La Brea Season 2 Episode 4 Review: “The Fog” (Or Why I’m Saying Goodbye to La Brea)
The premise of “The Fog” – the Time Gash misfits hunker down, surrounded by attacks approaching as a thick fog surrounds their encampment – should be a layup for La Brea, an hour where the series could drop its incessant vagueness and underdeveloped character dynamics by injecting some much-needed drama and immediacy into the proceedings. But even on a small, presumably focused scale, La Brea just can’t help but be itself, with a cascade of disappointing scenes that, instead of hiding the show’s flaws under a veneer of inherent danger, lays them all bare in the most maddening fashion possible.
If La Brea can’t even make a decent episode out of “The Fog”, there’s no reason to trust it can execute on any of the plot threads it’s been dancing around for a season and a half – and after this episode, I’m no longer going to try.
It certainly doesn’t help that a full quarter of “The Fog” is spent with Gavin, Eve, and Levi trying to figure out how to lie their way around Izzy Face. TV’s most focused effort to create the worst television character ever pays its dividends at the worst possible moments of “The Fog”, scenes guaranteed to suck the tension out of the room with Izzy’s scrunched face bullshit, whining about how her parents breaking up was her fault (this is approximately 10 minutes after she’s been reunited with her mother, and thirty seconds after she tells Eve some bullshit line about how they’re “smiling at each other like they used to”, even though Gavin and Eve have done nothing of the sort). This is happening, while she is scolding her mother for not letting her come out and fight rabid CGI wolves and angry tribespeople, on a leg that’s currently being held together with spit and prehistoric tape (a fact I think La Brea forgot about four seconds after it happened).
Izzy brings nothing to the series; at least Josh, with his stupid face and “oops, accidentally opened my phone on this picture of me with some chicks” is doing something tangentially plot-related in 1988, and serves the role of “dickhead horny teenager with wavy hair” that all dramatic series need to have in some capacity. Izzy? She just fucking stands around with her one facial expression (which features the nuances of “crying” or “not crying”), in ways that make you wonder “are these directors giving Zyra Gorecki any fucking direction?” The character is an vortex of cringe every time she is on screen, her presence justified by nothing except being a device to drive guilt further and further into Eve’s soul (Eve tries to explain her affair with Levi eventually, but it ends in a “well, I still love Levi”, to remind us the writers are committed to this relationship for some reason they won’t tell us).
Once we get away from the Harris Histrionics of the Week, however, “The Fog” fares no better. There is some potential in a side plot about Ty trying to help a patient he finds in the woods – however, the nature in which he ‘discovers’ this person is a dead giveaway for where the plot is going. And though it is but a small part of the episode, it is really important in understanding this series. La Brea, though it thinks itself a mystery series, is awful at actually being mysterious – it is blindingly obvious Ty’s tumors are spiraling at the very moment Paara breaks up with him, because how else is the show going to get them back together. Rather than embracing trope to tell an emotional story, La Brea just plays it as straightforward and safe as possible, which makes their romantic reunion at the end of the episode land with the dull thud, the kind of sound I’d imagine Josh’s head makes when he hits it on something.
But the real heart of this episode is Aldridge, the mysterious doctor who’s been teasing six or seven different plots for two seasons, with an uncanny ability to do nothing but speak in empty cliches. “The Fog” is really less a title about what this episode is ostensibly presenting (the most dramatic part of the fog attack is ‘a couple wolves get on top of a bus for a few minutes’, which is just a fucking waste of everyone’s time), and more about this show’s only defining factor: willful obscurity.
