Togetherness Review: “Handcuffs” (Season 1, Episode 2)

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Togetherness

So far, Lynskey is the series’ most interesting performer, trying to emulate her sister’s carefreeness while also fulfilling her duties as a mom. In one moment, she serenades infant Frank to The Cure’s “Let’s Go to Bed” as she gets ready for her day, showing her resolve to mix her tiresome routine with a bit of New Wave excitement.

Regardless, it is not surprising that Brett and Michelle’s sexual encounter this week is filled with discomfort and strained erotic theatrics. He is so well situated in the normality of the everyday that any change from the status quo makes him perk up with questions and confusion. Meanwhile, she doesn’t take control over his libido well enough, hesitating to punish him in an authentic way. Duplass and Lynskey still show some chemistry as a couple hoping to be on the same page as the other, but their reluctance to take their love life in a completely new direction spells trouble for their happiness.

As “Handcuffs” puts the Pierson’s sexual strain into focus, it spends less time with their houseguests. Amanda Peet and Steve Zissis do not need extensive screen time to establish their characters’ reluctance to mature. Now staying in L.A., Tina uses her sunny zest and personality to her advantage when selling bouncy castles, while Alex uses the same demeanor to entertain Frank and Sophie at a party. Despite their easy adaptation to child-like surroundings, which speaks to their close ties to their youth, they have an easygoing rapport when discussing more adult things. (Interestingly, they share a stronger personal connection than Brett or Michelle.)

Tina wants Alex to get out of his acting slump and forces him to toss away a pizza, hoping he will put his foot forward toward losing weight and refining his appearance. (Something has to be done with the thin patch of hair on his bald spot.) As Tina, a woman who knows how to get people on her good side, Peet shows layers of compassion, although these moments do not take away from her more juvenile tendencies in other parts of the episode. Thankfully, Tina seems to be moving away from a woman who would flash a male companion to get him to accompany her on a workday into someone willing to push her friend to take some responsibility. On the other hand, Steve’s routine as he sleeps in, lounges and puts little back-breaking effort into his work, still feels a bit thin and restrictive. Hopefully, Tina’s resolve to make him more proactive will create greater change in future episodes.

At just over 23 minutes without credits, “Handcuffs” flies by quickly. The episode’s lack of a big scene with all four main characters makes us as hungry for more material as Brett is starved when locked out from the soundstage. Nevertheless, as long as the Duplass Brothers keep adding new dimensions to their characters and offbeat stabs at cringe humor to push them in refreshing direction, Togetherness will remain a lovely, low-key wonder for HBO.

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