Baskets S02E01 Recap: 'Freaks' [Season Premiere]

I have a friend who utterly dismissed Baskets based on about the first sixty seconds of the pilot. To be honest I kind of don't blame her. The show starts off as the antithesis of what it turns out to be, with Zack Galifianakis titular character Chip Baskets literally clowning around a clown school in Paris. There's even a gag where his pants fall down. To someone expecting something a little more nuanced, that may seen inaccessible. What's ironic is that throughout the show's brilliant freshman season, it only grows to be more and more inaccessible in general, as it becomes a neo-noir black comedy about a depressed man trying to escape his troubled and his judgmental family.

Of course, that's what made the show so good. Not only was it an incredibly well-written foray into these characters (and not only with Chip, but the aforementioned family as well as others), but it felt like the little secret of its small audience. It's almost as if that first montage dared people like my friend to tune out.

Funny enough, "Freaks", the show's second season premiere, kind of does the same. Following the events of the first season, at the end of which Chip decides to run away again by becoming a train hobo, we pick up with Chip putzing on and around a train. He's trying to avoid security, he's spilling hot coffee all over himself and he winds up burning off his ponytail with a cigarette. Later there's a good, long bit of him trying to open a can of Chef Boyardee. Don't get me wrong, it's good physical humour, it's just that it's the exact same kind of thing that turned my friend off from this show, and the exact kind of thing that Galifianakis and Jonathan Krisel (the show's co-creator and this and most episodes' writer/director) does on purpose to turn away people who might not get what we get about Baskets, or to sound a little bit pretentious, might not deserve to get.

The real meat of the episode comes after the first act break. Chip gets caught and thrown off the train, but he's found by a gang of hobos who, luckily enough, turn out to be traveling performers. Chip joins them and instantly fits in with most of them, delivering laughs at their events and even netting them some money. Unfortunately, this comes at the expense of Trinity, the girl who originally saved him and who is the troupe's clown before Chip comes in. She doesn't appreciate Chip stealing her spotlight and spot in the group. Chip, as we know, is soft and caring once you get passed the rough exterior, so he apologizes, which Trinity mistakes for romantic interest. After he refuses her advances, and the group chooses Chip for advice on how to spend their newfound fortune (he chooses snacks over a tarp), she winds up leaving the group.

Well, it turns out Trinity may have been right about a thing or two, because "snacks" for this group actually meant hard drugs. Chip tries to escape after they start doing heroin, but the episode ends with him staring down a couple of cops who have found their hideout.

Having Chip arrested and likely needing his family to bail him out is a pretty good conceit for getting the gang back together. Our exposure to the rest of the characters is limited this episode, but we do get a couple of good Christine moments, first as she explains to Martha how Chip would always run away as a kid seeking attention, only to always eventually come back. She claims that she isn't worried, but at the end of the episode we see her looking around for him in the rain.

The Chip/Christine dynamic is central to the show so it'll be good to have that back, but I have to say that I wouldn't have minded a little more of Chip on the run and with this group. It was a reverse of the position Chip held last season, where being a clown wasn't good enough for anyone in Chip's life. Now he's found his place in a group that mostly likes and wants him, but as it turns out, he might be too good for them. Too good of a clown, too good of a person, even. Chip is a good clown that doesn't belong anywhere, and this premiere encapsulates that with great success.

"Freaks" picks up right where Baskets left off last season, and gets 9 bags of Werthers Originals out of 10.

Notes & Quotes:

  • The two main hobos Chip meets are called Morpheus and Trinity. Sure, why not.
  • I like that none of these new characters are particularly well-known actors, continuing the amazing, weird casting of this show. Although I totally thought Morpheus was Walton Goggins for a second, and I was sad it wasn't Walton Goggins.
  • Very Zach Galifianakis-esque way to make political commentary: "I don't think clowns are needed as much since the world has become so clownish."
  • "I get all the laughs because you're the straight man." "I'm a bisexual woman."
  • "If it means anything to you I have a terrible physique."
  • "On the snack front just get me some Werthers Originals."