‘The Brink’ Recap: Tim Robbins Punches the President

There's a situation in the Situation Room.

On this week’s episode of The Brink, we get to see the fallout from last week’s bombing, which killed last best hope for peace in the Middle East Haroon Raja. Raja’s lunatic brother is now in charge, which is a bad thing, and the President of the United States is also in charge, which seems like a bad thing as well. More than previous episodes, this one focused on Secretary Larson’s anger and frustration and, more than previous episodes, it gave Tim Robbins a chance to be funny. That said, his character is beginning to feel like the lead on a Veep spinoff more than like part of an ensemble including Aasif Mandvi, Jack Black, and the Liev Scheiber knockoff from OITNB.

That’s slightly unfair. The problem with Pablo Schreiber isn’t Pablo Schreiber. Pablo Schreiber is tall and good at playing a flustered moron. The problem is with his character’s plot: Zeke was going to die in Talban hands and now he’s pushing pills again? His romantic life matters? Jaimie Alexander wants to sleep with him? None of this rings true or, more importantly, funny. Dude is just filler, something that one could say about Jack Black, which is kind of a weird thing given that he’s the major star here (not that kids don’t love City of Ember).

Black’s Alex Talbot is a tricky character because he has two sets of motivations and zero apparent priorities. He wants to save the seven girls he’s accidentally endangered by bringing them to the U.S. Embassy while also endearing himself to their comely teacher. He also wants to save a nation from the ultimate carpet bombing. It’s unclear if he cares more about one thing than the other, which makes it hard to understand the point of his logorrhea and even harder to understand his relationship with Mandvi’s flustered driver, who now knows that the Air Force is gonna go North Vietnam on his home and just wants to help his family. In essence, Talbot is just running around yelling that the sky is falling. The best that can be said of him is that he’s right.

And the reason why is the military industrial complex, the feckless president, and the Secretary of Defense, who is played as the most basic white dickhead imaginable. The president wants to go war and Larson wants to stop him — even after the country’s leader tries to nuke Tel Aviv. Larson’s seemingly naive belief in back channel resolution on non-military intervention is charming, but kind of hard to buy. It’s one thing to be a dove and another thing to ignore the guy taking potshots at you. Still, the scene in which Larson punches the president is great (we’ve all wanted to do it for one reason or another), and he’ll be more interesting as a diplomatic lone wolf.

Still, it would be great if The Brink could just take a quick breather from all the running around and propose a coherent world view. Currently, the show seems to be about Tim Robbins proving he’s still got it. He does. But what of it?

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