If you haven’t noticed, La Brea still hasn’t started telling its fucking story, of what is actually going on with these portals, who the players are involved, and why any of it matters. Using Aldridge as a conduit, La Brea has done nothing but narrative edging since its pilot; there isn’t a single “reveal” in the 14 existing episodes that provides any actual context for the story of the series, instead just asking its audience to constantly push through its perpetual narrative “fog”, to reach the next dark, damp place where Scott will make a weed joke and Sam comes up with a plan that nobody follows (seriously – dude is the worst leader ever). There’s never a light at the end of the tunnel – or in the case of the tunnel Scott and Aldridge walked in, we don’t even get to see it (I’m still blown away at how that story progressed in the first three episodes… some of the most inept storytelling I’ve ever seen).
And so what does “The Fog” do? Well, it fucking kills Aldridge, of course, after letting her rip off one final round of bullshit sentences, which culminates in the reveal that… Josh in 1988 is with Gavin’s mom, and she also might be in 10,000 BC? It sounds like a fun plot reveal, until you remember that we have no context for why this matters, outside of Aldridge insisting it does (which makes Gavin sweat, so it must be important). We have literally no information about who cares about Gavin, why he matters, or what anyone is trying to accomplish by opening sinkholes to 10,000 BC – so when Aldridge has a big dramatic death on a string of manufactured bullshit, it just feels like La Brea shrugging its shoulders and saying “we just don’t know what the fuck we’re doing here.” Worse, it proves once again that whatever their actual story is, they don’t respect the audience’s time enough to tell it – which is a fantastic way to fracture that tenuous relationship between viewer and creator.
I’m sure there’s a big show Bible somewhere that explains why Riley is an interesting character, or why Gavin is our Drunk Jesus; but it doesn’t seem like La Brea is interested in telling us. More importantly, it doesn’t want to use any of these shapeless science fiction plots to explore anything; unlike LOST, the show it so desperately wants to be, La Brea has no understanding of how to tell science fiction stories about people or ideas, about families trying to reconcile, people trying to reinvent themselves, or even just how humanity survives against its own impulses (often my favorite brand of sci-fi). La Brea wants to be that so goddamn bad, but wants the results without ever doing any of the legwork – and it shows in every facet, from the lazy direction of “The Fog”, to the piss poor attempts at dramatic punchlines throughout the hour. Here are a few choice cuts of what La Brea considers affecting dialogue:
- “There’s only one option…….. we’ll have to defend ourselves.” (this is a cut to commercial, pause for dramatic effect line!)
- “You have a role to play in this, that only you can do.” (This is what Rebecca says before her dumbass dies).
- “Sometimes we don’t get to choose our own path, it is chosen for us.” (… the fuck?)
With dialogue of such emotional and dramatic breadth, it’s no surprise La Brea has bled almost a quarter of its audience since the season premiere. But even a bad television show should be capable of pulling off such a concept as fucking simple as “The Fog”, and it’s inability to resist its own worst impulses for just these forty minutes is maddening. But what else should I have expected? Since its premiere in 2021, La Brea has strived to be nothing but the most mind numbing, reductive version of itself it could possibly be, a goal that came to horrific fruition with “The Fog”, the most disappointing episode of network television’s most consistently underwhelming series in recent memory.
So farewell The Clearing, goodbye Time Gashes, peace out to Scott’s dumbass punchlines, and au revoir Izzy Face. I’m done with La Brea – to quote a much better show about monstrous human beings, you’re fucking out.
- Honestly, there’s nothing I like to do more then write about bad television, because I think it provides a great analytical window into understanding creators, performers, and audiences, to understand better why stories, ideas, and characters work (or don’t work). But a show has to be bad with a soul; bad shows that are willing to be risky, to put themselves out there with an actual identity, are infinitely more rewarding to watch than the lifeless trod towards nothingness. Gimme twenty Wayward Pines over anything La Brea has to offer.
- If you’re going to continue watching La Brea, I’d love to hear why in the comments. I’m curious what I’m missing in this series that you’re seeing – or if you’re letting go (or already have), what it was that made you finally say “that’s enough for me”. TV breakups are weird and difficult, and is one of the most fascinating parts of the parasocial viewer/creator relationship.