For anyone who tuned into last week’s pilot having never been exposed to Marc Maron’s typical brand of comedy, a lot of it might have appeared jarring (heck, even as a fan of his I found a lot of it to be forced). But as we witness in the opening scene of “Dead Possum,” Maron is sure to gradually unfold these elements of Marc’s life that explain why he turned out the way he did.
In a brief phone conversation with his mother (Sally Kellerman), it’s clear where Marc gets his anxiety and neurosis from. Mrs. Maron is a gossip and an over-sharer, and not only that but she even appears to enjoy working Marc up with her call (“Why do you always get off on telling people bad news? You just like spreading gloom.”). Small glimpses like these, along with his later rant about his disappointing father, allow us to further understand where a lot of Marc’s anger comes from.
Among many of the less-than-diserable traits Marc has inherited from his parents is his overly-sensative demeanor, and his inability to “be a man” has always weighed on him. So it’s appropriate that his guest in the garage is the macho tough-guy Dennis Leary (who’s also one of the show’s executive producers). Dennis shares a story of getting into a fight on the hockey rink and is shocked the hear that Marc has never thrown down with anyone in all his years angrily working the club circuit. It’s an interesting discourse these two have – how the idea of having to be strong and like sports and use a hammer is necessary for being a man when Marc argues he’s no less of a man just because he doesn’t play fantasy football and listens to Joni Mitchell (although he can’t defend the cats).
Marc is forced to deal with this issue head on when he and Dennis discover a dead possum in the crawl space of his house. When Dennis offers to remove it, Marc won’t let him, feeling inclined to accomplish this task on his own. And by “on his own,” I mean with the help of his new intern Kyle, Marc’s mom’s friend’s grandson who’s looking for his big break in Hollywood.
The newly-friended duo take their challenge to the extreme by heading to the hardware store. While originally there to simply pick up some sort of “dead-animal grabber,” Marc gets wrapped up in the moment and buys way too much (coveralls, respirators, a nail gun) for such a simple task. Marc’s obsessive attitude excites him, even if its mostly posturing. It’s not all bad though, as he begins to open up with Kyle a bit more. The two strange and socially inept characters bond in an oddly compelling way.
After they stall one more time (to eat tacos), the two are finally ready to retrieve the carcass, but just before Marc’s about to take the plunge, he freaks out, yelling that his dad never taught how to do shit like this or how to ‘be a man.’ He doesn’t understand why he can’t bring himself to do something that seemingly every other man can do, and surely his self-esteem isn’t helped much when his gardner arrives and fetches the possum without a moments hesitation.
Marc’s closing monologue addresses his issues with masculinity, and if he were more emotionally stable, he would have probably defended his position as a modern-day man who doesn’t necessarily need to be defined by his actions, but instead he feeds into his failed expectations, admitting he’s not an alpha male at all even if his rough exterior would sometimes suggest it. You are defined by you’re actions, and sometimes you gotta man up.
– Marc was also struggling with the news that his ex-father-in-law is terminally ill. He starts by giving a heartfelt phone call to his ex (not the same as last week’s) expressing his condolences. He has a moving revelation in the hardware store (“That guy treated me like family, then I repaid him by treating his daughter like shit. I broke that guy’s heart. Guess there’s no fixing it, right?”). The episode ends with Marc going to visit him in the hospital in a nice, grown-up moment for the first time in the series.
– A little more about Kyle – he wants to make movies like Apatow did before he got shitty. He also got molested at sleepaway camp, although Marc assessed it at just two kids experimenting. Marc’s podcasts are regularly described as pseudo-therapy sessions, and while he continually shoots down that notion, his ability to take on issues with his guests is certainly therapeutic in a sense (“You wanna talk about it?” is one of his go-to phrases).
– Marc on his self-esteem: “It’s okay. I hate myself.”
– Marc to Leary on getting too manly: “Take it easy, fake fireman.”
– “Generally, you’d want to leave suicidal off the resume.”
– “There’s no such thing as a career in comedy.”