The second episode of Red Oaks — like the pilot, nicely directed by David Gordon Green — is a believable continuation. And that’s good, considering that the action picks up a day later but was filmed as much as a year later, after Amazon’s viewer voters signaled the green light.
In the opening scene, our hero David has been convinced by his girlfriend Karen to ask videographer Barry if he can help out as a cameraman for weddings and Bar Mitvahs. It’s an act that will play out with consequences down the line, but the engine of the story still comes from Mr. Getty, who early in the episode instructs David to come to his home later in the day for a doubles match.
As David’s arrives at Getty’s mansion on his bicycle, the camera frames Getty’s red Corvette in the same shot as a Hispanic gardener, trimming hedges. David changes clothes in the pool house, where he encounters Skye, who comments on his “interesting body” (an observation, not a compliment, she says) while surrounded by her many large paintings of male nudes. On the tennis court, David’s introduced to Getty’s associate Martin (Tate Donovan) and Martin’s son (Max Sheldon), their doubles opponents. Getty has promised to pay David $50, but asked if he’s betting on the match, Getty replies, “We never play for money. We have scruples — this isn’t golf.”
The tennis, once again, is not wholly convincing, with the actors striking twister poses and hitting what looks like balls over the fence. The match is crosscut with Karen posing for Barry during a photo shoot and also with Wheeler going for a golf cart ride with Misty (Alexandra Turshen), a statuesque blonde lifeguard, way out of his league — and while that story line truly means well and has all the hallmarks of a root-for-the-underdog John Hughes movie, it’s a bit too apparent to anyone paying attention exactly where that story is (implausibly) headed.
After the match, Getty invites the men inside his house for a drink and tells David, in an intriguing line of dialogue, to pretend that he’s Getty’s nephew. “You’re old man has always been a disappointment so you look up to me as a father figure,” instructs Getty, giving David the proper backstory while also touching unknowingly at an aspect of parental disillusionment in the kid that the previous episode has already established.
Marvin brags that his son is entering the Wharton School of Finance in the fall, the school most famous nowadays for Donald Trump’s broken-record compulsion to name drop the university as his alma mater in every speech and interview. And on the topic of The Art of the Deal, the episode’s most interesting pivot comes when Skye convinces David to play a different kind of ball with her father. “You shouldn’t settle for any less than a hundred,” she says, referring to his tennis fee, and indicates by turning her open palm into a clenched fist what she thinks David should do with her father’s cajones.
But when he confronts Getty, as he’s chomping on a Cuban cigar, and asks for more money, Getty gives it to him with a caveat of advice. “It’s short-sighted,” he says. “You could have left here tonight with something a lot more valuable: me owing you a favor.” Though crestfallen at Getty’s words, David did the right thing. He’s in the power position, negotiation-wise, and Getty is miles from trustworthy when it comes to returning favors.
NEXT: What David saw…[pagebreak]
As he’s walking his bike down Getty’s driveway with dusk approaching, David sees Skye kissing the much older Marvin, her father’s business partner, under a tree. It’s a small, grotesque flash, which David registers with a certain disappointed blankness. (As an aside, here’s the place to also mention that Skye looks and acts strikingly like Jennifer Gray in her super jaded Ferris Bueller’s Day Off mode. Though unintentional, probably, the similarity makes for interesting subtext, if you’re looking for any, given the fact that Gray is playing David’s mom. And in light of a future episode, which I’ll say without spoiling anything, briefly enters the Oedipal Zone.)
“Doubles” ends in the same place it began, on the front steps of David’s house. Richard Kind gets a nice moment, not played for laughs, in which he ruefully describes people like Getty as seen by the middle-class. And in referring to the recent curveball that life threw at him, multiple days in the hospital for medical care after a heart attack, Sam sighs, “One day you’re riding high, the next day you’re looking at a $2,800 hospital bill.” Oh, the halcyon days when a days long hospital stay cost less than three grand.
’80 song playlist:
Madness, “Wings of a Dove”
Roxy Music, “Avalon”
Lonnegan’s Band, “Wishing You Were Here”
Sweet, “Love is Like Oxygen”