Call the cops!
Overview (Spoilers Below!)
Dave is in the police station reporting Ducky—a huge, burly neo-Nazi in his wood shop class—for coming to school with a knife. The policeman asks if Dave could identify Ducky from a photograph, and he agrees to. But when the policeman returns with the actual Ducky in tow, Dave insists on his innocent out of fear of retaliation. Ducky is sent to jail anyway (but not until he threatens Dave because he’s Jewish).
What is the intended tone of this series? Like, yeah, I assume it’s supposed to be comedy, but rereading the summary I just wrote, it sounds like an attempt at serious drama.
And that’s the main problem I had with this episode. It tackles very serious issues, but instead of utilizing them to say something irreverent and clever about Nazism or the police—it’s just another vehicle to watch Dave being generically awkward. If there’s interesting satire here, I can’t find it.
More than anything, this season has made me feel bad for Dave. He seems constantly surrounded by enormous, threatening, violent classmates. The episode “Pumping Iron,” in which Dave and his friends go to the gym and fantasize about getting buff, makes a lot more sense if he’s actually trying to defend himself from neo-Nazis on the regular. It’s sort of tragic, and in this context, it’s weird that the focus of the show is on making fun of Dave for being awkward. Compared to Nazism, that’s such a minor sin.
I must admit—there were moments where I chuckled. A closeup on the American flag, during which the music swells and Dave tears up at the thought of doing his civic duty, is pretty funny. I like the cautious way Dave admits that Ducky was carving a swastika in shop—it’s humorously shocking that Ducky would be so openly evil in school. And Dave’s spluttering speech about how he only goes to synagogue during the High Holy Days was relatable for me, a Jewish guy who grew up doing the same thing.
Certainly, this episode feels relevant to current events, as reports of white supremacist rallies and alt-right activities grow. But is Highly Gifted trying to add anything new to the conversation? Not really. It doesn’t do anything to subvert viewer expectations.
Ultimately, this episode left me in limbo. If it was meant as a commentary on modern-day America, Dave’s silliness prevented me from taking it seriously. If it was meant as comedy, Dave’s grave situation prevented me from getting lost in laughter.
I’m also losing patience with episodes that essentially consist of one joke, and the same joke at that: Dave is bad at handling social situations. Maybe I’m just not into cringe humor, but the premise of this show feels like a high school Curb Your Enthusiasm—and that show is a lot funnier, more original, and overall cleverer.