Vinyl, Ep. 1.05: “He in Racist Fire” turns up the heat

Vinyl, Season 1, Episode 5: “He in Racist Fire”
Written by Adam Rapp
Directed by Peter Sollett
Airs Sundays at 9pm on HBO

The revelation from last week’s episode of Vinyl was that the show can be hilarious when it wants to be. It was a necessary discovery, because Vinyl would eventually implode if it chose to wallow in the darkest elements of Richie’s attempt to save his record label. “He in Racist Fire” backs off a bit from that episode’s tone, but still retains a fair amount of the lightness. Rock music has to be fun, and this week the show figured out how to move back into a more serious element without totally diminishing the comedic parts.

Richie is desperate to discover new bands to lift up the label, but also to stock the new imprint that is still in need of a name. In addition to finding new bands, Richie absolutely needs to keep his biggest acts, in particular Hannibal. Richie arranges for Devon to accompany him at dinner with Hannibal and his secretary Cece. In the episode’s most interesting scene, Hannibal shows off his skills with anagrams, rearranging Devon and Cece’s names into seemingly meaningful phrases. Richie’s is darker and foreboding: “He in racist fire.” After dinner devolves into a coked-out dance party, Richie starts to panic when Devon’s dancing with Hannibal becomes increasingly sexual. When he drags Devon away he makes it clear that he’s not just threatened by another man’s advances, but by the fact that it’s a black man. Devon, who has just been playing a part to help Richie, gives up on the act and slaps Richie and walks away into the city. Richie betrays his old-fashioned mindset with Hannibal; it’s only the money that matters, not the champagne or the cocaine.

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