In recent weeks, Maron has really begun to settle into a nice rhythm. We’ve been introduced to the cast of characters and moved past the getting-to-know-you stage; now we almost know what to expect from them, how they’ll interact with each other and what purposes their relationships will serve within the larger scope of the show.
By this point, Maron and Kyle have established a pretty easy rapport after a few consecutive episodes together. Their exchanges this week are peppered with age-based disconnect (Kyle’s never seen M*A*S*H and thinks Fonzie is a bear), which sets up the major theme that run through this episode—Marc’s relationship with the significantly younger rest of the cast.
It’s already been established throughout the season that Marc Maron’s enjoying an extended-extended adolescence. He’s in his mid-forties, an “independent businessman” (as he likes to remind us on the podcast) working from home, and single. But how is this personal emotional immaturity different from the physical immaturity of people he’s surrounded himself with, most of whom are almost half his age?
Aubrey Plaza’s sitting in on the podcast this week; she’s a pretty fitting guest for this episode because she’s a pretty noteworthy person in contemporary youth culture where a certain block of people are the only ones who actually know who she is. To wit, she’s being extra April Ludgate-y; I say that because of the high likelihood that the Maron viewers who actually know who she is will also know what I mean by that. Like many of the high-profile visitors in recent weeks, she too feels underutilized—she’s really only around long enough to tell Marc his five-year-plan should be to focus on not dying.
After an awkward Aubrey/Kyle encounter, Marc tries to provide his assistant some assistance, dispensing “older guy” wisdom about relationships. His “cool” façade is shattered, though, when he finds out that Jen—who he’d written off as a one-weekend sexfest conquest—has moved to Los Angeles. All of a sudden he’s the insecure one, hiding behind a door as Kyle weaves a (pretty poorly constructed) web of deceit. Jen takes a liking to Kyle (who wouldn’t?!) and the two leave for a pal hang.
Though Kyle’s attracted to Jen, there’s never really any suggestion that the two are going to be anything more than friends. It’s not two men fighting over a woman as much as it is two guys on either side of a divide about what Jen represents to them. This confounds Maron all episode—being around people so much younger than him who actually relate to each other as peers throws him out of sorts. They have common ground. Their relationship makes sense.
Marc, on the other hand, realizes he has never been to Kyle’s apartment and doesn’t know what Jen does for work. Surrounded by all these young people, he’s forced to confront the fact that he never really treated either of them as adults. He’s taken Kyle for granted as a friend and Jen for granted as a lover; each of them takes the other seriously, which makes Maron realize he’s neglected each of them.
This realization also informs his discomfort with Jen throughout the episode. Once he finds out she’s dating another comic, the thing that makes him the most mad is the possibility that she might find a younger, (more) unsophisticated guy’s humor funny. Her motivations for moving to LA clearly have little to do with him, but it instantly makes her more real because she’s literally standing in front of him, his “worst nightmare” because she might force him to get serious about something other than himself.
Once he discovers she’s been living with Kyle, he goes into a rage for reasons that neither Jen nor Kyle can really figure out. Jen gets credit for the episode-winning line when she rebukes Maron, reminding him that they’re not in the middle of taping an episode of his podcast. “It’s not your show” is more of the meta-smarts that have been peppered throughout the show’s first eight episodes, but Jen takes the critique even deeper than that. She’s not a one-dimensional daddy-issues girl trope like the rest of the women he’s been dealing with this season, and he’s going to have to accept that. He does, it seems, admitting that he actually cares about her.
Even though it gets less service time, Kyle’s complaint is equally justified. Marc speaks of “brotherhood,” chiding Kyle for violating bro-code and failing as a buddy. Kyle quickly reminds him, though, that they were never buddies—Marc’s his boss and only wants to be friends when it’s convenient for him. The rest of the time, he’s treating him like an assistant and making him clean out his cats’ litter boxes. Here, too, Kyle’s solid chastisement—“Maron Avenue is a one-way street”—gets right to the heart of the power dynamics of their relationship. Maron realizes he’s been taking advantage of Kyle, too, and makes it up to him by making his own guest appearance—in a sure-to-go-viral zombie web series cameo.
If Maron’s hero’s journey has taken us anywhere through the first eight episodes, it’s that the comic’s trying to learn to care about others. This is a pretty obvious fork in the road—as his relationship deepens with these more established characters and the show takes them more seriously by adding depth and nuance, Marc, too, has to accept that they’re not going away. This means he has to begin to respect them as adults and give them the consideration they deserve. For Maron, it’s another lesson learned and another step in the right direction.