Lucky Hank Season 1 Review – A delightfully existential, complex drama

Season 1

Episode Guide

Episode 1 -| Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 2 -| Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 3 -| Review Score – 4/5
Episode 4 -| Review Score – 4.5/5
Episode 5 -| Review Score – 5/5
Episode 6 -| Review Score – 4.5/5
Episode 7 -| Review Score – 4.5/5
Episode 8 -| Review Score – 4/5


Lucky Hank’s Season 1 will definitely be seen by AMC as a huge success. Although its positive reception was never a given, the illustrious creative personnel attached to it have delivered. Anticipation was high to see Bob Odenkirk in another AMC drama, and here he plays the titular character Hank Deveraux, exploring shades of himself he hasn’t had many clear opportunities to do.

Lucky Hank is based on Richard Russo’s Straight Man, which chronicles the author’s own experiences teaching at a college campus. Like the novel, the show also has a rhetorical, darkly humorous tone, although is more structured and has a clear direction to be dramatically viable.

Paul Lieberstein (“Evil” Toby from ‘The Office’) and Aaron Zelman sear the storytelling with an astute representation of midlife crisis relatable at many levels. Their decision not to serve Lucky Hank on a platter for us makes the first few episodes a little jarring. But the experience catches on in the second half of the season when things begin to catch up.

The plot follows Hank Deveraux, the bitter, uninspired, and mediocre head of Railton College’s (fictional place) English department in his existential dread about a lack of spark. He is married to Lily (Mireille Enos), who is the vice principal at the local school.

The supporting cast includes Hank’s colleagues Paul, Gracie, Billy, and daughter Julie. Hank projects his unresolved issues with his estranged and brilliant father, William, onto others and it vitiates his general mood. He has always struggled his entire life to come to terms with William’s abandonment of him and his mother, Laurel.

Underneath all this family dysfunction, Lily has her own arc where she grows distant from Hank and feels “they’re in different places in their marriage.” Finally, the English department also struggles with impending cuts to the budget and downsizing of its roster.

Overall, Lucky Hank does not move to a pointed rhythm and has a series of false starts. The rugged resilience of its protagonist has a lot to do with it. The show’s tone is affected by Hank’s indecision and his inability to be flexible. There are so many occasions where Hank could allow something to happen. But like a little child, he finds it difficult to think beyond himself.

Odenkirk manifests incredibly detailed idiosyncrasies like Hank’s twitchy eyes when he’s uncomfortable to realize his internal anguish and frustrations. Even though the actor’s voice is unique and music to one’s ears, it also plays a role in characterizing Hank’s betrayal of himself.

Given this is the show’s first season, the number of bold creative decisions is refreshing. Lucky Hank’s creators do not play it safe, unlike Lieberstein’s dull Toby Flenderson. They take the challenge to ground Hank’s routine dysfunction in his emotional chaos, even when it means that the viewers get an unordinary experience. There is hardly any feel-good factor in the show or lightheartedness, which is razor-sharp and brief to a fault, to disarm us. In a world where such decisions are becoming commonplace and almost instinctive, Lucky Hank scores points for not giving in.

Something that the initial episodes promised but the ones in the second half didn’t continue is satire. The novel does a stellar job of taking cognizance of Russo’s background to satirically play out in the story.

Hank is deadly with his one-liners early in the show. But those small doses of social commentary wane as Lucky Hank’s cinematic universe gradually expand. And once William’s return to Railton became fully realized, Hank’s preoccupation and the creators’ focus on Lily and Hank’s marital dynamics become central.

The most impressive highlight of the show undoubtedly is its scrutiny of human behaviour, exposing the flawed parts present in all of us. There is clarity and purpose in trying to dissect it, while at the same time observing due respect not to go overboard.

The delicate, fine balance of pushing the creative mandate and accurately depicting a sensitive, universal issue is where Lucky Hank is a delight to watch. Mireille Enos and Bob Odenkirk have striking chemistry and are a fun couple to watch. Many married folks will lap up their natural combination to see bits of themselves on the screen. Their synergy might not always match but it is compelling nonetheless.

Lucky Hank does not have the drama essentials like Better Call Saul or Breaking Bad. It certainly does not carry the same cinematic appeal, but even though its brand of satire and narrative is quirky, Lucky Hank possesses the goods to reward viewers who are patient and attentive.

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  • Verdict - 7.5/10

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