Whatever Happened to Baby Gob?
by TAYLOR HINE
creators Will Arnett & Mark Chappell
The reasons that people choose to live where they do never fail to interest me. Often, it can be about growing out of one place and into a new one. Perhaps even more often, people think that a change of scenery is absolution — that escaping a place is as simple as leaving it.
It’s a bit more complicated than that for Chip (Will Arnett), the protagonist of Flaked, the new Netflix series co-written by Will Arnett and Mark Chappell and produced by Mitch Hurwitz.
“I moved to Venice by accident,” Chip says during an AA meeting in the first episode. “Let me rephrase that. I moved to Venice because of an accident.” You guessed it: Chip killed a man while driving drunk.
Venice, California, appears to be a great place to escape to, recovering alcoholic or not: it’s a small beachside town whose alleyways are framed by palm trees, white fences, and flowering bushes of pink azaleas; you can walk or bike anywhere; the sun is pretty much always out; the guy who owns Free Coffee will probably give you free coffee. It’s here that Chip owns an odds and ends store, in which he purports to build three-legged stools. He lives with his best friend, Dennis (David Sullivan), a wine distributor and fellow recovering alcoholic from whom he steals wine and girls.
When a new girl comes to town, she expresses more interest in Chip than in Dennis, and for good reason: she’s the sister of the man Chip killed, and she’s come to Venice to find him. London (Ruth Kearney) falls in love with Chip, having postponed her wedding to a fiancé that Chip knows nothing about. London must have been very, very compelled by the fact that Chip wouldn’t let a potential dot com millionaire sponsor for his store, Topher (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), take advantage of her as part of the deal.
It could also be that she’s forgiven him for what happened. I wonder how she’ll react when she finds out that he’d actually taken the blame for the accident caused by his soon-to-be ex-wife, Tilly (Heather Graham), to keep her career from being jeopardized.
What compelled me to watch the whole show in one sitting, besides the great soundtrack (composed by Stephen Malkmus), and besides the slow reveal of secret after secret, was Chip’s ability to be good, even when those around him didn’t have much faith in him. They had reason, of course — but this made Chip’s right decisions all the more powerful.
Flaked is a compelling character study of a man who creates a new identity for himself in a town that’s suited for him. Don Draper did essentially the same thing in Mad Men, only he wanted to escape his downtrodden home and family. Chip damaged his reputation in the process of taking the blame for his wife, so moving to a new town would make sense. Of course, his lie catches up with him when London comes into the picture, but at least there’s forgiveness at the heart of their interactions; it would be a shame, not to mention boring, if she sought to take revenge on him.
As it is, London’s seeing him as a human trying to better himself after what he did, even admiring him for it — even though it’s a lie, even though he didn’t actually kill anyone, the capacity to forgive is itself an admirable trait, even if she isn’t who she says she is, either. Forgiveness is redemptive because it entails giving someone a second chance. Flaked is a show about forgiving people who might not necessarily deserve to be forgiven — though isn’t that what makes it so redemptive?
The season ends with Dennis having found out about Chip stealing his wine and having hidden the truth about the accident from him for a whole decade. Their friendship is left unknown; where Dennis leaves Chip on a street corner, London appears, taking Chip’s hand and walking with him down a sidewalk lit by shop windows toward an unknown future. What we’re left with is a glimmer of hope that Venice will treat them well.
Taylor Hine is the senior contributor to This Recording. She is a writer living in Asheville. You can find an archive of her writing on This Recording here.
“A Part of You” – Ocean Jet (mp3)
“Breaking the Stones” – Ocean Jet (mp3)