United States of Al Season 2 Episode 3 Review

The third episode of the season stumbles as Al (Adhir Kalyan) hunts for a husband to marry his sister who is stuck in a refugee camp in Turkey.

Al expects to find a great husband for his sister to be able to bring her to the U.S. So he travels to the Afghan restaurant from Season 1 where he asks owner Kasim (Zadran Wali) for help. But Kasim suggests his own son Mo would be ideal. However Kasim's daughter Ariana (Azita Ghanizada) warns Al that Mo isn't the perfect son Kasim describes.

Meanwhile Riley (Parker Young) sizes up his estranged wife's boyfriend, Freddy (Brian Thomas Smith) in a friendly bowling competition where we learn Freddy is Canadian and has marriage and baby plans with Vanessa.  This of course stirs the jealousy bug in Riley and the bowling competition gets fierce.

USofAl works best when Riley and Al are sparring, buddying. The two have great chemistry as brothers in arms.  This episode runs lukewarm as Riley and Al are separated, trying to spark some chemistry with new or under-developed characters. First of all, Riley has hated Freddy in the past - Riley, all square-jawed Marine, while Freddy is the man-bun hippie who crochets sweaters in his spare time. Freddy has been a one dimensional character worthy of a couple zingers, so the interaction with Riley is unexpected as it's improbable that Riley would want to spend that much time with the guy who is sleeping with his wife.

But the biggest incongruity in this episode's storylines is Al's interaction with Kasim and family. Last season, Ariana bristled when she found out Al was an interpreter for the U.S. Marines.  That was a great episode about how some Afghanis considered the interpreters as collaborators with an invading army.  Clearly, Ariana's politics don't agree with Al's.  They parted frosty, each resigned with their own points of view.

So how odd was it for Al to return to this restaurant to find his sister a husband? And wouldn't Kasim share his daughter's political point of view?  Or was this truly going to be a marriage of convenience where Al could swallow his pride and ignore his politics to ask for help for his sister? And would Ariana not mind that her brother was being offered as husband to the sister of a collaborator? This episode just didn't make sense.


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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