As High Maintenance continues its new life on HBO, we see more types of stories unfold onscreen.
The stoner-comedy anthology series, by nature, goes into vastly different territory with each of its subjects. This week’s episode, “Museebat”, is a mix of engaging and bland storytelling, with the sort of humor you’d expect, and the serious character studies you may not expect.
The first half of the episode follows an Islamic college student, Easha, living with her more religious aunt and uncle. While Easha isn’t exactly a vagabond, she is a teenager, and therefor indulges in underage drinking and cigarette-smoking. She manages to score weed from her neighbors, who are regular clients of The Guy, and finally gets the release she’s often denied. Straddling these cultural lines – between religious regulations and cultural pressures – has Easha pulled in different directions, adding to her struggle.
It’s not a wholly unique story, but it is told artfully and in a heartfelt manner. High Maintenance displays their skill at digging into the lives of different people across the city. Easha’s cultural struggles embody the classic angsty teenage life, just trying to score some weed and chill. However, the added religious aspect adds another form of pressure on Easha, making for a more engaging and complex storyline. On top of Easha’s characterization, the brief presence of The Guy helps flesh out the ever-present protagonist. It’s just enough information to bring clarity to the characters that we only get to know for a fleeting moment.
While the first story works well, the second story isn’t quite as solid. The latter half of “Museebat” follows the older, sex-loving couple that lives next door to Easha. Leo, the man who’s just turned 50, is struggling with various problems in his life, all coming to a head at his birthday party. He has a weak relationship with his wife, and he’s just been diagnosed with chlamydia – not what you want to hear before your big birthday orgy. Oh yeah, for his birthday, Leo and his orgy-loving friends plan on having an orgy. And when his wife Gigi invites her cute younger co-worker, Colin, Leo’s insecurities come to a head.
The story is an interesting one, but the humor feels far too off. High Maintenance succeeds when it explores the humor in more surreal, realistic scenarios. Leo’s storyline feels too outlandish, like a tame Broad City guest star. It’s not well enough in line with the groundwork High Maintenance has set up before this, and makes the episode feel weaker as a whole.
“Museebat” isn’t bad, by any means, but it does disappoint in its second half. When you’re thrown into a show with such a unique tone, it’s a shame to see it revert into the predictable. The character work done with Easha manages to outweigh the more stereotypical humor that accompanies Leo’s storyline, making for an episode that is equal parts hit and miss.