After an episode that hinted towards Josh’s status as a less-than-nice person, “Gang Keow Wan” actively forces Josh to question his moral qualities after a date walks out on him, stating that what he wants is someone nice and kind… And that Josh isn’t him.
(Something that would probably hurt more if Josh didn’t then have so much delicious vegetarian food to wallow in.)
But it’s not just Josh getting his feelings hurt this episode, with Niamh and Rose also getting painful facts made clear to them when Niamh is finds out about Tom’s new, high school-aged girlfriend, and Rose learns about the married status of her new love interest at the hospital.
It doesn’t sound, based on the events of the episode that I’ve just described, like anyone in the show is particularly good, but rather than the characters then being bad, they just seem (as Niamh calls Tom) a little bit pathetic. A friend recently described Please Like Me as a show with incredibly low stakes, and it’s for this reason that Tom doesn’t really seem all that terrible when he screws around with Niamh; nor Josh when he aggravates his date. They just seem, like everyone else in Please Like Me, the usual sort of hopeless that this show enjoys following around. On the ABC2 website for the show, the synopsis reads as this: “In series two, Josh tries to get through the day without upsetting anyone. There’s a new dog, a new rabbit and a new baby. There’s no big twist. It isn’t Lost.” The show itself admits that it’s low-stakes, which is why Josh can spend an entire episode asking both Claire (who announces she’s coming back next week over Skype!) and then Patrick, in increasingly harried tones, if he is, indeed, a “nice person”.
Please Like Me isn’t Lost. The show isn’t gritty or tense, just excitingly – and somehow thrillingly – casual. It takes a lingering look at one young man’s life in Melbourne, from his more stupid musings (why are pedestrians so happy?) to his sometimes genuine concerns about the state of his public perception. Josh asks if he’s nice from what perhaps seems like an egotistical perspective, but it’s not hard to see that he genuinely wants to know, and is clearly worried about the answer.
So when he’s on his way to his mother’s hospital choir performance (which, by the way – I can’t believe I didn’t notice this earlier – seems to be replicating a school more and more each episode, with its hospital social cliques, the giggling during therapy classes, and, of course, the schoolyard crush that has turned sour) Patrick reassures Josh that he’s not a bad person – and seals it with a kiss.
…And then, of course, Josh needs to pee so badly that he ends up wetting himself, and they skip the performance, his guilt clear on his face as he showers afterwards. I’m a good person, on my way to see a shit choir to cheer up my sick mum, he had told Patrick on the car ride to the hospital – but he didn’t end up making it. Josh isn’t a bad person, but that isn’t, sadly, a fact that anyone else can convince him of, as can be seen from the look on his face as he stands in the shower at the end of the episode. He hopes that he’s good, but he can’t be sure, not when the evidence is starting to mount up against him, as it does for everyone, eventually.
But like I said: Please Like Me is a fairly low stakes show. Josh isn’t especially bad or good- he’s just Josh. Besides, I think it’s Tom that we all need to worry about, after he wins back his concerningly young girlfriend with a new pet rabbit for them to parent together, because Claire is coming back next week, and Tom is so, so weak.
Much like Josh, that doesn’t necessarily make him a bad or good person, just someone that’s trying to get through the day, as the show itself is trying to show us.