Built on a foundation of dick jokes and the hubris of Lil Dicky, an aspiring rapper with a far-fetched dream of becoming a global icon that sometimes pushes the best interests (and behaviors) of Dave Burd, the man behind the alter ego, to the side, Dave has embraced the opportunity to showcase the long, bumpy walk toward fame. Complete with its mandated tradeoffs, humiliations, and most importantly, sacrifices. In fact, following its season 2 finale, it may have perfected it, but the season is also notable for how damn relatable the show continues to be. Which may seem odd considering the world it surrounds and how inaccessible it would be for most of us.
As a person, Dave has progressed and regressed, going back and forth across these now 20 episodes. This human messiness is what gives the show currency to dabble with Kardashian cameos, million-dollar mansions, and spiritual enlightenment retreats to Rick Rubin’s house without sacrificing the endearingly crude arrested adolescent charms of this awkward adult man and his odyssey.
Maybe you haven’t struggled to create an album that perfectly encapsulates everything you want to say, but you’ve probably felt boxed in, and you’ve probably felt incapable of defining or expressing yourself. You’ve probably also lost sight of who you are and how you want to be from time to time, feeling inadequate, lonely, and guilty. All things that describe the human experience, especially during the last 18 months. And all things affecting Dave in season 2 as he reckons with his goals, his setbacks, and his self, creating a kinship with this moment and, I think, an audience that recognizes what it’s like to rarely be the thing you want to be.
I love that Dave expresses a want to be a better person. So many people in this world have given up on self-improvement and awareness. Here’s someone who has not, even if he fails often and rarely gets out of his own way.
Dave doesn’t want to be seen as sexist or racist. One of his most uncomfortable moments happened in the season 1 finale when Charlamagne tha God called him out for cultural appropriation on The Breakfast Club and asked if GaTa’s presence by his side was a form of tokenism. In season 2, when Kareem Abdul Jabbar asked Dave about his use of a blackcent, Dave practically melted into the chair from sheer panic. He obsesses and he doubts constantly, at one point imagining that he had to cut up and serve GaTa to appease a vocal group of his fans in a dream sequence. But for all of Dave’s awareness, season 2 began with a calculated effort to glom onto the K-Pop wave for the clicks. Later, he tried to be more communicative with Ally by asking her permission to release a tender song about missing her but then turned cold when he didn’t get what he wanted. And while he was tearfully repentant for not really knowing who his parents are, is he really going to change? Dave is, like the rest of us, locked in a fight between our bad habits and our better angels. And sometimes you wonder which side is going to win.
There has to be an alternate realm where Dave doesn’t do the right thing at the end of this season and doesn’t acknowledge the distance his singular drive has put between him and the reality that everyone in his life isn’t meant to be a side character. That they have their own dreams and needs from their unique relationships with him.
In this theoretical version, Dave probably goes through with the VMA stunt and loses GaTa forever. Ally, watching with her new boyfriend, is rendered speechless by the lengths to which this man she used to know will go for fame, shattering the memory of the loveable goofball she shared her life with. We already know the plan is for Mike to get some distance, Elz already has one foot out the door, and Benny Blanco is an exuberant boundary-free playmate… so long as his schedule allows. It’s the Citizen Kane ending — Dave gets everything he wanted but he has no one to share it with — his “rosebud” is a color-matched pig skin prick with one peehole that got fixed on basic cable. That analogy doesn’t exactly track, but I love the poetry and you get it.
Thank goodness, Dave made a good decision on top of a bunch of bad ones that have driven the awkwardness and action of this season (both for Dave and for the people slowly pulling sway from him), revealing and reveling in the character’s flaws and the pitfalls of getting lost up your own ass.
I don’t know where the show goes from here. To be sure, Dave still has a lot of dream left to chase and these relationships are by no means fixed, especially Dave’s relationship with Ally — a loss he’s clearly trying to gloss over, creating the saddest story thread of season 2. But so long as they keep Dave failing and succeeding in near equal measure, no amount of absurdity, crudeness, or big-time living will distract from the very human and very flawed central character at the heart of a compelling hilarious and heartbreaking show that has so clearly broken out of its own box to be so obviously about more than a guy with a dream and a dick that sucks.