This week’s Highly Gifted is more than crappy, it’s downright forgettable.
After a strong episode, last week that appeared to realize character and interaction-driven humor is where Highly Gifted excels, “Spartuchus” opens on Dave in class, really needing to take a shit. It’s a simple premise that doesn’t need to be expanded upon, a sentiment clearly shared by the writers since we’re only given an oblique reference to some pappadums Dave ate earlier causing his predicament. As a result, most of the humor is intended to come from the setting, revealing why you should never, ever take a shit at school.
At first glance, the bathroom set is impressively distinct from anything else this show has offered before. The direction isn’t surprising given Alan’s insistence that Dave try to wait until he’s home, but the grime and creepiness it conveys is nevertheless effective. While I was optimistic about how the episode would subsequently take advantage of Dave’s position as a s(h)itting duck, once he actually gets onto the toilet it screeches to a halt. I understand not having doors on the cubicles makes the situation inherently precarious, but the additional attempts to add suspense fall flat.
Basically, a generic jock with no name or personality enters and Dave naturally wants to avoid being seen. The previous sentence actually provides a more substantial description of the character than the episode itself, which should make the issue with this story beat obvious: there simply isn’t enough information to heighten the stakes. After introducing a jock who was as close to an antagonist as Highly Gifted will ever get in “Albertsauce”, the poor characterization here doesn’t make any sense. I’ll concede that the final twist once Dave appears to be out of danger was foreshadowed well, yet it’s still fairly predictable and once again demonstrates the show’s tendency to have everything go wrong for its lead instead of writing a more inspired ending.
“Spartuchus” also felt far too short and renewed my concern with Highly Gifted’s hugely varying episode time. The show is clearly capable of better, and it’s a shame to see it waste ideas. For anyone arriving to the season late, this one is worth a miss.