WARNING: Full spoilers for the entire third season of House of Lies
House of Lies is a show I just recently caught up on, marathoning the first two seasons of the show and being hooked very quickly by the fast-paced dialogue and excellent blend of drama and humor. While the show has moved away from a few things I enjoyed in the earlier seasons, season three certainly does a lot to move the shows story forward, and proves time and time again that the most important aspect of almost any television show is the writing.
This season seemed to cover a lot of ground in just 13 short episodes, but the most prevalent storyline was easily that of Dollahyde, an up and coming clothing company. The tension that is caused by the feud between Dre Collins (Mekhi Phifer, E.R.) and his long time friend and business partner Lukas Frye (T.I., The Hangover) is the driving force behind almost all the drama in this season. It starts with the friendship that is built between Marty (Don Cheadle, Iron Man 3) and Dre, making Marty lose a lot of objectivity at a time when the new Kaan & Associates is just getting off the ground. It also further complicates the relationship between Marty and Jeannie (Kristen Bell, Frozen), as Jeannie and Lukas develop a… thing. It also makes their already tense partnership all the more difficult, as they disagree on whether Dollahyde is ever worth their time. The biggest conflict though, comes from Dre and Lukas, as they two battle over their completely opposite visions for Dollahyde. This of course results in one of the biggest and most shocking sequences this season, as Lukas is gunned down in the brutal drive by shooting, and Dre is revealed to be the one behind the hit. It all makes for great drama and dynamic relationships. It also plays a hand in the set up for the show’s fourth season.
The setup for next season is done brilliantly, in that the seeds are planted throughout season three, just far enough a part you’ll easily miss them if you’re not paying close attention. Then in the finale you’re left reeling from the twist as the FBI descends upon Kaan & Associates. We, of course, saw Jeannie meet with her old friend from the Department of Justice, but the thread seemed to be dropped as Marty grew closer ad closer to Dre. No one could have foreseen the grizzly murder of Lukas, and the heat it would bring to Marty Kaan’s doorstep. The FBI raid changes the entire dynamic of the show, with Marty completely out of his own company, Jeannie now sitting at the head of the table, and the couple’s brand new relationship now seemingly put to a quick end. The prospects for how everyone begins to put the pieces back together is extremely intriguing.
Major plot points aside, what make House of Lies is the character moments, whether they’re sincere, awkward, hilarious, or over-the-top. And while Marty and Jeannie are always clearly the show main focus, I think I may enjoy the shows supporting cast the most. Doug (Josh Lawson, The Campaign) and Clyde (Ben Schwartz, Parks & Recreation) bring a many great moments to the show, and while their chemistry is still second to none, they spend a lot of season three dealing with their own separate issues. Doug and Sarah (Jenny Slate, The Lorax) continue their extremely screwed up roller coaster of a relationship, making me shake my head as Doug makes one female-centric blunder after another. While Clyde takes a more interesting and less predictable turn this year. Managing to make it out of Monica’s (Dawn Olivieri, American Hustle) grasp in one piece, and then immediately falling for a cocaine addicted millionaire, Clyde manages to always make the worst decisions with the best of intentions. A state of being we can all relate to on some level.
My favorite character arc of the is season though is without a doubt Roscoe’s (Donis Leonard Jr., His Good Will). Roscoe has always been someone trying to figure himself out, as most of us are at his age. In the show’s first two seasons Roscoe’s sexuality is not an issue for him so much as it is for Marty. But as Marty comes to accept that Roscoe is comfortable in his own skin, Lex (Bex Taylor-Klaus, Arrow) enters into the equation. Another teen trying to navigate her gender identity, the two seem like an excellent pair in the beginning. But we soon realize that Lex has a lot of resentment and anger yet to be dealt with, and seeing Roscoe not only come out on the other side more confident in himself than ever, but also getting to see his family witness that change, was one of the best moments this year.
While I really enjoyed this season, I do have one major complaint. It is actually a complaint I would have leveled against season two as well, had I been able to review it last year. House of Lies begins in its first season as a team of four management consultants who are more akin to artists. They use quick thinking, a lot of spin, and the occasional bit of luck, to keep you on the edge of your seat for what really should be a boring subject. I loved the dynamic between the four of them, and while all good shows must press on, there is undoubtedly something missing by not having Marty, Jeannie, Doug and Clyde all on the same page. Now that season three’s event have transpired, I find it difficult to imagine a scenario where that same dynamic is seen again, and it really is a shame. This also leads to some chaos during the season, as so many different story lines and seemingly arbitrary characters come and go that things feel somewhat unfocused. It all works out in the end, and there are some great moments along the way, but I find myself wondering if I’ll be able to get invested in new characters next year, as their significance, or relevance, to the show will be in doubt for me from the start.
The Performances on House of Lies continue to be top-notch, and there’s little surprise there. The core four — Cheadle, Bell, Schwartz and Lawson — continue to deliver consistently, week in and week out. Lawson in particular stands out for me; there’s something so lovable about his extreme social awkwardness. Olivieri takes playing the emotionally unstable ex to new heights, which is not an accomplishment to be taken lightly. And T.I., who I haven’t seen in too much since he began his transition to acting, plays a somewhat safe, but none the less extremely engaging character. While all the acting this season was as great as ever, there was a bit of growth missing, from all but one –Donis Leonard Jr. Seeing him grow from season to season, both in the quality of his performance and in where he is able to take the character of Roscoe, is a joy to watch. I look forward to every scene he’s a part of, and can’t wait see how much he continues to grow next year.
House of Lies put together a solid third season this year. Despite pulling even further away from some of the staples that made the show’s freshman season one of my favorites of the past decade, it still manages to have some of the best writing in television via Matthew Carnahan, and a wonderful cast to deliver every line. They also manage to leave us with a setup for season four that could take the show in a really interesting new direction.