Review: Con Man, Episode 12 – “Shock to the System”

OH MY GOD, YOU’RE CASPER VAN DIEN FROM STARSHIP TROOPERS.

Oh, Wray. Wray, Wray, Wray. How could you do this to yourself?

The problem with Wray Nerely from the very beginning was his inability to see just how good he had it. He already has fans and friends, but his ego never let him see them as they are. Never has that been more accurate than in “Shock to the System.”

Wray’s Casper Van Dien/Dina Meyer hallucination at the start of “Shock” is about the closest that his subconscious ever gets to that realization, as Van Dien tells him in an intentionally clumsy Starship Troopers metaphor that it’s okay to keep doing what you’re doing; that it’s better to do another Spectrum movie than not do anything at all.

As he wakes from his drunken fever dream, he rushes to Hall H for the Spectrum panel, ready to take the role as Cash Wayne once more. Girth stops him along the way, still angry about Bobbie’s interference during the Ambivalence party the night before. Wray takes a swing at Girth, but it’s about as pathetic as you would imagine it would be against the man who played Spartacus.

Wray runs away, and Girth chases behind. They end up the Ambivalence Obstacle Course (which has since been dubbed the “Obstacle Corpse” due to the number of player injuries sustained), and Girth finds himself literally walking through flames, wanting to have a proper “fist ‘em up” with Wray.

Wray falls into the obstacle course pit after being accidentally shot by Stutter’s bean bag gun. Girth dives in after him and heroically pulls him out, as Finley watches on.

She is noticeably moved by the heroics, and she tells the pair that she has made her decision on who will play Blade Slater: Wray Nerely. Wray is excited about this news, but it’s a tad undercut by the fact that the main reason she chose Wray is to avoid any drama from sleeping with her co-star, and that there was a 100% probability that she’d be sleeping with Girth. I get it; he’s a handsome dude.

Wray is the last one to join the Spectrum stars on the Hall H stage, and, with the entire cast assembled, Jack finally announces the Spectrum movie will start production – on the same day that Doctor Cop Lawyer begins production.

And that’s when it happens. Wray says “no.” Every frustration that has been building up over the years spills out in front in front of his castmates and the audience. He chastises Stutter for shooting him in the head; he calls out Brenda for having a “throatum.” He says Tiffany is in no state to work and that Dawn is just a plain ol’ crazy person.

But then he turns on Jack and the audience that brought them there. Fillion deserves extra kudos on this scene, as his face doubly sells the betrayal Jack feels from his best friend. It’s certainly arguable that Jack wasn’t terribly sensitive to Wray’s disappointment in his career trajectory, but Wray’s reaction went too far.

I guess he doesn’t have to worry about any conflicting schedules anyway: with a single text message to Doctor Cop Lawyer’s director, Jack is the new Dr. Ofr. Blade Slater, Esq.

In season one, it wasn’t hard to see that Wray was often the cause of his own undoing – through his casual lying and general neurotic awkwardness. But, in season two, there was a running thread that showed Wray really was working toward something better and that somehow life or the universe was out to get him instead. He took control of his representation and made moves to get to know the right people. Despite initial apprehension, he really threw himself into “I’m With Stupid” to a raving audience, but before it was even over, Lou Ferrigno basically said they didn’t want him. It pulls at that same heartstring that reminds me of that early Simpsons episode where Bart failed a history test and cried “I really tried this time!”

And that’s the thing: he made the right moves this time, and he actually got the part. Continually blinded by the thought of finally being a (capital A) Actor, he failed to see a) the simple solution to doing both projects at once and b) he had actually achieved what he wanted all along. For a brief second, Wray had everything he wanted, but he set self-destructed all on his own.

It’ll be interesting to see how he’ll pick up the pieces in the next season (assuming there is one, and I hope there is.) Wray burned every bridge he had – except maybe Bobbie – and without fans, the con man may not be welcome in too many cons in the future.


Rating: A-. This was a truly satisfying conclusion to season two. This season did end up going in a different direction than I thought it was going to when I watched the first episode (I thought we might actually see some filming of Doctor Cop Lawyer), but this path did return the show to its roots by attending the Long Con, and ultimately, Shock-A-Con.

My biggest wish for future seasons would have to be to change to the 22-minute format. For a number of reasons, this is most likely not possible, but as I was thinking about my biggest issues of the season, I couldn’t help but wonder if most of them would be alleviated by a longer format. We’d have the ability to spend more time with the secondary characters (I honestly thought we’d see Eliza Dushku and Jon Huertas again), and some pacing issues might have been more easily corrected.

But, no matter what format it comes back in, I just want more Con Man. Alan Tudyk, Nathan Fillion, and PJ Haarsma really created something special and hilarious that appeals to me and many others like me. We’re the ones who still watch Firefly, and we’re the ones who put on a power ring and go to comic book conventions. Con Man is clear love letter to us, and that’s something I’m not sure any other series has fully captured.


Thanks for following along for season 2. Here’s hoping we get season 3 and soon! And should the opportunity to review be granted to me in the future, I’ll be along for the ride.

Notables:

  • Janet Carney is down for the count, so the boom mic operator gets a fast promotion. He’s not great at reading copy.
  • I just want to reiterate my love for Janet and Rico: For the past four episodes, Riki Lindhome and Josh Dean have been nailing it. I don’t know if I’m particularly sensitive to their roles having had similar experiences, but seriously I loved them.
  • Rico does the hover hand on Finley as they watch Wray and Girth go through the obstacle course. Fantastic detail.
  • So they just basically called out that Casper Van Dien is the bartender, but is that only in his alcohol-fueled hallucination or is it really him?
  • VINDICATION: THE BLACK TURTLES ARE REAL. More specifically, they’re “Steve Jobs looking guys” in black turtlenecks, but Brenda was right all along.
  • Tiffany: “I’m not feeling anything, and that feels great.”

The complete series of Con Man (so far!) is available for your consumption now exclusively at Comic-Con HQ. The Con Man video game is available on iOS and Android, and the Spectrum comic book is available to download here. All photo credits to Comic-Con HQ.

Written by: Dwight Tejano

Dwight is the founder of Open the Fridge, which he started in 2008 and rebooted in 2010. Due to the nature of early adopting, his bank account is normally empty. He likes to sing in world-renown choruses to forget such things.

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