The second episode of Vinyl was much tamer than its prior, which shifts the tone in a much needed direction. The Pilot was an absolute riot but that style is obviously unsustainable which leaves this episode feeling much more grounded. The 2 hour run time of the pilot makes this episode feel way too abrupt and makes me question the choice to air 2 episodes on the movie format.
The episode begins with Richie returning to the office to declare his new found love for rock and roll and his abrupt decision to not sell the record label, American Century. He fires all his staff until they can return to him with the next big thing; ‘A song so good that it makes the airs on the back of your hands stand on end.’ It’s from here that the episode follows Richie’s destructive path through life, leaving those around him to pick up the pieces. It’s in these moments that we get to see more of the brushed over characters that were displayed to us in the pilot and they are some of the episodes best.
I didn’t mention Olivia Wilde as Richie’s wife, Devon Finestra, in my previous review. Although she was good and fitted the role, we hardly saw anything of her to really worth mentioning. Here, however, she takes the central role as we get to see just how much Richie’s actions affect her. These moments are blended with flashbacks to show how things were before, however they are done in a way such that both past and present juxtapose to great effect. This culminates with a scene where Devon tries to live the care free life she once lived, driving down the road as one of the shows magic realism moments plays out. Riding shotgun is Karen Carpenter singing the song giving name to the title, Yesterday Once More, until it suddenly comes to a stop as Devon realises she’s left her children at the dinner. The way it was done was something truly special, with moments like these making this show such a standout.
Ray Romano as Zak Yankovich, Richie’s business partner, also shines strong in this episode. It’s an odd position for Romano, being in a dramatic role, but he pulls it off to a tee. After Richie pulls out of the deal, resulting in all the shareholders losing a lot of money, leads to Yankovich’s extravagance becoming all too real. What makes this element enjoyable is the expenditures have been engrained into his family, as he himself isn’t the one spending all the money. The silent solace he receives in his car really shows Romano’s ability and to be quite frank, I’ve never said the phrase, ‘I’m excited to see more Ray Romano,’ until last night.
Speaking of the surreal and magic realism elements I mentioned in my pilot review, mentions to the building collapse are made throughout this episode, which I think is quite odd. I never saw the building collapse as literal, only metaphorical, which seems like an odd choice for the writers to go down. Yes, I know that a building actually did collapse in NYC around 1973 but I thought it would have been much cunning of them to incorporate as one of the magic realism moments. The fact that there are even moments of this surrealism in the second episode makes me fully aware that they weren’t purely accidental in the pilot.
The plot points laid out in the pilot aren’t all covered here. We only hear a small mention of the murder and we’re only reintroduced to Lester Grimes, the blues singer Richie abandoned, at the very end of the episode. Many people have said that the series took too much on in the pilot and that the following episode wouldn’t be able to contain that much content. This is true, however the show doesn’t try. What strikes me most about this is that people never complain about elements such as this when Game of Thrones does it (Bran wasn’t even in season 5).
Despite the recent slandering of this show, it is still going very much in the direction I want it to. People may say that Richie Finestra is no Donald Draper, but this in purely unjust. Mad Men had nearly 100 hours to develop their character, Vinyl has had three. I am incredibly excited to see where this show takes me next week and to see how these characters grow and thrive. For people that say this show is too cliché with too many name drops; this is a show seen through the rose-tinted glasses of the songs that defined the era. It’s supposed to be.