Awkward. review – 2×04: “Are You There God? It’s Me, Jenna”

After last week’s triangle take-over, Awkward. dials back the Jake (Brett Davern) vs Matty (Beau Mirchoff) drama to refocus on Jenna (Ashley Rickards). Does the show rediscover its mojo?
Let’s bitch it out…

I’m not an overly superstitious person, but I do believe in ‘the sophomore slump’ (in which the second season of an amazing television series pales in comparison to the first). I watched it happen with Desperate Housewives and got burned trying to introduce people to LOST, which took about five episodes getting to the goodies at the start of its second season. And while I’m not ready to write-off the second season of Awkward. I’m coming to grips with the fact that these first few episodes of S2 are not as strong as its first. But I fear that a few more episodes like these last few and we may have to reevaluate whether the show is, in fact, suffering from the aforementioned slump.

There’s a certain intangibility to my frustration. Much like a “gut feeling”, something just feels off. The laughs come a little less frequently. The storylines seem slightly less well balanced. The dialogue doesn’t quite crackle. And then there are the characters (whom I clearly know better than the showrunners and am therefore able to critique)…

One of my bigger frustrations – as I said last week – has been the Jake vs Matty drama. The love triangle was never my main reason for watching so the spotlight on the rom-com triangle in the first three episodes didn’t feel like the show was playing to its strengths. Admittedly I also preferred last season’s “mystery” involving the care-frontation letter as opposed to the anonymous blogger mystery of this season. Again, it’s possible that that will become more important, but thus far it occupies approximately five seconds of screentime per episode. That’s hardly substantial enough to do anything with.

Courtesy of MTV

And so we’re left with a “Halo’d bros and Biblical Hos” Christian getaway weekend episode, which is serviceable. The pep-talk by out-and-proud Clark (Joey Haro) is obvious, but nice – a solid character moment that would feel more genuine if Jenna actually needed lessons on how to turn a challenging experience into a personal victory (this is what the entire show is about!). The fact that Jenna subsequently bails on the camp during the Share Circle because Sadie picks on her feels very un-Jenna like. It’s yet another moment of character regression wherein Jenna points the blame needlessly at herself and I’m concerned there’s a narrative pattern emerging.

In the end we’re left with Jenna “more comfortable” with herself…for two seconds until her tentative truce with Matty evaporates when he checks out a new blonde freshmen crush. Inwardly I hoped it was simply the moment that the Jenna/Matty storyline took a break. Instead it appears that next week we’ll get 22 minutes of Jenna being jealous that Matty is moving on. Oh joy…

Other Observations:

  • Although we’re still getting a good dose of Sadie (Molly Tarlov), whose acerbic wit is so enjoyable, it feels like her character has regressed back to who she was in the first episodes of last season. What was the point of giving her the juicy dramatic/comedic moment with Matty in the second season premiere? Rather than have Matty go for the skinny, TV-safe blonde, why not explore Matty and Sadie as a couple? That’s far more interesting and full of dramatic conflict for everyone involved.
  • I’d wager that the best move the show has done in S2 has been to give Lissa (Greer Grammer) more to do. Grammer is a great comedic addition and her dumb-saintly-compassionate blonde is a great goofy counterpoint to the heavier subjects and tart comedy.
  • Unfortunately the show’s fixation on Tamara (Jillian Rose Reed) continues. Tamara has always been best in small doses and episodes that focus too much on her feel like they’re trying to develop a less funny, less successful spinoff. In this case, it’s much the same situation as the Tamara-heavy plotline from last week (sub Wesam Keesh’s Kyle for Ricky). This whole storyline simply isn’t funny to me, or at least not Tamara’s reaction (I enjoy Keesh’s flat line delivery). In a way Tamara – the girl – seems determined to make everything about her in much the same way that Tamara – the character – seems determined to make the show about her. Neither option is preferable.
  • I’d about ready to toss Valerie (Desi Lydic) into the same category as Tamara. I’m sorry to say that her schtick is also getting tired. All the scenes with mom Lacey (Nikki Deloach) are painfully awkward (and not in the good way): the idea that Valerie would hone in on Lacey’s absent husband is believable, but the ‘cliffnotes for dining alone’ as an attempt to get chummy and seek permission is beyond stupid. I’ll freely admit to a bias to most everything to do with this “newly separated” storyline because it still feels forced that Kevin is gone and it still feels disingenuous that Jenna wouldn’t be more upset (and not at herself).

Best Lines:

  • Valerie (overlooking why Jenna is telling her about the separation): “Your dad’s single?!”
  • Sadie (as Jenna boards): “Hobags are relegated to the back of the bus”
  • Clark (rationalizing why Jesus might be gay): “All that time in the desert with 12 dudes. Just sayin’”
  • Lyssa (hurrying back to the Share Circle): “If people have different interpretations of the bible, Christianity will never survive.”

And those are my thoughts on this week’s Awkward. What do you think, readers? Is the show on a rocky path this season or is it too early to pass judgment? Are you happy with the amount of Sadie, Lyssa, Tamara and Valerie we’re getting? And do you think that the show made a mistake with the separation storyline and Jenna constantly blaming/doubting herself? Grab the giant wooden GOD statue and share it out below!

Awakward. Airs Thursdays at 10:30pm EST on MTV

About cinephilactic

cinephilactic is a university contract instructor in Film Studies. He is an avid TV watcher, particularly science-fiction, fantasy and drama series. His favourite shows currently airing on TV include The Good Wife, Breaking Bad, Justified, Hannibal, Game Of Thrones and a smattering of shows on The CW. He has a tendency to "hate-watch" particular shows and likes to think that his sarcastic voice comes through in his reviews, though sometimes he's just being bitchy

One thought on “Awkward. review – 2×04: “Are You There God? It’s Me, Jenna”

  1. I hate the way Jenna talks to herself this season. Her facial contortions and eyebrow wagging is too obvious…it’s terrible acting on her part and I can’t believe the producers are all for it.

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