30 Rock, Season 7, Episode 9, “Game Over”
Written by Robert Carlock & Sam Means
Directed by Ken Whittingham
Airs Thursdays at 8pm ET on NBC
This week’s return to 30 Rock’s spectacular seventh season may mark the first outright misfire of the batch. It falls back on the show’s old tactic of overloading the episode with guest stars—here we have Chris Parnell, John McEnroe, Chloe Moretz, Octavia Spencer, Steve Buscemi, Will Arnett, and Megan Mullally assuming others didn’t slip in under the radar—to the point that none of them get their due, and features an A-plot so labyrinthine in its portrayal of unlikely alliances and double and triple crosses that the parodic elements get lost in the shuffle (which, granted, is part of the parody) and don’t forget there are all these guest stars to get back to.
The most lamentable casualty of this congestion is that Kaylee Hooper, one of the best ancillary characters to surface in the latter half of 30 Rock’s run, isn’t given much to do here outside of showing up overconfident in her belief that she’s outsmarted Jack only to appear shocked when it turns out that isn’t the case. Octavia Spencer’s turn out-Tracying Tracy on the set of his Harriet Tubman film is intriguing, but his attempt to become the Liz Lemon to her Tracy, an intriguing idea, is never really explored to any significant degree.
30 Rock’s final season has found a new life in light of its imminent mortality, and this has led them to pursue some character-intensive arcs that have been both rewarding and hilariously fun. “Game Over” forgoes the former in favor of the latter and ends up failing to achieve even that in the process. Let’s hope this doesn’t mark a shift in the structure of the season, as the writers sense the impending finale and feel an obsessive, frantic need to touch all the bases before saying goodbye. As such, “Game Over” is more representative of the superficial excess that had diminished the later seasons of the show.