Manuel Pedro Antonio Bolin, 1980-2001. Making a phonecall in the dead of the night in LA gangland? Bad idea. Talking back at the guy with the big gun? Worse idea. En paz descante, Manuelito.
Fade-in on Nate and Brenda helping the police with their inquiries into the crematory fire, separately. What were the two of them doing in the building the afternoon it caught fire and burnt to the ground? “We made love,” says Nate, the die-hard romantic. Brenda is quite a bit more blunt and specific, to the entertainment of the policeman. However, certain teenage girls with a predilection for foot theft are higher up on the list of suspects. Acting up in the wake of her father’s death, perhaps?
Things aren’t all too good at Fisher & Sons on the whole. The air conditioning is on the fritz, and money is tight. The same can be said for Manny Bolin’s parents (the bit about money, that is, not the AC), although the leader of the gang Manny – or “Paco” – was in is quite adamant that money won’t be an issue. “Paco’s gonna have a fat-ass funeral, whatever it costs. We got mad cash as long as y’all can do it up right,” as he eloquently puts it, to the dismay of Manny’s parents – as well as David and Nate. No pressure on the Fisher brothers, who couldn’t be more whitebread if they tried.
David approaches Federico, resident Latino, because the family’s wish is for a traditional Mexican funeral – never mind that Rico is Puerto Rican, and rather offended at David’s assumption that all Latinos are alike. Although, in practice, Rico does a much better job at talking to the Bolins, and the gang leader, than either David or Nate. Add that to his gift at corpse reconstruction and you have to wonder why he isn’t a full partner in Fisher & Sons.
If the Fishers’ initial meeting with the Bolins and Powerful, the descriptively named gang leader, was awkward, then the first family dinner with Brenda is awkward. Ruth doesn’t exactly seem to be the kind of woman who is at ease with Nate’s choice of girlfriends, and catching her firstborn as he’s going down on Brenda in the funeral parlour when they have a moment? Not the best way to endear yourself to your partner’s mother.
The Mexican funeral, while pretty heavy on the catholic paraphernalia, starts off considerably less dramatic than might be expected. Schubert’s “Ave Maria” drives Mrs. Bolin into a crying fit (hey, that’s what the song is supposed to do – only Barber’s “Adagio for Strings” has the same effect, in half the time), but so far it’s all par for the course. In the meantime, Claire – who has a liking for bad boys – tries to go for a heavy flirting session with Powerful, who calls her out on flirting with danger the way only a sheltered, middle-class girl could, and David tries to keep a straight face (no pun intended) as a gang member attending the wake shows off his impressive tats. Nate, though, proves again that as much as he fears going into the family business, he’s got a knack at comforting people.
If only he were this good with his family. Not only does Claire walk out on him when he pulls the tired, old “You want to talk about it?” routine on her, negotiating the new business plan intended to help them defend themselves against Kroener doesn’t go much better. At least he and David end up with the $93,000 they need, although they’ve also got a new investor: their mother. That kind of money buys a lot of emotional blackmail.
The final day of the Manny Bolin wake. Powerful gives us at least one explanation for his name, as he pulls together the mourners, family and gang alike, for an impromptu prayer. Every now and then it’s good for the Fishers if someone shows them what family can be like. (Of course there’s a flip side to this: Ruth, Nate, David and Claire may not be the best communicators, they may be pretty neurotic, but on the whole they run a very small risk of fatal gunshot wounds and the like.) The feeling of family seems to catch, though; Claire and Ruth share a moment as the latter asks whether Claire burnt down the crematory. “No. No I would never do anything like that.” A pause, and then: “I may have swiped that foot, though.” Ruth smiles and says: “Dinner’s almost ready.” The Fisher family: every now and then they pull off the family thing quite well.
- I haven’t commented much on the fantasy scenes in the series; we regularly get our main characters chatting with the newly deceased or with Late Nate, the dead usually voicing the protagonists’ anxieties or playing the devil’s advocate. David’s scene with Manny Bolin, strutting around with crude y-shaped sutures marking his torso, is one of the best of these scenes so far, especially when Manny starts quoting the Bible at David to make a point: “They said therefore unto him, ‘Art not thou one of His disciples?’ He denied it. He said, ‘I am not.’ John 18:25.” Using the Bible to call David out on his self-hatred for being gay – very Alan Ball.
- We get the second appearance of the funeral tourist who’d first popped up in the pilot. Not only does she seem to have an unhealthy obsession for funerals, she’s also got a thing for David. I guess it’s awkward enough to rebut the advances of young women as a gay man – but disturbed young women?
- Bad-ass David is fun to watch – as is Nate’s face when he hears his brother go gangsta on Kroener’s man Gillardi.
- Rico: “You own an atlas? Because if you did you’d know there’s a 2400-mile difference between Puerto Rico and Mexico.” David: “You’re Puerto Rican?” When ethnic insensitivity comes back to bite you in the culo.
- Nate: “Did you know the night Dad died Claire was high on crystal meth?” David: “Oh my God, isn’t that a horse tranquiliser?” One day, David, you’ll look back on this day and laugh about your naive ignorance. And by “laugh”, I mean “go through a severe bout of psychological trauma that almost drives you around the bend.”
- Ruth isn’t exactly good at making conversation with the woman she’s just found her son performing oral sex on: “So you stick thumbs in people?” Brenda, however, never misses an opportunity to pour oil on the fire: “No. Well, at least not as part of my job.” Cue Claire giggling and everyone else being very embarrassed and very quiet.