Emily’s paranoia reaches new proportions as Dolly’s injury and ongoing success leave her feeling increasingly inadequate and insecure, moving the pair’s friendship ever closer to complete disintegration.
Em’s descent coupled with Doll’s rise
Another sharply observed episode, but one burdened by a sense of inevitability and a curious lack of pace as Doll continues to prosper at Em‘s expense.
Despite her incapacitating fall and a blazing argument with her former boyfriend over Skype, Doll continues to march forwards. Indeed, her accident means the shoe is on the other foot in many respects. Now it is Em who has to buy coffee, drive to the set and fetch items for her friend.
Em’s starting to feel the pressure from several directions. She’s convinced everyone on set is talking about firing her, a paranoia which is fuelled by her director criticising her performance as she struggles to connect with a pivotal scene.
At the same time she sees how popular Doll is with the crew – she receives flowers and fudge from and is cosying up to the producers – but also feels she is milking a superficial sprain. She ends up snapping at Doll when she puts sunscreen in her mouth, and although this blows over the pair experience contrasting fortunes when they go to an audition together and Doll turns down Em’s invitation to go for drinks to go out with Buddy instead. She’s now at least as jealous of her friend as she is pleased for her.
There’s a constant sense of niggle that exists between the pair throughout the episode as each ignores the other’s requests. Em tells Doll not to answer her ex’s call, but she does anyway. Doll asks Em to drive carefully because she’s feeling ill, but that too falls on deaf ears. And third parties serve only to reinforce the divide between them, as Em is asked to imagine being betrayed by Doll and it’s pointed out to Doll that she sounds just like an assistant now.
Indeed, by the end of the episode it’s hard to see what is keeping the two together other than Doll being Em’s PA, as their friendship is buried under a volley of passive-aggressive barbs.
Neither fish nor fowl
It’s hard to describe quite where I stand on Doll & Em after four of six episodes, partly because it’s quite difficult to compartmentalise. Like Girls, it’s more of a dramedy than a straight comedy. Like Curb Your Enthusiasm, it has a semi-improvised mockumentary style. In terms of its deconstruction of female friendships it’s more of a surgical scalpel than a samurai sword. And it’s crafted well enough that plot developments are neatly telegraphed – they feel organic and believable but also predictable.
Having been excited by the series’ direction after two episodes, I now feel like I’m half a step ahead and waiting for the scripts to catch up, leaving me a bit unsatisfied. Without the distraction of secondary storylines to contrast with and unburden the weight on the two main characters to carry the show, it all feels a bit sluggish.
As I said last week, I can’t help but feel this would have worked better as a film rather than half-hour episodes. It feels like we all know what the endpoint of all this is – a broken friendship, to be repaired at the last minute – but we’re still mired in the exposition and transition required to get us to the requisite point of crisis at which everything falls apart.
And that’s where I am right now. As a viewer, the linear structure of the show is that little bit too transparent. Nonetheless I’m enjoying the journey – I just wish we could either get there a little faster or add a little more flesh to the bones.