"There's a lot of stuff happening for all of us." -Owen"Men of a Certain Age" is not a plot-driven show, and has been content to mostly run in place with the guys over the first eight episodes. But with this first season coming to a close, things finally start happening, as each guy is forced to face the limitations of who they are: Owen's not getting the dealership, even with his father stepping down; two less-talented old friends of Terry's are now vastly more successful than he is; and Joe's gambling problem has gotten so bad that he bets 25 grand with Manfro in hopes of winning a bid on a house.
Yet for Terry and Joe, their long dark nights of the soul pass fairly quickly - for now. Joe walks out on a Gamblers Anonymous meeting - he's not ready to accept his problem just yet - and discovers that he won his big bet, and in turn gets the house. And the pity job Terry's friends give him leads to an opportunity to join their middle-aged entourage.
The good luck's not going to last, that's for sure. Winning that bet got Joe the house, but it also gave him 25,000 reasons to avoid confronting his gambling problem again anytime soon. (Even Manfro looked worried for him, not just because he wasn't crazy about having to hurt Joe if he couldn't pay up, but because he does like Joe in a weird way and knows how a big bet like that, win or lose, is only going to accelerate Joe's degeneracy.) Even Dory's understandable decision to back the hell away from him doesn't quite seem to be cutting through Joe's defenses, not when he has this nice house, and the image of his kids being happy in it, to fall back on.
And it's clear that Terry's just a flavor of the month for his ex-buddies, and that once their desire to party and make easy money conflicts with Terry's commitment to craft, he'll be back fixing clogged drains - only Annie should be gone because Terry once again flaked on a commitment to her (and didn't even remember/acknowledge that he was doing so, which might have made things okay).
Owen makes a big move of his own by walking away from the family-owned, Marcus-run dealership for a nearby Chevy rival, but it's less clear whether he's in denial like the other two or making the smart, independent choice. This will hurt his already lousy relationship with Owen Sr. (unless Sr's impressed to see Jr. finally setting out on his own), and there's no telling whether he'll do okay at another dealership. Was his dad covering for his shortcomings all these years, or holding Owen back?
Regardless of what happens in the finale, this was another extremely strong showcase for all three leading men, particularly in their moments of realization: Ray Romano as Joe flipped out in his hotel room over what he'd done, Andre Braugher as Owen went from being happy his dad was stepping down to crushed that Marcus would be running things, Scott Bakula as Terry sat through the mortifying (but ultimately rewarding) after-party chit-chat with Bobby and Rusty.
Tim Goodman wrote a column today calling this "The most surprising series on television right now." I don't know that I've been quite that surprised by it, as I knew going in that Braugher and Bakula were tremendous, and that Romano had showed much stronger dramatic chops than most people had noticed on "Everybody Loves Raymond." But if I'm not surprised by how good the show has been, I am a little by how attached I've grown to Joe and Owen and Terry over these past nine episodes, and by how reluctant I am to pop in my screener of the season finale, knowing that it'll be the last hour I get to spend with the guys for a while.
Early on in the development of this show, word on the street was that it was going to be a male, slightly older "Sex and the City." And though the guys get together for breakfast all the time - and even spent the opener of this one gauging the frequency of their respective sex lives - it's gone a whole lot deeper than that. It's funny, but the comedy often comes from a place of melancholy or despair, like the car salesmen all striking out with the kid with the phone until Owen Sr. pushed himself too far, or Joe celebrating his victory while the Gamblers Anonymous people all stare at his car.
Really good show. Looking forward to the finale.
What did everybody else think?