And, so it begins. Here is the title sequence. Thomas Jane is in a suit and walking through downtown Detroit as a blues rock song is playing. Whoops, he loses his jacket. There goes his tie. He unbuttons his shirt and walks past a deserted warehouse. There go his shoes. I have a feeling that he's taking all of his clothes off. Nice job, HBO, let's cut right to the chase. Maybe "cut" isn't the right word. Seriously, folks, there are going to be a lot of those. I'll try to restrain myself. I'm right, he's taking them all off. So, Thomas Jane is stacked, yes? By the time he's out of all of his clothes, his ass is staring at us. He's at the end of a pier on a lake, then he jumps in. He's floating on his back and looks up and at that camera. We see that this episode is directed by Alexander Payne, then we cut to darkness.
There's an American flag! And a bouncy Aaron Copeland-esque score! The sky is so blue! And, there's a sports stadium that is being demolished, backed by Thomas Jane telling us that everything is falling apart. He tells us that it all started here in Detroit, the "headwaters of a river of failure." Wow. That is harsh and fancy. I've always been fascinated by Detroit (never been there) and I'm not sure why. Probably because it's so "American" and everyone I meet from Detroit is pretty cool. Did you know that you can buy a house in Detroit on eBay for like 75 cents? I'm not even kidding. Here's an image of a car being crushed. Oh, economy. Our narrator says the he's glad his parents aren't around to see everything turn to shit. They were "normal" Americans with "normal" jobs. His parents weren't pummeled by property taxes and homeowner associations and beauty queen ex-wives. Hmm, I think our narrator is revealing something about himself.
Now, we get our first glimpse of Thomas Jane. He's dressed in coach's garb (khakis and polo with school logo on it) and is walking hesitantly into a locker room. He VO's that his parents wouldn't give him any excuses for the way his life has turned out, if they were alive. They would tell him to get the job done, no excuses. You have to do the best with whatever God-given gifts you possess. I can wiggle my ears. Now, he's standing in front of a high school basketball team. He VO's that he tries to teach "his kids" (players as well as real kids?) the same thing. He shows them a picture of some weird insect -- a dung beetle. He explains that a dung beetle carries around his ball of shit all of the time. He eats it, sleeps with it, and talks to it at night. This is making me sick. He asks the players if they know what point he's getting at. "More man on man coverage?" "No Jerry." Well, Jerry's guess is just as good as anyone's. If someone could explain the goal of esoteric rhetorical questions, I'd really like to know. I mean, first of all, he's talking about a beetle. Who's really going to connect that with high school basketball? Maybe Dennis Miller. Second, he doesn't want them to answer correctly because it would ruin the impact of the speech. Not to mention, there's no correct answer anyway, because this is all going to be some crazy metaphor. So just GET ON WITH IT. Seriously, one of my least favorite things in the world. But, it does reveal that our protagonist may be a pretty clever thinker. Anyhoo, Thomas Jane tells us that, unlike the dung beetle, the team shouldn't be lugging their shit around with them, especially not on the court for their game this evening. He points out that shit happens -- one of the players' girlfriend just broke up with him, another dropped a weight on his foot, yet another will not be able to play on the team if he gets another bad day. In fact, just like last year, it looks like the team is going to get their teeth kicked in every week! This guy is really not hitting all of the notes required in a pep talk. He's grimacing a little and an assistant coach asks him if he's OK. He says that he is. He finishes by telling the team to leave their shit in the locker room and pretend that they're on the winning streak that they are going to start this evening.