'The Brink' Recap: Drunk Pablo Schreiber to the Rescue

In which Tim Robbins shouts the plot for 25 minutes.

The first half of “Just a Little Crazy Talk” is about ex-Secretary of State Walter Larson and expendable diplomatic flunky Alex Talbot subverting expectations by being at their most useful after being fired and/or left for dead. The quasi-duo achieves relevance together by locating another potential Pakistani presidential candidate and leading a sexually humiliating coup against Haroon Raja. This is, by The Brink’s standards, all pretty par for the course, and it is accomplished quickly, ridiculously quickly.

The most impressive thing about The Brink is also one of the show’s many problems: It moves ludicrously fast. One second, Larson has been fired for assaulting someone in the Situation Room; the next, he’s back in the same room shaking hands with his victim or rival or colleague or whatever they are now. Part of this can be talked up to Tim Robbins talking as fast as his lips can manage, but the speed is mostly a byproduct of a plot littered with coincidences (“Look, a new general just showed up out of nowhere and is now central to the U.S. Pakistan policy!) and devoid of niceties like space or time (“How did we get to the Jefferson Memorial again?”). Constant contingency gives the show it’s slapdash momentum, but speed also asks a lot of the writers’ room, which seems to churn out a season worth of action per episode.

Except when that doesn’t quite happen.

“Just a Little Crazy Talk” provides the most egregious example of this problem with its B plot, which concerns Pablo Schreiber’s Zeke Tilson being grounded after his POW experience and sundry drug offenses. Tilson takes the news — delivered by a stereotypical, hard-charging Admiral figure — poorly and gets hammered on Curacao and Listerine with his navigator and remora Glenn “J. Edgar Hoover” Taylor. As soon as they take the first tipple, it’s clear that they’ll be airborne in no time. It therefore doesn’t count as a spoiler to say that they are eventually charged with saving Israel from nuclear annihilation by chasing down a rogue bomber released by Haroon Raja.

It’s not that the premise isn’t funny, just that it takes forever to get there, and that lengthy preamble is super noticeable on a show that prominently features married couples reconsidering their private and public lives over the course of a 15 second shouting match. Part of the issue here is that Schreiber’s Tilson is too dumb to be reliable or communicate motivation, so his words are all placeholders. The other part of the issue is that the audience can only be objected to so much banter before an Aaron Sorkin morality tale starts to look appealing. The breather is necessary, but using it to set-up an obvious joke is poor form. Using that time for characterization would have been a better bet.

That said, we’re pretty late in the season to be adding dimensions to characters. Schreiber has one. Jack Black has two. Tim Robbins has three — four counting his excellent hair. That’s enough as long as we keep moving at a bomber’s clip.

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