Unsurprisingly, not only has Dave never smoked weed before, he’s super bad at it.
It was pleasing to see Highly Gifted’s title finally addressed this week, with the most explicit contrast yet between its leading man’s nerdiness and his failures in every other aspect of life. Based on prior knowledge it makes sense for Dave to be stressed about an upcoming report, but actually showing this is more helpful to our understanding of his character. This is also true of the fact that he doesn’t even recognize marijuana, leading him to immediately freak out on his first high.
Speaking of characters, Tess returns for the first time since her introduction and has far more to do as the one facilitating Dave’s experience with drugs. In fact, I feel a little vindicated given at the time I suggested that episode shouldn’t have been her first appearance; thankfully, the wokeness gleaned from Tess here gives it some much-needed context. ‘Smokey’ also sets a new record for the most speaking roles in a Highly Gifted episode with 5, including Nolan North as Tess’ father, although, Kesha’s grounded performance was the acting highlight for me. The number of voices was just one element of a heightened technical ambition I noticed this week. While ‘Albertsauce’ may have been a flashy showcase for different animation styles, the variety of locations and camera angles in ‘Smokey’ was a subtle change that made scenes feel livelier.
However, the comedy was at its most inconsistent outside of the show’s experimental installments (for instance, the fascination with monologues seen in some earlier episodes). This is arguably due to pot humor inherently being an acquired taste: I enjoyed some moments such as the bathroom sequence, but simultaneously the dinner table scenes all seemed to consist of a single ‘they’ll never know I’m high’ joke being drawn out. Nevertheless, after initially being confused as to why we didn’t hear the other side of Dave’s phone conversation I’ll admit the twist ending was my favorite part of the episode.
After this week’s Highly Gifted I certainly have a better grasp on its characters, and hopefully, it’s a sign that my concerns about worldbuilding will fully abate soon. The runtime of ‘Smokey’ did feel disappointingly shorter than usual, but I’m staying cautiously optimistic that we’ll get a truly great individual episode from this show before long.