For the past four seasons, Showtime has traditionally located Matthew Carnahan’s “House of Lies” starting around January, with increasingly diminishing returns. This year, by rescheduling, the series debuted in April, and, perhaps just by coincidence, the series has improved, even if only by the barest of margins.
Marty Conn (Don Cheadle) business fortunes have taken a remarkable upswing since last season, when the company flirted with oblivion. There have since been changes in his personal life as well, with his colleague/lover Jeanne (Kirsten Bell) had given birth to his daughter and elected to take a job as CFO at a pharmaceutical firm. Of course, those of us who have watching the series for this long knew it was just going to be a matter of time before that blew up in her face. In this case, a researcher who she’d been having an affair with filed sexual harassment charges against her purely so he could get out of the job he was holding, and due to other factors (most of her own making) she blew the company up.
Jeanie isn’t the only one whose past is coming back to bite her. Marty’s former boss, whom he completely ruined way back in Season One, Skip Gallweather (Richard Schiff) has come back into his life, working for two still unseen competitors called the Cole brothers (subtle, right?) determined to buy out Marty’s company and utterly destroy him. Marty is always best when he’s faced with an enemy (he does a good job of creating most of them himself, of course) and now seems determined to do even more to raise himself up. In this case, he had just joined up with a new firm operating under what it’s owner (John Cho) calls a holocracy, where everybody seems to serve as equal. Called in by a friend from childhood to right this ship, he and the Pod literally help themselves to the punch, and Marty finds himself willing to get on board, and do things not even he thought he would do – mainly call in a business consultant that he burned last season (Steven Weber), and try to protect himself from this new threat.
This is still a very black comedy, and many of the characters have remained as scummy as ever. Clyde is still trying to play as a manchild, not taking anything seriously, while Doug remains eternally clueless – though that may be changing, considering how he managed to improve himself career-wise and possibly relationship-wise coming out, of all things, his D & D playing. Yet “House of Lies” actually seemed to be improving for the first time in nearly two seasons. It actually seems to be utilizing its guest actors better instead of wasting them as it did so frequently before, and the main relationship between Marty and Jeanie actually seems to be headed in the right direction for a change. It will never be known as one of great series, not even on its own network, but if Marty can show some signs of growth, maybe there’s hope for this series yet.
My score: 3.25 stars.