[Review based on "Meat the Parrots" (2.11), "Makin' Changes!" (2.12) & "The St. Valentine's Day Maxssacre" (2.13).]
After a 3-week break, Happy Endings returns and makes use of the small hiatus to mark a new direction. Following a small arc of main plots loosely focused on Dave and Penny, "The St. Valentine's Day Maxssacre" centers around Valentine's Day as each person's plans eventually fall through. The group eventually comes together in Max's limo to see him possibly (re)start a new relationship.
The stories involving the other characters were less consequential which serves as a nice break from Dave and Penny's stories. Dave and Penny both deal with the breakup window (the period in which you can't end a relationship based on certain holidays), but from opposite perspectives. One danger that the show faces is that it can stagnate due to its format (an ensemble cast in a sitcom). Having a new girlfriend and boyfriend each week for Dave and Penny limits some of the stories for those characters as the significant other can only be used as a one-dimensional prop. Instead the show has to find new dynamics by pairing the characters in new ways. This is the problem that Modern Family faces as the show sometimes hits the same notes that it did in earlier seasons, even if it hits those notes very well. Since Happy Endings is still only in its second season, this issue is not yet worrying.
The conclusion of Max's plot could indicate that the writers are looking to address this. Grant, an old flame, appears halfway through the episode to give Max more to do than just drive the gang around and the two seem to rekindle their relationship. Though Grant won't join the group on a permanent basis (guest star James Wolk is only scheduled for three episodes), he will definitely bring out a new aspect of Max that has only been seen in a few times (see episode 1.09 - "You've Got Male"). I think Happy Endings is best served by having these multi-episode relationships for the characters, since it keeps the group's interactions fresh without the risk of upsetting the gang's dynamics in the long-term.
The C-plot in the episode demonstrates one of the key dynamics of the show in Brad and Jane, who work well regardless of how the show uses them. This episode has them go extra silly this episode, first with Brad's dance at the dentist's office, and then as he's trying to keep the date going while doped up on "goofy juice." The only issue I had with this storyline is that it didn't have enough time to see how silly Damon Wayans Jr. could get. That was a problem for the Alex storyline as well - it seemed to be aborted midway through as the group began converging in Max's limo. This can be an issue for shows with ensemble casts (it occasionally crops up in Modern Family and Parenthood) as the writers try to fit too many plots into one episode. The show has made amazing strides with Alex, developing her into a character who can carry her own story and her charming naivete would have been hilarious to see in jail.
- The way the last few episodes have gone, I was expecting the writers to bring Dave and Penny together when their situations paralleled
- Both Dave and Penny's endings were very predictable, but I found it more distracting in Dave's case
- "[Your skin] is very soft" "It's like butter. And I know because I'm comparing them right now" "Weird, I had this exact same dream last night. Only it wasn't butter."
- "And if the sex is crazy on a regular day, imagine what the VD sex will be like!"
- I love the idea of Dave helping Max try out his different limousine packages
- "That place is harder to get into than 'Obvious Joke Here,' the new alt comedy club downtown"
- On Brad's list of surprises: Put on some D'Angelo then whip out his P'Angelo
- "JFK once called her a real Chicago slut" "Why are you always so proud of that?" "It's Camelot bro"
- "We were going to give you your dream gift" "A sit-down with Guy Fieri?"
- "And then he said that he hates when I say amahzing. But I've barely said that at all this season!" "You mean winter?" "Yeah, it's more of a summer word"
- "It's like I'm a gay salmon swimming upstream in a river of bears" "I know this has been something you've wanted for a long time. I mean your first email address was firstname.lastname@example.org"
- Nice to see some meta-humor about the influence of Friends
- "X.O.? Faith restored!"