By Jodi Walker
March 16, 2020 at 02:37 AM EDT
Alex Bailey/HBO

Avenue 5

S1 E9
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  • TV Show
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For its entire debut season, the most comically satisfying bits of Avenue 5 have either revolved around a moment of utter chaos or an extended fecal analogy — and its finale episode is no different. However, in a time where our world (and, sure, maybe even the galaxy) has been thrust into mass hysteria and people are hoarding toilet paper as though they might soon participate in their own personal turd-orbit … these moments of space-chaos were somehow both funny and poignant.

While the Avenue 5 writers couldn’t have known the specific state the world would be in when they wrote this finale, the series has always been about the ways in which people begin panicking in the face of impending disaster, while simultaneously denying the reality of their own doom, making it worse through their own selfishness, and ignoring the few people who actually know what they’re talking about. And tonight, that funhouse mirror just slid right into place, didn’t it?! To quote Captain Clark, the fake captain of a luxury spaceship orbited by human feces whose only value is his fingerprints: “We just watched seven people stupid themselves to death.”

Ever the agent of chaos, Matt has changed the code to the airlocks and hidden himself somewhere in the ship so as not to cause any more harm after watching seven people happily march to their space-deaths with the code he gave them last week. The other assembled main characters briefly believe that Matt’s message means he’s gone to kill himself and flood his inbox with messages encouraging him not to do that after Captain Clark first sends him a bracelet-butt-dial voice recording that says, “Life without you would be,” looooong pause, “the only word I could think of was easier!” And everyone else’s overlapping messages are just as in line with their own personalities including, “Hey Matt, it’s Judd from work … you’re the son I never had, the lover I never wanted,” and capped off perfectly by Iris: “Matt, those people were fucking idiots, we’re better off with them, now give us the goddamn codes.

Billie makes the startling announcement that if they don’t get the airlock code to jettison the excess weight off of the ship within the hour, they’ll be stuck with the original three and a half year trajectory. Not to mention, as Cyrus notes, they need that code to retrieve Captain Joe’s hands and head to take control of the ship’s steering for their emergency docking since Captain Clark stands no chance of being able to do it himself.

So everyone splits up to search for Matt while Karen and Iris — a formidable duo if ever there was one — are tasked with ramping up the donations for jettisoning. And that formidable duo becomes a terrifying trio as Rav finally makes her way onboard and finds out from the passengers dragging their guitars and dumbbells to be thrown off the ship that seven humans also recently decided to throw themselves off.

“Is that it — just a simple ‘Rav?!'” Rav screams when Iris calmly greets her while dragging a giant golden horse out of Judd’s cabin. “See, I was expecting something more along the lines of, uh, ‘Sorry for surrounding our groundbreaking luxury cruise liner with s— and corpses.'”

But this is a luxury poop-and-cadaver cruise of everyone’s making, not just Iris. Or, as Matt informs Judd and Captain Clark while they roam the lower deck of the ship screaming his name in a high-pitched voice and find him casually getting a candy bar from the vending machines: “Well … we’re all hiding.”

And while Matt has been hiding and plunging the ship into chaos once more, he’s been carefully itemizing his thoughts. Though 309: “Every year we pass the pre-anniversary of our death, but we don’t even know it, so we don’t get presents.” And thought 14: “Poor octopus — eight arms, but no hands. F— you, God!” And like the eight handless arms of the hopeless being that they are, the whole gang suddenly converges at Matt’s non-hiding spot. They all demand that he give them the code, but Matt doesn’t give it up until Rav threatens physical violence after just proving her merit by backhanding Judd to Jupiter.

The code is 0-0-0-5 for Avenue 5: “I made it so that anyone thinking rationally would be able to guess it, and anyone thinking irrationally, anyone suicidal, would not.” Judd, thinking only of himself, sprints away toward the supply shuttle to catch his ride back to Earth, and everyone races after him.

