nadir (n.) — the lowest point
Neo Yokio is one of the worst shows on Netflix. The voice acting is poor, the plot is unfocused, and the characters are flat. The main character Kaz Kaan is emotionless and uninspiring, as if going through the motions, and the Neo Yokio setting is interesting but painfully underutilized.
However, one particular episode of the show stands out as the worst of the lot, the most terrible episode in this most terrible show. That episode is Episode 4: Hamptons Water Magic.
The episode begins when Cathy, Kaz’s ex, meets Kaz by chance while jogging. Cathy tells Kaz that she had returned to Neo Yokio on a business trip, and that she has since gotten a new boyfriend, a race car driver. Kaz is disturbed by this, but he acts like nothing is wrong. Afterwards, he goes to a funeral for his uncle, who apparently died at sea. Since the uncle left a property in the Hamptons that Kaz could very well inherit, he and his friends head over to check it out.
The home is derelict, and Kaz’s cousin Jeffrey blames his uncle for letting it fall into such poor repair. Kaz’s friends Lexy (a large black man) and Gottlieb (a bespectacled, lighter-skinned black man) jump into a nearby swimming pool. In a nod to the anime series Ranma 1/2, Gottlieb is turned into a panda…and Lexy is turned into a woman.
Upon seeing Lexy as a woman, Kaz has an idea: there is a party coming up, and Cathy is going to be there, so he pressures the now girlified Lexy into pretending to be his date so as to make Cathy jealous. He dresses Lexy in feminine clothes, then they go to the party with panda-Gottlieb accompanying them.
Kaz tells Lexy not to speak lest the ruse be exposed, since Lexy’s voice still sounds male. He meets Cathy, but Lexy runs off. Kaz goes back in the house and sees Lexy kissing up a lesbian. Kaz angrily objects, but Lexy tells him off. Then Cathy enters and Kaz kisses Lexy right on the lips, prompting Lexy to run away and Cathy to abandon Kaz in disgust since Lexy clearly didn’t want it. Kaz whines at Lexy for ruining the plan, then Lexy berates Kaz with some social justice spiel about gender binaries and misogyny. It culminates with Lexy throwing Kaz into the pool next to them.
The next day, Kaz apologizes to Lexy, Jeffrey reverses the spell (turning Gottlieb human again, and Lexy male again), and, to their surprise, Kaz’s uncle is alive — he had simply been turned into a raccoon by Jeffrey’s pool.
This episode is a thousand times creepier when watched.
Look what happens here. Kaz — who the previous three episodes established as a good guy with a strong sense of aesthetics and a deep concern for tradition — suddenly becomes a creep with a vindictive streak. He humiliates his friend in order to one-up his ex. Several times throughout the episode, it is made clear that Lexy does not want any part of Kaz’s plan. First, he asks to skip the party entirely. Next, he runs off when Kaz meets Cathy at the party. Afterward, he tries to get some small joy out of his predicament by kissing a lesbian who flirted with him, but Kaz snatches even that from him in order to give him a kiss he never wanted.
Though the episode makes it very clear that Kaz was wrong to do what he did, why did the writers suddenly turn Kaz into a creepy pervert when he exhibited no such traits before? Why did the writers have Kaz embarrass his friend just to stick it to an ex? How come Kaz’s first concern was going after Cathy instead of helping his friends regain their original forms? He’s a demon slayer — why didn’t he even suspect demonic activity?
I think I know why: to make some contrived point about gender. The entire story (such as it is; there’s nothing there) is derailed so Lexy can lecture Kaz — and by extension, the viewer — about the correct view to have on this topic. The ham-handedness of it is obvious, and it just makes an already awful show that much worse. It only establishes that no thought was put into characterization, just a cheap reference and a poorly delivered message.
But even before the message, the episode showcased every flaw the series had: bad characterization, bad voices (Cathy’s was worst of all), poor plotting (they went from Cathy to an inheritance crisis to Cathy and creepo Kaz back to the inheritance crisis), and a wasted premise (there was zero demon hunting in the episode.) Some more thought should have been put into this entire series for all the money Ezra Koenig’s production company spent on talent. It really is a travesty, and the show could’ve been far better than this.
I had to fight my way through this episode; thankfully, the two that follow are better, though not by much. There are better things to watch on Netflix than this, and you would do well to watch them.