The third episode of The Brink, subtly titled “Baghdad My Ass,” wore out some khussa bringing Jack Black’s Alex Talbot into contact with Tim Robbin’s Secretary of State Walter Larson and fleshing out (somewhat) the political dynamics of fictionalized Pakistan. What the episode did not manage to do was add flesh to the show’s skeletal characters or give them anything proactive to do. Our heroes’ self determination remains entirely limited to their sex lives. So, let’s talk about that instead of dwelling on General Haroon Raja’s apparent plan to play the U.S. against his half-brother General Zaman.
In this episode, it is heavily implied that Walter Larson has sex with his beautiful Urdu interpreter — procured for these purpose — after walking in on his wife having not-implied sex with a humorously well-hung bartender. Larson’s ego is such that he’s unthreatened by all elements of the man giving it to his wife and dismissive of the whole thing as, in essence, sex with the help. His relationship with his wife, which seems intimate as well as mutually beneficial, is humanizing. We are meant to suss out the fact that Larson is not a great man, but not a hypocrite either. That setup, spliced in with Robbins-brand dimples, gives us reason enough to root for the guy.
It is worth noting that the bar here remains incredibly low.
We also see Talbot, whose relationship with Larson is predicated on his ability to supply exotic prostitutes, take another in a series of passes at Aasif Mandvi’s stunning, uninterested sister. Talbot is sort of the anti-Larson. Women don’t like him and men don’t want to be him (or be seen with him). That said, his stubborn, semi-nihilistic optimism is supposed to win us/women over. One strongly suspects he’ll have to earn this beauty over the course of the series. This is, of course, reductive and ridiculous. No one is ever going to root for the Dartmouth guy to get the girl and it simply isn’t possible for Talbot to make up for the damage done. He’s disrespected this woman’s culture and endangered her family. Even if he risks life and limb (and that is certainly where this thing is headed), he doesn’t deserve the Islamabad Standard Time of day.
Good for him for trying, but move on writers.
The flip side of characterization through erections is the complete lack of depth given to sexual partners. Larson’s wife has a walking, talking sex toy. Fine. We don’t need to know about that guy. But Larson is sleeping with this, presumably, well-educated and certainly poised woman, who has decided to jump in the sack with the SoS for reasons that no one can fathom. Even Talbot’s crush isn’t given any individual motivation. She’s just there to look pretty and, let’s face it, exotic.
So we’ve got a show about international and intimate relations that doesn’t necessarily want to directly address either subject. That dynamic doesn’t work. If this thing does get explicit soon (on either front), viewers are gonna rebel.