"The Spoils Before Dying" is another novel by consistently wasted multi-hyphenate Eric Jonrosh (Will Ferrell), who wrote and directed the adaptation of his own book, provides introductions and epilogues for each of the series' six episodes. The story follows jazz musician Rock Banyon (Michael K. Williams) as he tries to investigate the death of one of his many lovers and collaborators, Fresno Foxglove (Maya Rudolph) -- by necessity, as the cops have given him three days before they pin the murder on him. With every step down the rabbit hole (or foxglove), Rock finds increasingly curious connections, including connections to scientists and drug dealers, all while his excessively animated agent Alistair St. Barnaby-Bixby-Jones (Haley Joel Osment) tries to get him to record a jazz-with-strings album, and another former-flame/jazz singer Delores DeWinter (Kristen Wiig) gets close to him again.
As a huge fan of "The Wire", one of the biggest draws of "Dying" is the chance to see Michael K. Williams continue to expand his comic chops (following a multi-episode stint on "Community" and ahead of a role in Wiig's upcoming Ghostbusters reboot). Unfortunately, Piedmont and Steele seem to have given him more of a straight-man role, with humor mostly springing from Williams' intensity amidst silliness from guest stars like Tim Meadows and Chris Parnell rather than giving Williams himself a chance to be wacky. From time to time, the dialogue gives him a metaphor or two worthy of Frank Drebin, but MKW and "Spoils" turn out to be less than the match made in heaven one might hope they'd be.
It doesn't help that "Spoils" version of settling into a groove is less like a needle dropping onto a vinyl record and more like getting stuck in a rut. Although the nature of spoof comedy is that the rhythms are somewhat predictable (interpret something ludicrous literally, drag out awkward moments, spotlight poor acting and filmmaking), "Dying" doesn't bring much to the table that "Babylon" didn't already do better. The best material in "Dying" is the stuff that has no level of seriousness to it at all, such as the ghost of Fresno Foxlove occasionally popping in to give Rock some advice (Rudolph's second-best ghost performance behind MacGruber), and Rock Banyon's talking cat Dizzy (Peter Coyote). It's also a shame that Wiig's presence is pretty minor for most of the season; while I'm sure Piedmont and Steele would've loved to have her for as much of "Dying" as possible, her hilarious performance in "Babylon" unintentionally underlines her absence here.
That said, despite this follow-up's bout of sequelitis, the format of "Babylon" is flexible enough that another season could just as easily set everything right on its feet, and the revolving door of outstanding guest stars and cameo appearances leaves things open for Williams to get a chance to get as goofy as everyone else. Jonrosh's bragging about the genius of his own work is obviously meant to be a joke, but in "Dying", the flimsiness of his claims hit a little close to home. Hopefully a third "Spoils" is fresher than this one.
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