“Stop covering your cock!”
A fistfight in an elevator, a rock ‘n roll threesome, an indoor bat hunt, and some literally balls-out photography gave ‘Rock And Roll Queen,’ this week’s swing-for-the-fences episode of Vinyl, more than its share of lustful life. It’s an episode that bucks blandly traditional band narratives, tossing aside the dull idea of Jamie Yoko-ing the Bits in favor of a genuinely sexy three-way, a believable tangle of limbs and lips ignited by hilariously randy suggestive looks and a little bit of pizza-based foreplay. The narrative punch and the thrill of honest-to-god sexiness there is a refreshing boost for the subplot, and Juno Temple as Jamie should get as much time center-stage as possible. In love with the rotten world of rock promotion and development and unwilling to acknowledge its fatal flaws, she exudes an aura of doomed enthusiasm.
The show’s dramatic moments still feel less interesting than its more comedic and playful work, and for all that Wilde and Cannavale are leaking blood and sweat in every scene they share, Devon and Richie’s disintegrating relationship isn’t very strong or compelling material. What does work is the fantastic sequence in which Richie, in search of Devon, first knocks on the wrong door and mean mugs at the man who answers it, then, at the right door, mistakes the sounds of Devon’s actual lover trying to kill a bat for said lover engaging in, well, love with Devon, then joins in on the bat hunt with manic energy, then cracks the poor photographer a good one with his own tennis racket before they kill the bat together and enjoy a bizarre moment of brotherly bonding, and finally realizes with dreadful certainty who he’s just experienced camaraderie with. It’s a funny, unusual sequence with a lot going on.
One of the episode’s other standout sequences is messier, more biting, and altogether difficult to watch. When Richie discovers that his assistant, Cece, is pregnant with Hannibal’s child he seems to slip into good guy mode while Andy rails at the secretary until Cece flees in tears. It’s an ugly scene, an uncomfortable picture of a woman pushed into an untenable situation by a man too powerful to refuse and then derided by her superior and treated as though solely responsible for the resulting chaos. Then, after Cece leaves, Andy asks with pained and pointed venom if Richie is going to hold Cece’s hand and take her to a clinic. The tremor in her voice tells us everything we need to know about Richie’s one-sided relationship with Andy. It’s sharp, complicated storytelling.
Vinyl always manages to feel like it’s just one note away from success. Maybe what it needs is to really get out there and go nuts, to keep rolling with swinging dicks, bat murder, wild sex, and scenes of people falling in love with music. It certainly panned out for them this week.