Every Wednesday and every Saturday evening, always at 10.30 pm, we take you with us inside some of the most significant moments in the recent and past history of TV series with our ‘after the fact’ reviews of some episodes. Today is the turn of Superstore 2×22.
A few weeks ago, also convinced by my colleagues who saw and wrote about it, I decided to recover Superstore. I immediately found myself faced with an amusing, brilliant and interesting comedy, another of those comedies that unfortunately have not yet exploded in Italy and perhaps will never explode (like Silicon Valley: please, look at Silicon Valley). But regrets aside, the first thing to say is that right from the start I found in Superstore the main feature that every comedy should have: comedies should make you feel at home. And with Superstore I immediately felt at home. I found in front of me a welcoming series, which knows how to make fun of itself, incorrect to the right point but without falling into extreme excesses that only some products can ‘hold’ (The Office above all). Above all, it seemed to me that I was dealing with an authentic story. Glossy in everything, from love stories to the lives of the protagonists, plausible in everything: a perfect reconstruction of normality. The protagonists make no secret of living a boring life and they don’t even do anything to hide it from us: that’s it, full stop. But in their boredom, in their endlessly repeated patterns, they still somehow manage to enjoy themselves and above all to amuse us. The routine of a supermarket as well as that of an office absorbs you, but it may not become alienating if that place takes the form of a microcosm that takes on a life of its own, a microcosm where in the end you just feel good, even if you never say it out loud.
And the protagonists of Superstore never say it aloud, because the state of constant job insecurity in which they find themselves does not allow it, so it’s better not to risk it. They don’t even have the privilege to be able to get used to the habit, to enjoy the good side of that coin called routine: that of security, economic and professional. So they live their lives one week at a time, and then the next it is not known whether a round of layoffs or some re-location without any salary increase. Better not get used to the habit. Under the wrapper of gags and absurd but tremendously normal situations with which Superstore is studded, there is also, constantly, subtle and well-crafted social criticismanother of the silent strengths of the series.
In this situation of precarious habit that the protagonists live constantly, something really shocking hardly happens. And the 2×22 episode of Superstore, one of the most powerful of the series, basically even mocks the viewer who has become accustomed to that comfortable context in which almost everything seems immutable, and slams a tornado. In the true sense of the word.
A tornado ready to wipe out everything, a tornado that will basically tear the same supermarket in two. Above all, a tornado that terrifies Cloud 9 employees out of the blue, casting doubt on one of the few certainties they thought they could count on until a few seconds ago, to arrive alive at the end of the day. The 2×22 of Superstore is a crazy episode because it is unexpected: in a comedy like this regular, no viewer would have ever thought they could experience an alienating season finale to the point of becoming terrifying even for the viewer. A more than realistic situation, which goes to the next level and becomes terrifyingly real. Thanks also to a spectacular directorial work that makes us fully experience those intense and chilling moments. From the audio part dotted with sudden bursting noises to the video part, we seemed to experience that tornado too. And so it was easier to identify with the bewildered and lost eyes of the protagonists, forgetting that we were watching a TV series and coming to think for a moment that they were really experiencing that disaster.
The images of the cataclysm flowed before us fast and imposing, and so did the reactions of the characters: the terror in Dina’s eyes, usually so scornful and confident‘, it made us realize that things were getting really bad’; the constant trust of Glennwho, although totally terrified, never lost hope that everything could work out; Brett’s obsessive compulsive stoicism which remains as the last bastion out there doing what it has always done since it was born: put the trolleys in place. A snapshot that has become poetry.
Finally, the two protagonists Amy e Jonah. Because even here this surprising episode of Superstore managed to amaze us. We expected that they would approach during the tornado. That they kissed, after all, too. But it’s the way it happens that is the touch of class that makes us realize how attentive the writers of Superstore have always been to subtle details. Amy and Jonah will kiss, as per script, but in an elusive and rapid way, significant yes but not definitive, not idealized. In short, they didn’t throw the most classic kisses that happen in movies and TV series in our faces before the end of the world, where the two finally declare themselves because the most important thing is that their love is finally declared. It wasn’t one of those long, intense kisses, the ones that while the world falls the important thing is that you and I are together until the end, and everything else around vanishes. It was instead a quick kiss, almost visually imperceptible, where there has been no room for romance except for a fraction of a second: even in the disaster Superstore managed to create a situation of elusive normality in the midst of a storm, while far more important things were happening around it. In fact, the scene lasts very little and in less than no time you go back to the things that matter most, to give space to how all the characters were doing in a desperate attempt to preserve their safety.
A very subtle and also strategically perfect narrative choice, because it is precisely on that feeling of non-definition between the two that the beginning of the third season will hinge. In 2×22 of Superstore there was really everything: we saw and experienced situations of incredible power that we would never have imagined being able to experience in the series. We saw and experienced situations that we expected, like Jonah and Amy’s kiss, but in a completely unconventional way. An episode that should be the manifesto of the writing level of this comedywhich has never left even commas to chance and which is probably underestimated only for that aura of extreme normality that many misinterpret, but which instead is one of the many characterizing and multifaceted traits that have made it a winner.