Lucky Hank – Season 1 Episode 2 “George Saunders” Recap & Review

George Saunders

Hank sits in a coffee place across from his laptop screen as episode 2 of Lucky Hank begins. The cursor in the document editor blinks continuously as Hank frowns, struggling to get the words out. A few tables away, he sees another man, much younger than him, typing away cheerily at his laptop with a kitschy book on “how to write a novel” sitting next to him. Hank surfs through YouTube and that introduces us to the central conceit of this episode – his old friend and peer, George Saunders.

Hank looks at an old video where it is hinted that George had a relationship with his father Henry. Hank immediately visits Dean Rose’s office and demands that he cancel the upcoming public talk scheduled with George. Hank is supposed to moderate it but Rose implies that the University paid a hefty amount to George for his appearance. It turns out George was able to achieve what Hank could not: fame, wealth, and recognition from his readers. Rose asks Hank to buckle up and professionally go ahead with the talk.

In his convincing bid, he also slips out that George might have had a problem working with Hank. He laments to himself the poor standard of professionalism in the world and modern workplace. Hank thinks he has a kidney stone and goes to the hospital. The radiologist says Hank does not have a stone. Hank doubts his diagnosis as he thinks the man was a substandard student. Lily tries to convince Hank to soldier on with the talk but he is pissed.

Among his many brief yet deep harangues, Hank targets writers and their self-indulgence next. We lead to Gracie teaching her small group of poetry students. Outside, Peter revs his new sports car indiscriminately in a clear sign of bullying and misogyny. Solange, a student in the group, asks Gracie to do something. Hank warmly greets George, perhaps putting aside his envy of him for the moment. He introduces George to his Department. Everyone is smitten, especially Finny.

George decides to sit in class with Hank. Bartow sports a placard on the table which indicates Hank has not apologized to him yet. He reads a passage from his prose and George gives him constructive criticism. The students, seeing he is genuinely interested in helping them, ask away a slew of questions, all of which are answered patiently and intently by George, something Hank ought to do as a teacher. It is his ethical duty to do so. By the end of the session, George innocuously puts Hank on the spot as to why he has stopped writing. Hank points toward his watch and says it is lunchtime, breaking the awkward silence.

Gracie talks to Peter who is not ready “to show consideration as basic human decency.” He instead mocks Gracie and her assumed right to get affected by the actions of others. She goes straight to Myrna in Campus Parking Enforcement Office and bribes her with a bottle of tequila. She has Peter’s car towed and his parking spot taken away. Bartow presents his argument to Lester, his loyal best friend, that Hank should not be allowed to teach the class.

Solange says he must first introspect and see if he has any real talent. Ava, a girl who overhears their conversation, proposes to start a club of sorts with Bartow. He takes their case to Rose, who generously allows them the creation of the “Excellence Committee” for two hours a week. George clears up the confusion after class that he is actually comfortable working with Hank. He wasn’t sure if Hank would be comfortable instead. Lily announces to Hank that their daughter Julie “has some news,” which the parents construe as pregnancy. And they are elated at the prospect of becoming grandparents.

Julie has called them for dinner at Nora’s to announce the news. Hank admits that he stopped writing because he spent most of his time creating a family with Lily. He also works two jobs simultaneously, which did not give him enough time. Lily is unconvinced.

Meg is a new character introduced to us in this episode and she works part-time as a bartender at Nora’s and part-time at the University. She has a casual rapport with Hank that we see at Nora’s when he tries to write again.

George mentions to Hank that his father, Henry, greatly encouraged and pushed George to pursue writing. They even exchanged letters for years and that helped him become successful. Hank is taken aback by this revelation as George apologizes to Hank for the class incident earlier. Peter publicly shames Gracie for her vindictive act. He then tries to embarrass Gracie in front of his class by comparing her work with Walt Whitman’s.

Hank’s mother also insinuates that Henry had homosexual relations with other men. Among things about his life, she says that Hank’s inability to become a writer was not inherent. He chose a family life and raised Julie with Lily, which boosts his confidence. She also gives a ring to Julie that belonged to her grandmother. The big news from Julie and Russell is that they are planning to start a swimming pool construction app or something along those lines, greatly disappointing Hank.

He asks Meg to give Russell a part-time job at the bar and she agrees. Gracie gets emotional while narrating a story about her father and the chair she keeps even today as a souvenir of his memory. Her father would allow her to sit with him when she recited poetry and that is how she got the taste. When one of the students calls it “messed up,” Gracie gets self-conscious. The talk is about to start but Hank is drunk and in no position to moderate. Lily sends him home and asks Finny to take over.

Hank goes to the college game of field hockey with Tony, who jokingly suggests Hank should confront George about insulting him. Hank takes it seriously and storms back to do it. He meets George backstage but George says he has always respected Hank as a writer. He read his book when it was released and even last night in anticipation of the event. Hank feels reprieve and the interaction goes really well.

Gracie throws away the chair as a sign of moving on. While walking back to their car, Hank confides in Lily about his epiphany. Even if Hank had become a great writer, it still wouldn’t have mattered as he would never get his father’s approval. They exchange a revealing look but do not say anything before getting into the car.

The Episode Review

“Why can’t Hank write?” seems to be the form and his middle-aged existential crisis seems to be the content in this episode of Lucky Hank. We also get a sense of what to expect from the show in terms of the storytelling tone. Episode 2 confirms the trend in the form of a confrontation Hank has with his past. Not so much a confrontation but perhaps ironing out issues that he previously hesitated doing.

The conclusive epiphany unpacks a world of issues in his relationship with his father. Episode 2 in particular brings a marked change in how serious the exposition is. Humour is somewhat missing in how the hard blows were softened for us in the pilot episode. While it is not necessarily a bad element, the absence might make the overall impact of the story too raw for most viewers. Although Lucky Hank is not hitting it out of the park yet, we have only just begun so there’s still time for a home run.

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