By Jodi Walker
February 02, 2020 at 10:30 PM EST
Credit: Alex Bailey/HBO

Avenue 5

S1 E3
  • TV Show
  • HBO

Well, there were no gravity shifts or accidental space zombies on the Avenue 5 this week — just good old fashioned interpersonal turmoil, coupled with exactly no intrapersonal reflection. Mia and Doug are still screaming at each other, but now they’re doing it in front of Matt who is, for some presumably nihilistic reason, filming them and shooting the videos off to Rav. That’s Rav, who seems to be eternally living in her own coffin as her voice rises higher and higher while attempting to put out fires at Mission Control, including informing the press that the new debris orbiting the Avenue 5 is, “the most tragic form of debris: the remains of people…orbiting the ship…and, um, our hearts.”

And aboard said ship, being eternally circled by corpses, is Captain Clark, attempting to harness the power of Karen while also finding out that the one sense of safety he had aboard the Avenue 5 is as much of a fraud as he is, and spiraling into alcoholism. So, all told, the third installment of Avenue 5 is a bit like Matt describing the ship’s fungi garden: “Incredibly bland, but it’s very filling — like eating a lightly seasoned mattress.”

Okay, incredibly bland is a bit of overkill in the name of quoting Matt. But this episode does seem to miss that chaotic element that gave the last two episodes a flash of palpable excitement among the sometimes odd pacing of this show and its often very good, but not entirely frequent big laughs. That’s mostly due to the big twist of the episode — that the crew Captain Clark has been nobly chanting “fly safe, fly true” with for months are actually all actors, and the real crew are a handful of mole people kept out of sight under the floor of the bridge — being an exact replica of episode 1’s twist. Only, this time it’s less dire because unlike when the actual captain of the ship Joe died, revealing Captain Clark to be a fraud, there actually is a crew aboard Avenue 5; they’re just not as pretty as all the hand models and French actors upstairs.

I think when it comes to big reveals, Avenue 5’s success lies less in the twists, and more in the mounting chaos; basically, I’m just waiting patiently for this thing to go full-Carnival-poop-cruise. But for now, Captain Clark is still trying to maintain the front of leadership, and for the first time since we’ve met him, he’s not even doing a terrible job…

Service is going downhill fast as the food supplies dwindle and the maids begin artfully folding the towels into sphincters (“the puckering is beautiful,” per Matt), so Captain Clark decides to harness Karen’s, ahem, skills of wrangling her fellow passengers. He offers her the former palatial cabin of “dead Mary,” and asks if she might like to be the ship’s official Passenger Liaison Officer. Karen, of course, jumps at this opportunity for power; unfortunately, Captain Clark happens to make this offer shortly after a depressing call back home where his husband and wife (polyamory! who knew!) seem to be telling him that six months is too long to wait for him, so he gets completely drunk, and winds up accidentally telling Avenue 5’s new Passenger Liaison Officer that he’s only pretending to be a captain.

But maybe it’s best to have Karen informed in all areas anyway, given that the other shoe has just dropped on Cyrus’ six-month earth ETA. He’s crunched the numbers once more, and while haughtily showing off the “trajectory porn,” tells Captain Clark and Billie that in six short months, they’ll never have to see “any of these 4,500 cellmates ever again.” But the thing is: there are 5,000 cellmates aboard the Avenue 5. And once Cyrus recalibrates his calculations, allowing for the correct number of passengers, he gets a different timeframe for their remaining time together: six months…plus three years. So, even longer than the original three-year projection that had everyone losing their minds.

Captain Clark — mind you, a little drunk for all of this — goes charging into the bridge with Billie and Cyrus in tow, and demands that someone in his flight crew come up with a new course back to Earth that won’t take three-and-a-half years. “Billie, you didn’t tell him about the crew?” Cyrus scoffs. Begrudgingly, Billie asks Captain Clark if he’s ever wondered why his entire crew is so attractive…

If you can believe it, he has not!

Apparently, Judd wanted a hot crew, so Joe the Dead Engineer hired actors and models (and hand models — shout out to my girl Sarah) for upstairs, and the handful of real engineers are kept under the ground just below them. In an excellent transition, Captain Clark screams, “Does anybody around here know what the f— they’re doing?!” just as the scene switches to Karen, standing on a table as is her way, announcing the ballooned trajectory time in her official new capacity as Passenger Liaison Officer. But as opposed to the disastrous way all of the other passenger announcements have gone, we hear Karen start out her announcement like this: “The engineer said it would be five years, and I simply, refused to accept it.”

Oh, she’s good; she’s a liar, but she’s good. She goes on to say that she pushed and pushed until finally she got them down to three-and-a-half years, and everyone claps and cheers for her hard work. (Except one man who asks why they would have told her five years if they had the power to do it in less all along, but he’s quickly dismissed by Karen’s hype man husband.)

On the bridge, Captain Clark is spinning out with the news that his crew isn’t real, which is a little odd, given that there is a real crew onboard, as opposed to when we found out that Captain Clark wasn’t a real captain, and the real captain had died by his own screwdriver — news that the collection of lovely hand models are finding out now, and not freaking out nearly as badly as Captain Clark.

But Clark finally pulls it together when he realizes that Judd can’t know about this, and ostensibly, he is still the one captaining this ship. Or as he told Karen earlier: “The point is, we are trapped here on a branded dildo hurtling through space, full of panicky animals who are going to start painting the walls with their turds and eating each other’s feet unless I show some leadership, and I need your help to do that.” It’s quite the rallying cry. And given this crew’s aptitude for fearless leadership so far…well, let the turd-painting commence, I guess.


  • This whole time, Judd is working on a number of useless plans with Iris, the best of which includes hiring actors to stage a vigil outside Judd Mission Control in order to build sympathy for Avenue 5 on earth. “But they’ve gotta be sad looking and non-union,” he instructs Iris about the hiring process. “One thing usually means the other,” she replies.
  • “This is my wife, she likes to sleep with masseurs.” “He’s a reflexologist, Doug, it’s a medical science!
  • “Remember Yohan? Portuguese, tall, dead, out there.” “Yes.” “Well, his arm froze and the top part shattered, and now his hand and his elbow are orbiting his coffin.” See ya next week!

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Avenue 5

  • TV Show
  • 1
  • Sundays at 10:00 PM
  • HBO