House of Lies Season 3 Review “Joshua”

Episode 312

The best season finales successfully accomplish two things. The first is pulling together the most important plot threads and story beats from the season’s previous episodes in a way that gives them a greater sense of relevance because of their end result. The second, and most important, is leaving you in a place where your engagement with the show, its characters, and its story has never been stronger. When done right this creates in you an almost desperate feeling where you feel cut off from a series at the point where you feel it most, causing you to immediately do a Google search to see when the show will return because you need to see the next episode NOW.

“Joshua” accomplished these things and more in a subtly ambitious way that once again showed how intimately House of Lies understands itself. It was an episode in which the earlier actions of characters caught up with them to drive the story forward into new territory with personal consequences for all.

Jeannie (Kristen Bell) embodied this throughout the entire episode, as her ambition and earlier resentment of Marty resulted in her losing the thing she wanted most. Watching her struggle with this knowledge was heartbreaking. Her call to Samantha, “I have… I had a good thing” and the pleading looks her eyes gave long before she admitted her complicity gained my immediate sympathy and made it hard to hate her for what she’d done. Kristen Bell outdid herself this week.

Brief Aside: I’d have preferred they left out Jeannie’s final response of “You” in favor of a silent look as Marty walked away. Kristen Bell’s acting made this desperately clear, and letting the audience feel what we all knew she was thinking rather than say it out loud would have elevated the poignancy of the moment. Sometimes you gotta trust that the people watching your show don’t need it all spelled out. A minor quibble, but still.

Marty (Don Cheadle) also embodied the theme of earlier actions catching up to him, as his rejection of Jeannie last season led to the antagonism that drove her to the DOJ in the first place. We’ve seen Marty’s wrath upon betrayal before and there was none of that in his response to Jeannie’s actions. This one was personal for him, but Cheadle’s acting made it seem like Marty understood where it had all come from. He didn’t like it, and he was angry, but it was as if he accepted a measure of responsibility for everything that had happened. It’ll be interesting to see if he returns next season as a changed man, and what that will mean for the show going forward.

Before I wrap, I want to acknowledge the accomplishments of the people who contribute to the fantastic storytelling style of House of Lies. From the music choices that echoed the emotions of the characters and their situation, to the lighting used to set the tone of the scenes. How amazing was the early morning sun bathing Marty and Jeannie during those opening scenes?

It was as if it was anointing the dawn of a new beginning for the two of them, together, before the consequences of their actions forced them back into the harsh reality of the world they’d created. The lighting of Kaan and Associates as they stepped off the elevator created a stark contrast to their earlier happiness. Kudos to the editing team as well, that contrast was made all the more jarring by the abrupt cut.

The writing, acting, and technical accomplishments of everyone working behind the scenes to create this superior presentation style on a weekly basis truly came together beautifully in this episode. I could say so much more about how so much was captured and presented perfectly in just half an hour, but I think I’ll go back to the word that keeps popping up as I write this to describe it instead.

Accomplished.

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