Karen is busy threatening to take people’s teeth if they don’t get their final jettisoning items to her, but she soon also joins the gang, just in time to see Judd board the supply ship. Judd demands that the pilot “go, go go!” but the pilot tells him it doesn’t work that way; he’s just there to press two buttons at the right time and the rest is automated. So in the meantime, Jordan the comedian asks Judd through the speaker system why he would want to go back to Earth since everyone hates him there on account of that time when Judd contemplated mass murder. And when Judd comes bustling off the ship, Jordan sprints onboard before anyone knows what’s happened. “Jordan, I did like you, but I am very, very weird!” Billie yells at him, correctly.

After the pilot deboards to change his travel catheter, Doug grabs Mia’s hand in an act of passion, and rushes on board the supply ship, wrestling Jordan out of there and claiming the two seats as their own…

Until Cyrus returns from his mission outside with Captain Joe’s head and hands (all of which have exploded beyond use), and Captain Clark goes absolutely nuts, his British accent raising to a decibel we’ve yet to hear. “That’s it!” he screams as he rushes on the supply ship. “My patience has snapped like a 100-year-old breadstick! I am the captain still, and I decide who stays and who goes!” And even though he wasn’t asking for that person to be him, everyone just sort of decides it should be. “You’re very unhappy,” Matt tells him. “You know that thing you do, where you act sarcastic so we all feel sorry for you? It works — we do.”

Everyone raises their hand in an emotional salute as the pilot hits his second button and the ship truly begins its final countdown to whisk Captain Clark back to Earth…

Well, everyone except Billie, who stands there with her arms crossed until Captain Clark realizes he has to stay because he’s still the only one who can steer the ship. Captain Clark deboards, Jordan rushes on again, and as the supply ship countdown grows lower, Karen also starts the countdown for the jettison. She’s gathered enough items, and they’ll make it just under the hour that Billie forewarned. And as two clashing countdowns, both in Judd’s voice, play at once, that familiar feeling of chaos begins to descend: “This is like psychosis but with none of the advantages!”

Iris now rushes on board the supply ship to physically remove Jordan so that Mr. Judd can come on board as was the original plan. And while Judd is refusing because he doesn’t want to go back to Earth where he’s hated, the countdown for the jettison completes, and the ship shakes as the items weighing as much as 500 people are launched into space. “We just jettisoned from the portside airlocks, we’re gonna be home in six months baby,” Karen proudly announces.

“You jettisoned out of the rear, not the portside” Billie corrects, as Billie is wont to do. But Karen meant what she said. Captain Clark begin screaming at Karen that the whole point was to launch the weight out of the back of the ship to propel them forward. “You’ve gotta s— out of the back of the ship — this is basic s—ing!”

As everyone yells that even babies know how to s— correctly, Karen crumbles realizing her mistake — “I feel like I’m dying and my teeth are falling off!” — demanding that Frank do something worse to take the attention off of her. But nothing could be worse than what Karen has done. Cyrus announces that their new earliest trajectory for a potential rescue is…

“Eight years?!” Matt yells. “That’s longer than the Beatles were together; that’s longer than the Seven Years’ War!” And with that, the doors to the supply shuttle slam shut with Iris still inside, and Judd still on the ship screaming her name. “Do you think she can hear me?” he asks Captain Clark.

A FEW SPACE NUGGETS:

  • No, but you may as well keep screaming, indeed, folks!
  • This is the last chance to mention it, so I should mention it: the score of Avenue 5 has been incredible, like a lead character all its own.
  • “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t stop it from throwing itself violently out of an airlock.” “You can with the most basic horse harness.”
  • “Why do I keep thinking I’m clever? I’m not. On a good day, I’m barely not stupid!” I’m all for Captain Clark’s existential reckoning with his own intelligence, but I draw the line at shaving his beard. As does Judd: “Beardedness is actually in your contract.”
  • Thanks for reading along, folks, and just remember — there is beauty to be found in even the turd-iest of poop-orbits.


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