Raising Hope, “Romeo and Romeo”

I’ve been a big supporter of Raising Hope since the very beginning, but I didn’t really feel like I was missing it badly since it has been off the air. But then I fired up the DVR to watch “Romeo and Romeo” late last night and I remembered how much fun these characters and this world can be, all those concerns about whether or not I really liked it were gone.

“Romeo and Romeo” is probably not one of the season’s strongest episodes, but it’s still a nice refresher back into the Chance family and their circumstances without being too offensive or unfunny in the process.

The series is really good at taking small stories and expanding them naturally without going too far into absurdity. This episode presents a really interesting story in Jimmy’s search to find some real friends that will actually understand and respect his fatherly duties and for the most part, explores that story well. The guy Jimmy meets appears to be a fun-loving, respectful dude who might have a bit more money behind him, but still seems to be floundering with his role as a young single father. Meanwhile, their burgeoning relationship comes into question when it is revealed that Virgina actually cleans Justin’s house, leading to a super-awkward conversation between Jimmy, Justin and their two mothers that doesn’t go too well for either of them. The two fathers don’t care though and instead plan a dinner for the families in hopes of bringing everyone closer together.

This is really simple premise, but “Romeo and Romeo” finds a way to work some of its biggest thematic concerns into it. Hope is at its best when it is presenting an interesting look at how people with difficult circumstances try to maneuver around those circumstances and improve their lives, even incrementally. Virgina and Burt were in Jimmy’s shoes years ago and they’re still trying to get their life together in the most traditional sense, but they’re happy nonetheless.

Justin’s family serves as something of a counterfactual to the Chances. Justin’s parents also had him at a young age, but they had the resources to power through and still become very successful adults. So much so that they can take care of Justin and his baby without much difficulty. This is obviously different from the cash-strapped and uneducated Chance family, who barely got by providing for Jimmy and Maw-Maw before cute little Hope came into their lives.  But as the plot moves forward and Justin tries to put the moves on Sabrina even after Jimmy asked him not to, the Chances recognize that all the money and resources in the world can’t make certain that the kid you raise won’t suck. Justin’s parents admit that he’s pretty much a douche and although Jimmy loses his only friend in the process, Virgina and Burt feel vindicated for all their hard work over the years in making sure Jimmy turned out damn good.

Like I said, I wasn’t fully satisfied with this episode, but I found the final payoff to be worth having to watch the too-ridiculous fight between Jimmy and Justin that destroyed a coffee table. This is just as much Virgina and Burt’s story as it is Jimmy’s because they feel like they can make up for some of their past mistakes by helping him become a great, successful father. The problem with that is that Burt and Virgina were always great parents in all the ways in mattered, even if they didn’t have money. Again, this series isn’t really re-inventing the wheel with any of this, but Raising Hope finds a way to tell little, intimate stories about the multi-generational family in this country and that’s good enough for me.

Other thoughts:

  • I would generally prefer less of Maw-Maw than more, but she was well used here with her ability to fix things in her lucid state.
  • The middle of this episode worked with this rapid-cut, split-screen storytelling that weaved the two families’ conversations about hating one another and for the most part, it worked. I think they let the gag run a bit too long, but it was a nice change of pace for a series that doesn’t usually do anything different with its camera work or editing.
  • Good lord, I forgot how cute the babies who play Hope are. Seriously, I can only hope my child is that attractive.

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