The third episode of NBC’s Rise, titled “What Flowers May Bloom” finally broke through for me. This episode had the show finding it’s footing at last and finding that heart that Jason Katim’s shows are famous for (see Parenthood and Friday Night Lights).
In my last review of the first two episodes of Rise I mentioned that I was waiting for the other foot to drop and fall in love with these characters, and it has finally happened. This episode continued where the last one left off; Lou is still pushing forward with his ambitious plan for Spring Awakening, Simon is dealing with internal struggles and his parent’s plans for his life, and Lillete is harboring a one-sided crush on Robbie Thorne.
This episode gave some lovely, heartfelt moments to each storyline. The Mazzu family is attempting to give Gordy space has he works through his inner demons, while dealing with the stray pup Maashous coming into their home. At first the family has trouble accepting him, but his foster care situation is not agreeable, and this discovery leads to some of the most tender moments in the show. When Mr. Mazzu asks Maashous to be the lighting director instead of tell him they are abandoning him , honestly I teared up. Then at the end when the entire family including Gordy plays a game of tag football those tears were flowing.
This episode shared the love though, and one of the most tense and emotional scenes involved an interaction between Tracey and Lou. She finally confronts him about the fact that he took her potential job and his attitude is affecting her theatre family. Specifically, his stubborn choice to force Simon into the controversial role of Hanschen, has caused his parents to seek an education at a nearby Catholic school, St. Francis. She rips into him with the very true, very pointed accusation that he knew what he was stirring up when he forced that role. Slightly humbled, Lou tries to speak with the parents, and even tells Simon he will censor the play, but Simon says that the truth is too important. In the end Simon’s mother (a wonderful, affecting Stephanie J. Block) also sees the importance in truth and believing in her son in another heartfelt moment.
The other storylines were also wonderfully written. In a sort of parallel plotline, Lilette and her mother, Vanessa, both deal with heartbreak and hope. Vanessa confronts Coach about their adultery and rejects his half-hearted attempts to rekindle it by affirming that she wants to be a better role-model for her daughter. She wants to show her that all men “aren’t users” powerful words to a man who is trying to have his cake and eat it to. Lilette and Robbie have a cute, awkward teenage moment, and a much more grounded moment when she meets his mother –– sick with a not-yet-announced illness. All in all this was a wonderful episode that gives me more confidence in continuing this show.
This episode had glimmers of the magic of Friday Night Lights. No, Mr. Mazzu is no Coach Taylor but the moment between the actual Coach and Gordy almost felt Taylor-esque. And though Robbie’s mother does not have the immediate emotional weight that Matt Saracen’s grandmother had, I am going to let it get deeper as the season goes on. I am going to take Josh Radnor with a whole lot of salt because his acting method in a dramatic role is well, super dramatic and serious, so if he can lighten up a little bit the rest of the show will “rise” to the top. For more puns like these watch out for my review of next week’s episode.