HBO's "Hung" probably doesn't get too many people watching solely for its economic commentary (if it gets many people watching at all), but when the series premiered in 2009, the financial struggles of Ray (Thomas Jane) and Tanya (Jane Adams) grounded it in a way that made it seem about something more than just boy meets girl, girl pimps boy.
With season three this fall, however, that element has dropped out of the picture — at least for now. Ray is now flush with money, to the extent that he has gone from sleeping in a tent to finishing the rebuild of his house, buying a Mustang convertible and offering to loan a hunk of green to his ex-wife Jess (Anne Heche). In fact, there's a moment in Sunday's episode that shows Ray tossing another wad of money into a shoebox that he keeps hidden in his house, a moment that can't help a "Breaking Bad" fan from thinking of Walter White's bags of money beneath his floor.
The Ray-Walter comparison seems on target, because in both shows, the original motivation of needing the dough gave way to all kinds of issues of desire and ego, not to mention unsanctioned territorial battles. "Hung" definitely seems more interested now in what it means to succeed in an illegal trade than in the struggle to get one off the ground.
That's a natural enough evolution, but aside from my entirely subjective feeling that it's been a bit rushed on "Hung," it's also a bit of a risk, forcing it to rely more on the less rewarding conflict over who will be the supreme pimp-gigolo combo, Tanya-Ray or Lenore-Jason (Rebecca Creskoff-Stephen Amell). "Hung" has its strengths, but I'm not sure this is one of them — in part because "Hung" has not made Tanya or Lenore nearly as sympathetic or beguiling as their "Breaking Bad" counterparts, Aaron Paul's Jesse and Giancarlo Esposito's Gus. In "Breaking Bad," you're never sure whom to root for, while in "Hung," you almost don't want to root for anyone.
Except Ray. I would argue that the virtues of "Hung" are largely centered its lead character, who is inherently conflicted and yet fundamentally appealing. If anyone can make up for what seems to be a move into less relevant and rewarding territory, Ray can.