Peter J. Mello
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Please Like Me 3x02 Simple Carbohydrates

This series has always set itself apart in its willingness to be earnest to the point of actual vernerability, and the end of this episode is where is deploys that quality most effectively. I suspect that it has something to do with how obviously contrived the entire situation is from the point of the writers, and yet each of the characters present is just as clearly seeking their own ends and without any plan or even hope of something beautiful coming as a result. Josh is just being Josh, managing his own insecurities by appointing himself the stage manager of the lives of everyone around him. Alan is justifiably wallowing in the pain of Mae's betrayal, but unable to resist the pull of finding his purpose in being there for others. Tom is being his most authentic self as a melancholy sidekick, unhappy with his circumstances and lack of imagination for shaping them, and predictably leaping at the chance to play off of Josh's ability to do what he can't. Arnold, somewhat tragically, is just so overwhelmed with being truly seen as a human being for the first time, that he acquiesces to Josh essentially mining his very legitimate anxiety over a huge upcoming threshold in his life for nothing more than a distraction.

It shouldn't be possible for such a powerful and genuinely touching moment to spring from such benign selfishness, and yet that is the nature of paradoxes and emergent properties, things that become more than just the sum of their parts, and why they have the power to captivate and endlessly fascinate us. The genius of the scene is how none of the characters lets on that they're aware of the subtext, with Josh continuing to provide cues to his Dad even as Arnold sings. It sucks you into this belief that something magical is unfolding before your eyes and for reasons unknowable, only you, the viewer, is capable of recognizing it for what it is. I've lost count of how many times I've watched that scene and it never loses any of that power to pull you into the reality of that moment, and I can only pray that it never does.

Arnold's singing here is...I don't think I even know how to describe it. It's not flawless by any means, nor even that powerful, certainly not for a song that is typically performed with no shortage of vocal "belt," nor would you want it to be, even if the actor was capable of it. Rather, the fact that he's able to hit all of the pitches in what is a challenging piece to perform and sound so tentative in doing so, it's the perfect encapsulation of Arnold's insecurity as it wrestles with the fledgling sense of agency that is beginning to blossom as a result of his relationship with Josh. Each plaintive note tells you how truly naked he is in front of all of them despite still having all of his clothes still on, and I expect that I'm far from the only one who wishes they could manifest more of that level of courage in their own life as they hear it.

The arc of the average human life is so often bereft of this kind of magic, and this is one of the best examples I've ever seen of how it need not be thus. I pray we all find a little bit more of it somehow, even if only in a silly Australian comedy now and then.

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