Dec 17, 2012

Continental TV Club: Peep Show Season 8, Episode 4

At the season's halfway point, Mark has an epiphany about his relationship with Dobby - or does he?

* Review contains spoilers *

Though there were several storylines at play, the episode mainly hinges on the future of Dobby and Mark.

Back in Season 5, Dobby was introduced as a potentially well-matched love interest after his disastrous "wedding" to Sophie. While Sophie tried to mold Mark into a simulacrum of what she wanted from a spouse before he all but left her at the altar, Dobby encouraged him to stop "trying to pretend [he's] a normal human being" and embrace his quirks.

Sophie's Season 4 attempts to hippen up Mark.

Despite Mark and Dobby's relatively promosing initial interactions, the show nonetheless began suggesting that they may not be a great couple even before they got together. Both perceive themselves as out of step with the mainstream, but while Mark's geekery is mostly limited to history, Dobby enjoys fantasy-based role-playing games in the woods (which Mark considers personally degrading).

Since getting together, Dobby and Mark have mostly been portrayed as two very different people who fail to complement each other: he actively dislikes her thoughtlessness (like wanting to leave a restaurant without paying; not appreciating the cat he got her because of a technicality); Dobby told Jez she finds Mark stuffy and uptight. Since neither looked like they were going to change for the other, their relationship seemed doomed. Though given Mark's character, this is a relatively realistic scenario with more story-telling potential than "Mark finds a woman with whom he can have a healthy and stable relationship."

Until this episode, that is. Given the chance to have an affair with a fellow student at his evening MBA class, Mark leaves her to tell Dobby he really truly loves her (thus foiling Jez's plan to hit on Dobby). Mark's about-face isn't actually explained from his perspective. He made the actual decision to not cheat when he fortuitously found a little note Dobby had written for him - which is a bit of a cliche, though I couldn't find it on TV Tropes (which has a dedicated section on Peep Show). The active decision to stay faithful to Dobby is a step forward for Mark - when he had the opportunity to cheat on Sophie back in Season 4, he was preemptively foiled.

However: does Mark really love Dobby, or did he extricate himself from the potential situation because he realizes he finds the alternative (losing a girlfriend over a fleeting affair) too daunting? Or is his inability to cheat yet another symptom of his general cowardice? Interestingly, we're not given a view into Mark's head in the last scene where he makes his declaration of love, which mainly consists of Jez's resentment about not getting Dobby.

Despite the ambiguity of the ending, I'm now at least curious to see where the relationship is going. However: I don't think Dobby is that great a person - after Mark's change, it would be good to see her make more of an effort to show empathy towards him. Her obliviousness about his feelings and interests actually contradicts earlier seasons where she understood Mark quite well.

There's also a subplot about Jez's failure at life-coaching the seriously disturbed contractor who's doing Mark's kitchen - according to IMDB the actor is in British soap Eastenders (and had played the character before on Peep Show, though I didn't remember him). The scenes, and the actors' interpretation of them, mostly reemphasized that life-coaching isn't Jeremy's calling. Though really, why can't it be?

The Wikipedia sneak peaks at upcoming episodes suggest Dobby and Mark's relationship will be tested again when Dobby is offered a chance at relocating even farther than Sophie did in Season 3 (I wonder how they'll handle the whole work permit situation). Also, how is Mark an uncle without this ever having been mentioned on the show? Though I guess his own child also plays a rather peripheral role in his life.

Quotes and thoughts:

- It makes perfect sense that Superhans would make a better salesman than Mark, so it's a nice touch that he's now Mark's boss (in the normal way).

- Why doesn't Mark get a PhD in history so that he can research and teach at a university or a good secondary school? What does he ultimately want to do with his MBA? The next episode may answer these questions.

- How can Mark just hand over the cat to its new owners without the carrier? I guess it's meant to convey he desperately wants to get rid of it (I was actually hoping he'd keep it), but this negligence seems a bit out of character. Though I suppose Superhans can always Freecycle the carrier separately with a ferret and a hypodermic needle.

- "The thickoes have insisted nobody's allowed to say you're a thicko anymore. That's quite a clever move by the thickoes." - Mark, assessing his evening MBA classes.

All photos are screengrabs from 4oD.

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