Avenue 5: 1.05 He's Only There to Stop His Skeleton from Falling Over

Avenue 5: 1.05 He's Only There to Stop His Skeleton from Falling Over

When we left Captain Ryan Clark in last week’s episode, he was preparing to undertake his first spacewalk in order to fix Avenue 5’s wet-suit - a vast reservoir of human faeces, spraying wildly into the void of space following a leak. A few messy minutes later, and after a direct intervention from engineer Billie, the leak is plugged. Ryan is hailed as a hero, albeit one that has to be physically separated from the other travellers due to his foul smell. Naturally, Billie can’t even get a high-five.

Back on Earth, Rav at Judd Galaxy takes the victory of the mission as her cue to visit the White House to request assistance: or, as she puts it, “time to do some corporate begging!” The fact that the White House has been relocated to Buffalo, New York, passes without comment. 

On a high from the successful repair of the poop-leak, Judd gives the go-ahead to a pre-planned halfway home party in the ship’s main bar. Of course, they’re only 1/46th of the way there, but it’s a fine excuse to bring back Jordan Hatwal (Himesh Patel), the ship’s resident stand-up comedian. One of the episode’s highlights has to be Jordan’s meeting with Iris to pre-approve his material. Iris mirthlessly runs through a list of things that make her laugh, including erectile dysfunction and “non-fatal hunting accidents”. Suzy Nakamura has been one of Avenue 5’s secret weapons, and I’m pleased to say that this is her finest half-hour yet. The absurd lengths to which she goes to placate her unstable boss are always funny, and she even betrays a glimmer of affection for him in some scenes.

Unfortunately this week’s episode, He's Only There to Stop His Skeleton from Falling Over, might be Avenue 5’s weakest half-hour yet. The ship may only be a fraction of the way back to Earth, but this might be the first episode in which it feels like a real slog. The news that Avenue 5 has been renewed for a 2nd season still fills me with hope that the creators will find new and inventive ways to put these characters through the wringer (perhaps there’s a non-sadistic way of saying that), but there’s little evidence of that this week. 

Instead, the episode leans on Office-style cringe comedy, especially in Jordan’s disastrous set and Billie’s hopeless attempts at getting a glimmer of recognition from the spacewalk; and the snappy, mile-a-minute writing of the earlier episodes has been somewhat deflated. 

“I don’t want to get you overexcited, but this party is going to be an orgy of the gods”

Agitated by Jordan’s terrible set, we get a glimpse of the mob’s thirst to identify heroes and villains among their fellow travellers. Just as Ryan is temporarily the man of the hour, Frank - still persona non grata after last week’s misunderstanding with the big red button - falls prey to the bloodlust of the mob. One passenger’s “lock her up”-style chant, “shit him out”, quickly catches on until Judd is leading the mob baying for Frank to be ejected into space. While it’s the darkest that Avenue 5 has gotten so far, it also recalls the early episodes of The Simpsons in which the residents of Springfield would inevitably try to tar and feather one of their neighbours each episode. Even if the situation on board hasn’t yet devolved to Lord of the Flies levels, it feels like a slippery slope.

Using his hero status to win over the crowd, Ryan implores the security guards who have taken Frank away to return him and “render him vertical” once more. Frank, jealous of the attention which Karen has been paying him, repays Ryan’s kindness by punching him and calling him “Captain Turtleneck”. C’est la vie.

It’s not all doom and gloom. We learn that, in Avenue 5’s dark future, Daniel Radcliffe is most famous not for Harry Potter but for crapping himself at the Super Bowl. We also get an insight into the psychology of Spike, the washed-up astronaut. He spends much of the episode in a dangerously horny state, politely offering himself up to Doug, Mia and Colin, in that order. Suddenly, his MILF-hunting from last episode makes a lot more sense. Avenue 5's supporting cast, one-note as they are, can always be relied upon to make you question whether these people really deserve to be rescued. 

On that note, we join Rav as she rehearses her lines before meeting the President: of the Avenue 5 passengers, she remarks that “they are humanity’s finest and they need saving”. Cut, immediately, to Rav’s phone playing a video of a chaotic conga line, and a passenger puking their guts up onto the floor of the viewing deck. We’ll hopefully see just how convincingly Rav can fight for these poor unfortunate souls next week.

Avenue 5 (2020–)
Dir: N/A | Cast: Hugh Laurie, Josh Gad, Sacharissa Claxton, Zach Woods | Writer: Armando Iannucci

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