I’ve written before that I’m not always the biggest fan of web series. However, every once in awhile one comes along that I find myself enjoying immensely.
About a week ago, I sat down and watched The Mop and Lucky Files. Set in Los Angeles, the series documents the (mis)adventures of two women in their mid-20s who are having a bit of a hard time with life. After Lucky (Jennifer Erholm) gets fired from her restaurant gig, she goes along with bestie Mop (Chloe Taylor), who’s hatched up a harebrained scheme to open up a “personal espionage” agency.
Since they’re basically broke, they decide to rent out a storage unit as the base of operations for their amateur spy agency. Little do they know, their storage space is run by two low-level mobsters.
If you know me at all, then you’d immediately realize this premise is right up my alley. However, it was not executed at all like I thought it was going to be. Don’t get me wrong – that is by no means a bad thing. In fact, I think the interesting and different take made the series much better.
I might have left out a big part of the show’s premise, as according to the series’ “About” page on its website: “This new life leads them into bizarre cases, Mob entanglement, personal enlightenment and, of course, dating woes.”
Turns out, the series is a lot more about the everyday lives of these two women. Any espionage that plays out over the five-episode first season is very much on the back burner. Instead, we focus on how these two women function: their fears, neurosis, and – as aptly put in that description above – “dating woes.” They’ve got some very deep worries about their love lives, what love even means to them, and how to fit it into their lives.
The reason the main characters are able to explore this as a main storyline is because the actual case isn’t complicated or all that important. Well, okay, “important” probably is the wrong word to use. It is important, thematically, just not so much plot-wise.
Mop and Lucky’s first case essentially boils down to a woman wanting to find out if her husband loves her. That’s right, there’s no murder mystery, no government conspiracy, no crooked cops.
Put like that, it seems like this would make for a horribly boring plot, but the more I thought about it, the more it made sense to the premise of the show. There’s a reason these women didn’t open up a detective agency. They’re gathering information for a third party, not solving a mystery, and that’s exactly what they’re tasked with doing in this first round of episodes.
Trying to find out if one person loves another is a near impossible, very ambiguous task. If the seasons following it delve into similarly themed cases, it could make for a very interesting series.
Just because it’s an interesting idea for a case doesn’t mean it works on its own, though. This strange approach to information-gathering would completely fall apart if it weren’t for the great characterization of the two leads.
Both Mop and Lucky are interesting individuals, flawed in their own little ways, and have a great dynamic from the get-go.
They’re both in bad places when the series starts, and their plucky attitudes are the only thing keeping them going. Thankfully, their rock bottom lives are looked at humorously.
Take a moment in the third episode, for example: Mop and Lucky are staking a place out in broad daylight, and have come in disguises, which happen to be a bonnet and sunglasses for one, and a bowler hat and fake mustache for the other. Cut to them walking down the street afterward, Mop worried about her estrogen intake. She’s still got the mustache on.
The humor is just subtle enough to not overpower the overall mood of the show, but present enough to keep things from getting too dark.
So, positives: good humor, great characterization. The show isn’t perfect, though; one area I really think it could improve is the pacing. According to the writers, the first season of the show was actually intended to act as a pilot episode for a series, not as a whole season.
Because of this format, the entire first episode ends up being set-up. They don’t even get a client until the second installment. While the show is admittedly slow-paced throughout, the first episode is a little too slow-paced.
On top of that, the case they are presented with isn’t really enough to hold together all five episodes. It could have managed three episodes, but five is going a little far.
But like I said, this was meant to be a pilot. It follows a web series trend – treating the first season as one long pilot episode – that has since stopped being the norm.
According to co-creator Chloe Taylor, future cases wouldn’t be spread thin. They would still span multiple episodes, but not quite as many.
Overall, despite the issues with pacing, I think this series has got a lot going for it. The characters are great, the comedy is there, and it’s got a slow-burning mystery that promises mob entanglement sometime in the future. It definitely piqued my interest for what’s coming next.
Check out the series’ web page here and watch out for a forthcoming Kickstarter page to help the second season get made!