Although the heart of the series remains the dynamic between Todd (Skylar Astin) and Margaret (Marcia Gay Harden), So Help Me Todd 1×04 “Corduroy Briefs” finally starts to find its footing with its supporting characters. They haven’t quite come into their own yet, but we finally got to see a little more potential. It’s something I’ve been hoping to see. But the episode also made me start to wonder if some of the powers that be behind the show are entirely okay, because Margaret is at times written a little too well to not come from experience.
Living Down To Expectations
Everybody knows Todd is a screwup. You know it. I know it. Todd’s family knows it. Heck, Todd himself knows it. And so his life if often an exercise in living down to expectations. You know he’s not going to get his life together any time soon. You also know letting him drive your car is going to lead to trouble. But family is family, and sometimes we do things for family even though we know better.
As they do every week, “Corduroy Briefs” leaned into how much of a walking trash fire Todd can be. In doing so, however, it really showed how much Margaret is every bit as much of a mess – and, frankly, how much she might be to blame for her children’s issues. Yes, Todd might have caused damage to Allison’s (Madeline Wise) car. (Although the grass and bird poop would have been fixed easily enough without her ever needing to know. Just go through a quick car wash, people! It’s not a catastrophe!) But Allison was absolutely correct when she pointed out that the damage to her car was ultimately Margaret’s responsibility. She lent her car to her mother, after all. Not Todd. Entirely because she knew what would happen to it in Todd’s custody. In redirecting the entirety of the blame to Todd’s shoulders, Margaret was trying to evade her own responsibility for the mess. And, once confronted with it, her atonement was to throw money at the problem and nothing else.
It’s of course all done with humor – the is a comedy, after all. But it’s also not the first time that Margaret has instigated or participated in a situation that turned into a giant mess, only to disclaim any responsibility for the situation. Pretty much always dumping it entirely on her son.
And, look, I’m not about to argue that Todd is entirely blameless. He is almost always at least 50% to blame for every mess they find themselves in. Actually, probably more like 85%, easily. But things aren’t entirely his fault, as much as Margaret would prefer to point the finger at him and away from herself.
It’s actually something of a relief – and certainly a benefit to the show – to openly acknowledge that Margaret is also a mess. In her own way, she’s equally a walking dumpster fire, just in a nicer suit. Particularly since the series is doing exactly what I’d hoped and allowing her to have a little more faith in her son’s instincts and skills. They don’t need her constantly shooting down his offers to help to create drama. The two of them will do just fine, all on their own.
A Little Appreciation
Allison’s moment of calling her family out on their crap was a shining moment for her. Todd was to blame for leaving her stranded without a ride after work, after she’d expressly told him he needed to pick her up. Her mother was ultimately responsible for the car, so the damage was ultimately her fault. None of them appreciate the work Allison does every week to pull dinner together. (In fact, I don’t think they’ve actually managed to complete a single family meal without someone storming off to date.)
Her little meltdown gave Allison’s character a little more depth than we’ve seen to date. It’s a side of her I’d like to see more, though I hope she isn’t always relegated into the long-suffering recipient of her family’s issues. She’s both a product of her mother’s upbringing and railing against it, and that’s something that I think a lot of people can relate to. Particularly the moment in which she finally feels like her mother might appreciate and see her…only to be smacked upside the head by an unexpected backhanded compliment. (Like I said, Margaret is a mess, and we can see why her children have issues.)
But it wasn’t just Allison who was given a little more character and depth this episode. We also got to see a little more fun in the dynamic between Todd and Lyle (Tristen J. Winger). Since the first episode, I’ve seen the potential of what their (eventual) frienemies relationship could be. However, “you’re not allowed to touch things because you haven’t filled out the proper paperwork, so get away from me” isn’t really a rollicking good time.
This week, though? This week, they actually had to work together while exchanging banter on equal footing. Give me more of this, show! Give me more of the two actually working together, with Todd seeing how long it takes to get the little vein to pop out of Lyle’s forehead in irritation. And of Lyle giving every bit as much as he gets because, yes, he actually does have his life together and knows what he’s doing, thank you very much.
So Help Me Todd 1×04 “Corduroy Briefs” gave me a lot of things I’ve been hoping to see. I only hope they keep up this energy moving forward. Also, if anyone in the writer’s room is pulling from personal experience in writing Margaret’s passive aggressive backhanded put-downs? I am so sorry. Do you need to talk about it?
So Help Me Todd airs Thursdays at 9/8c on CBS.