'House of Lies' Returns In Top Form
In the Season 2 premiere of Showtime's House of Lies, Marty Kaan (Don Cheadle) and his team of management consultants, better known as The Pod, are looking to decipher who a prospective client is and what he does for a living. They talk and talk but get nowhere. Finally, after Doug Guggenheim (Josh Lawson) almost destroys everything by introducing the word “Stochasticity” to the show's vernacular, it is up to Marty to step in and save the day.
House of Lies is not about educating the audience on management consulting. Even the characters themselves have a hard time explaining what it means. At its core, the show is about wickedly funny alpha dogs twisting themselves into pretzels and ringing every last dollar out of the companies they represent, all the while remaining morally bankrupt.
As the new season begins, Marty has lost his son (Donis Leonard, Jr.) to his ex-wife Monica (Dawn Olivieri), and must get acclimated to life under a new CEO at Galweather Stearn (Bess Armstrong). Meanwhile, Jeannie (Kristen Bell) has returned from a brief vacation in which she pondered whether or not to sue the company for sexual harassment, and wondered if she slept with Marty.
The strength of this show lies with its actors. Under an inferior cast, it would be unwatchable. Bell shows Jeannie to be intelligent, driven and determined, while also revealing a vulnerability and yearning to her character, as seen in the first season when she went back home and reconnected with her mother. On the lighter side, Ben Schwartz is hilarious as the womanizing, ethically absent, money hungry Clyde. Schwartz's comedic talent, previously seen in Parks and Recreation, makes Clyde charming and endearing where a lesser actor would just come off as obnoxious. Lawson brings a gentleness to the well-meaning but socially inept Doug. You root for him, without finding him to be grating.
But the show inevitably comes back to Cheadle. Marty's imperfections as a father and overall human being are not hindrances to liking him. That is a testament to the energy and charisma Cheadle brings to the role. In fact, as the season begins, we learn that Marty may indeed have boundaries he is unwilling to cross. Of course, the fun is in seeing how long it will be before he braeks the boundaries and what pushes him to do so.