6.6

Maron Review: "Dominatrix" (Episode 1.04)

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<i>Maron</i> Review: "Dominatrix" (Episode 1.04)

In a daring gesture for its fourth episode, Maron opened this week with someone other than Maron himself talking. It’s his female friend Illeana Douglas—playing herself—while the two of them record Maron’s podcast. His ex-wife, who we last saw in a coffee shop recoiling in horror from Maron’s cat’s soiled cage, has had a child. Maron’s still hung up on her; Illeana insists that he needs to start moving forward with his life and dating women again. It’s a fairly formulaic start to an episode of “Maron-does-dating.” What could go wrong?

The central theme in Maron’s everlasting spoof is readily apparent—should he choose what’s easier or what’s worth it? He’s been easily bedding fans, but Illeana convinces him to come to a reading to meet one of her friends. There, things seem to be going well with Illeana’s friend Megan as another woman reads a stereotypically issue-ridden piece about Bambi, grinding vaginas and feminist-y power. In Maron’s Los Angeles, the literary set is “Proust meets Penthouse letters,” it seems.

Left alone, Justine, the woman from the reading, approaches him—it’s quickly revealed that she’s a dominatrix and Maron is instantly intrigued. She’s too obviously intense, describing Marc using the letters of his name one by one like an elementary-school project. For the first real woman the show’s bringing on, it’s a disappointment that she seems so one-dimensional, a pretty tired trope whose masochistic motivations are immediately apparent.

Marc’s father Larry is still hanging around his son’s home; in another obvious doubling, Marc’s father has his own female match—a Filipino woman he met on the Internet. Larry doesn’t know her name, calls her “The Pineapple,” and ignores her to play cards with his son while they talk about Marc’s hang-ups about his ex. His father’s actually being supportive—their talk motivates Marc to make a phone call to one of the women to ask her out.

Of course he chooses Justine the dominatrix—while she doesn’t necessarily represent a choice easier than Megan, her absurdity means Marc won’t have to take her seriously as a partner. At the same time, though, it’s harder for us to take her seriously as someone he’d take out in the first place because of how crudely drawn she is, growing edgier and beginning to boss Marc around.

Ileana confronts Maron about why he’s chosen the dominatrix over Megan; it’s clear that he’s deliberately sabotaging himself even before Illeana browbeats him about it. Maron stands up for himself, insisting unconvincingly that their relationship might have a future. He and Justine have “tender” sex, but what also becomes apparent, though, is that Marc’s not really interested in being dominated, either.

For how lukewarm he seems about the relationship, Marc does seem to be giving things a disaffected but consistent college try. She tells him her car has broken down, but he realizes that she’s brought him into one of her clients’ fantasies and wants him to play along. His hesitation is supposed to be proof, I think, that he’s growing older and more mature; apathy is supposed to represent an improvement from his neurotic past. But at the risk of beating a dead horse—or one of Justine’s clients—it doesn’t work for me because Justine’s simply too absurd for Marc or anyone else to take seriously.

She comes by to apologize with a banana bread olive branch, promising a more normal hang. For Marc, her gesture is the final strange straw though, prompting him to break things off altogether. Her thoughtful action is the most real she’s been the whole time, and Marc chose her in the first place to get away from anything serious.

Before long, he’s back on the phone again—initially it seems Justine’s back, but it turns out to be a pretty twisted dream where their sexual safe word is “Marry me.” Marc awakes alongside Megan but, in a matter of seconds, his self-sabotage prompts her to leave, too. Meanwhile, Justine tries to anger him by accosting his father, who has parted ways with The Pineapple. “She moved on; I moved on,” Larry says. “Why don’t you move on?”

I think it might be best to take Larry’s advice and move on from this, the weakest episode of Maron thus far. Maron’s monologue tries to do the heavy lifting required to save this jumble of themes, and while I believe there was a good story that could’ve been contained in here, this certainly wasn’t it. Let’s hope that going forward, the next women we meet are more than cardboard cutouts with varying degrees of damage. And while I concede that, in Maron’s purview, everybody’s pretty damaged, it remains to be seen if the show will be able to add more dimension to its supporting cast in subsequent weeks. That’d be something worth working for.

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