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“Kicking the Habit,” the third episode in IFC’s miniseries The Spoils of Babylon, was just as hit or miss as the first two episodes. However, “Kicking the Habit” did end up hitting a little more than the show’s first two episodes.
It is clear that The Spoils of Babylon is a show that runs through plot at a break neck pace and “Kicking the Habit” is no different. By the end of the episode Cynthia had burned Devin’s wife alive while saving his baby, Devin had become addicted and detoxed completely from heroin, Devin accepts Cynthia’s love until declining it again, and Jonas dies. For a half hour episode that is a lot of plot to get through.
Even quickening the pace of the plot is the fact that the scenes meant to be the funniest usually go on far too long, which leaves very little time for character reaction to what is going on with the plot. While that is clearly by design it makes sure to ground the humor in the very loud world of ridiculousness.
“Kicking the Habit” featured a couple of montages. While neither were fall out of your chair funny they were smart parodies of the times. Devin, looking like a young Bob Dylan, has a long scene in which he recites original beat poetry as images of big cities in the 50s flash on screen along with random words from the poem. Jazz plays under the whole thing and while the poem is utter nonsense it does feel like something you’d expect from an artier movie in the 1950s.
Later in the episode, Cynthia finds Devin at the LSD hotel, strung out on heroin. After a quick detox montage that feels more like a European art film of the times there is another jazz montage of the two making love. This scene is in black and white and, at various points, takes freeze frames of the “action” and creates fake jazz album covers for fake jazz artists such as “Ecstasy.” Again, this isn’t a moment that will have you laughing until you cry but it is entertaining, which is better than some of the bits in the previous episodes.
“Kicking the Habit” did show some incremental improvement for The Spoils of Babylon but it is still a far way off from being a must watch show. It is more a show that you shake your head at while smiling than losing it laughing but, if it continues to improve, by the end of its run it certainly has the potential to become 24 minutes of solid laughs.