And she doesn’t let up, even when faced with a guy who believes all blacks should live in the South, whites in the Appalachians, and Paris Hilton and all the rest in California. But he’d rather not be called a white supremacist, please. That’s what I meant by the most shocking lines coming out of other’s mouths (“At the end of the day, it’s not wrong that I want my grandchildren to look like me,” says the not-a-white-supremacist), but Chelsea still gets the best reactions, somehow managing an air of professional lack of bias with a few utterly earned facial contortions worthy of every GIF creating website on the internet.
Throughout the “Racism” episode especially, Chelsea Does also feels unexpectedly equipped at handling the necessity of tiptoeing onto each side of an argument, Handler delivering serious questions with jokes equally to Reverend Al Sharpton as she does to a group of immensely we-aren’t-racist racists in Tallassee, Alabama. She wants to understand their side of things as much as, say, the family of Walter Scott. The show manages to weave in topical moments like that into the series in a non-gratuitous way, earning Handler’s conversation with Scott’s family – especially his brother – one of those unexpected moments of intense emotion I mentioned before.
The other two hours continue what’s set up in the first couple of episodes, if to a less effective degree in Silicon Valley. That third episode is mostly focused on Handler’s frustration at being technologically inept, and as such long, expletive-laden rants about Skype and – brilliantly – Netflix fuel the hour, but there’s a noticeable lack of nuance or ultimate meaning by its end. She visits a “digital detox” camp, connects with a few strangers over discussing family members and the power of disconnecting from your smartphone but, as she admits herself, she already reads the newspaper, buys real books, hates her iPad. She didn’t need the detox, and it sort of hampers the hour’s supposed-to-be emotional sucker punch, which all three others earn in spades.
And, if you had interest in skipping around, I implore you to watch the “Drugs” episode last. The trippy hour is a hilarious train-wreck of cannabis-infused dinners and Willie Nelson smoke outs, but it’s the final 20 minutes’ hallucinatory, Ayahuasca-fueled carnage in the jungles of Peru that provide the most deliciously perfect cherry on the top of everything Handler wanted to accomplish with Chelsea Does. I won’t spoil anything here, but while the show itself could be a bit scatterbrained in attempting to tackle so many ideas and issues all at once, her ultimate, hilariously ordinary epiphany from all of it is the best end-cap her journey could have asked for.
That ending also encapsulates everything that works so well in Chelsea Does: the honesty in Handler’s mission, her workmanlike attempts to get answers, the brazen humor she uses as a weapon and defense, and an unexpected dollop of emotional sincerity. The ultimate structure and clarity of the show’s message can be a bit meandering, too occupied with conveying all of its ideas than with being coherent, but Chelsea Does strikes something deep and true on such repeated occasions that most of its flaws are a pittance in comparison.
Especially in a world where it’s easy to box yourself into one group without seeing anything from someone else’s viewpoint, the show isn’t only an enjoyable comedic romp through four “topical” subjects, but a worthy invitation to do as Chelsea Does and craft your own opinions, make your own mistakes, and discover your own answers – clothing and vodka optional.
Chelsea Does is every bit the no-filter, humor-filled weaponization against the four topics presented that fans will crave, but it's the delightfully unexpected through-line of impassioned emotional beats that underscores each joke with an appropriate wallop.