Recap: ‘The Comeback’ – ‘Valerie Faces the Critics’

Two months have passed in “The Comeback” time: Valerie has been nominated for an Emmy for “Seeing Red,” Mickey has been undergoing radiation, Jane has been editing the documentary so her camera crews have been absent, and Valerie and Mark are living apart and in therapy.

There's a lot of weight in the penultimate episode of “The Comeback,” and it  builds to two rough scenes. In one, there's an incredibly tense moment when Valerie shows up at Mickey's apartment, since he hasn't shown up to do her hair, and it seems like she's going to discover his dead body.

Instead, he's there, drunk, passed out, and naked, as is his hookup, a guy who doesn't hesitate to advertise his hook-up web site. But Mickey waves all of this off; he doesn't seem to care if it'll be in the documentary or not.

One person does care: Mark, Valerie's now-estranged husband, who agrees to meet her despite their therapist's rules, and Valerie agrees to wear a mic so Jane's crews can film from outside the restaurant.

It is one of the few moments during “The Comeback”'s two seasons I've yelled at the TV: Don't do it!

The worst part is that Valerie initially says no for all the right reasons: “Absolutely not. This is private.” Jane says, “I need this scene,” and Valerie acknowledges that the footage has the potential to do damage. But Jane knows how to manipulate Valerie: “you're so close to having something special about you.”

That's what Valerie so desperately wants, whether it's an Emmy or a critically acclaimed TV show or a documentary about her life. She needs external affirmation so much she's willing to sell everyone out.

Once again, “The Comeback” season two delivers this message with a heavy hand, though coming from Mark, it's justified. Once he finds out she's “wearing a wire”–she freaks out when he mentions his affair and her abortion, knowing that she's being recorded–he bails and then confronts her. “Is this even real? Is there any part of you that is real any more?” he eventually asks.

Of course, their confrontation/argument/airing of grievances provides Jane with better footage than she could have hoped for by shooting a dinner through a window. What's perhaps most shocking through all of this is how Valerie is aware that this could all go wrong again (Mark points out that she was “obliterated by that fucking Comeback disaster”) but keeps going anyway.

During a junket interview in front of a bunch of bloggers who can barely look up from their laptops to ask a dumb or self-serving question, “The Comeback”'s not-so-subtle dig at the state of television criticism, Jane reveals that the documentary's working title is “The Assassination of Valerie Cherish.”

That's what's definitely going to happen to her character once again, but this time, “The Comeback” seems to be arguing that Valerie is getting not only what she deserves, but what she wants. Even a televised character assassination is another way to be told that she matters, even if it's only enough to be mocked.