s short speech as that inmate is the highlight of the episode. It’s a strong bit that is reinforced by character motivations. As the broken moral compass of the show, Mike doesn’t want to see his friend go down a path that resemble prison to him. Here is a character that is incapable of tailoring advice to his friend’s personality, he just wants Josh to adopt his suggestions, no matter how out of place.

Undeterred by Mike’s intervention, Josh plans to cook dinner for Kayla that evening, even going as far to add portabella mushrooms to spite Mike. While cooking dinner, Josh is surprised by a distraught Maggie (Maya Erskine), the ex-girlfriend that broke his heart and dated Hitler. Josh cancels his plans with Kayla in favor of comforting Maggie. Whenever it seems as if there’s going to be some kind of sexual escalation, Josh is called before a judge, played by Marc Evan Jackson, who is there to make sure that Josh isn’t crossing over into bad boyfriend territory. For a show that last week dealt with jealousy issues by having a Japanese penis monster appear, these trial segments are tame and, frankly, too simplistic to have any of the same impact as the show normally does.

Man Seeking Woman is a show that’s better than this episode would suggest. It’s a shame, too, because the episode hits relatable themes, but the jokes just aren’t there this time around. Gavel is an episode of missed opportunities. The relationship between Josh and Kayla is just glossed over that it shortchanges the later trials as well. While the verdict isn’t in on the entirety of Man Seeking Woman‘s first season, it’s safe to say that Gavel will likely be the low point.

Man Seeking Woman is on FXX Wednesdays at 10:30pm and is streaming through the FX Now app.

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