United States of Al Season 2, Episode 2 Review

The second episode of the new season finds the show back to sitcom territory. Ah, but something has changed in the air. Picking up from the end of Season 1, Riley (Parker Young) is addressing his demons. Even though the laugh track is back, Young gives a very good performance balancing comedy with pathos. To drive that point home, he is now seeing a therapist (Blake Clark) - a Vietnam vet who knows all too much about PTSD.  The fall of Vietnam is compared to the fall of Afghanistan in one touching exchange.

Al (Adhir Kalyan), eager to make money to send to his sister (who is now in a refugee camp in Turkey), finds a job as a repo man. Because the job prefers people with military experience, Riley eagerly tags along. The two buddies make good money, but Riley is a little too eager, enjoying the thrill of the mission, breaking into people's cars and repossessing them. As Riley ups his risk-taking, his family worries more and more, especially when he comes home one night with a badly bruised face.

I'm guessing that this episode might have been the original season 2 opener, except with the added mention of Al's sister in a refugee camp. The show was finishing season 1 to focus on Riley's alcoholism and promiscuity, his failed marriage, his relationship with his daughter. Not easy stuff for any sitcom.  This episode has turned into confident writing, keeping so many balls in the air, even with the added - though kept in the background - issues of the refugee camp. Al has the best line in the episode as he begs Riley to quit the repo job, "I worry about my mother, my father, my sister. My heart isn't big enough to worry about you too." Reminiscent of the best of ROSEANNE, it turns out USofAl is balancing serious issues in a sitcom setting just fine.


Harrison Cheung is the author of the award-winning biography of Christian Bale (BenBella Books) and a contributor to Brave New Hollywood and The TV Ratings Guide.

@harrisonic (Twitter)

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