United States of Al Season 2 Episode 5 Review

Fifth episode in this second season of USofAL and I've decided that the writers have jettisoned continuity for a bigger story - Al (Adhir Kalyan) is in love with Ariana (Azita Ghanizada). As a refresher, last season, Ariana, an Afghani restaurant owner's American-born daughter, was disgusted to find out that Al was an interpreter for U.S. forces. She delivered a torching speech blasting Al for supporting an invading army. She also said her brother was a puppeteer (he's now a DJ this season). Unrepentant, Al gets the last word by lecturing Ariana that he helped the Americans to help his country. The episode ends with Ariana giving Al a look of loathing.

While this episode begins with Al and Riley doing a food drive for Afghan refugees, it's more of a launching device for Al to begin dating Ariana.  

Political differences aside, we now find Al and Ariana on friendly terms because politics, I'm sure, never comes up in conversation among Afghani people.  But since Al is fresh from the old country while Ariana is American-born and raised, they do have a huge difference in opinion about dating. Ariana is fine with casually dating while Al sees dates as a one-two-three step to marriage. And not to get all DEAR EVAN HANSEN, but there's also the issue of the age difference between the two actors - Ghanizada is four years older than Kalyan. Given how old-fashioned and chauvinist Al is, would he have any issues about dating an older woman?

Meanwhile, Riley's dad Art (Dean Norris) goes to the drag races with Riley's ex Vanessa (Kelli Goss) in an awkward attempt at building rapport there. Art would still love to see Riley and Vanessa get back together, but Vanessa isn't there... yet.

Overall, this is another mixed episode where without Riley/Al scenes, we lose the "bro"-ness core of the show. Is there enough chemistry and credibility between Al and Ariana given their initial hostility? Or are the writers expanding the circle of characters of Al's support network by having him date apparently the only Afghan woman in Ohio?


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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