After a rocky start in which the second season of Awkward. focused entirely too much on the love triangle between Jenna (Ashley Rickards), Jake (Brett Davern) and Matty (Beau Mirchoff), the last few episodes have completely rebounded into the heartfelt show that we know and love. Not going to lie, I may have even shed a tear or two.
Let’s bitch it out…I’m going to start with a broad claim: ‘Pick Me, Choose Me, Love Me’ is a stand-out episode in Awkward.‘s second season. A great deal happens, and yet the episode doesn’t feel particularly showy so much as well-paced, well-constructed and genuinely emotional. I’ve had issues with particular
caricatures characters for the last two seasons – namely Lacey (Nikki Deloach), Val (Desi Lydic) and Tamara (Jillian Rose Reed) – but 2×10 did a great job of balancing their quirks and, in one case, incorporating their neuroses in such a way that they became integral players in the drama.
The biggest moment for me, the one that moved me into misty-eyed territory, is the climax when Jenna “chooses” her mother by crawling into bed with her and singing her a lullaby. This could have been an incredibly schmaltzy moment, but the show pulls it off perfectly. With the additional attention focused on Lacey in this episode, it feels like Awkward. is finally playing to this character’s strengths. Yes, Lacey is shallow and narcissistic, but she’s also a mother who genuinely loves her daughter. The Lacey storyline proves to us that she’s a human being, a woman who has been made to suffer for a moment of weakness that occurred before the series even began when she tuned into her mother instead of tuning out. It’s interesting to hear about the “why” Lacey wrote the care-frontation letter, because – if we use the show’s chronology – we’ve never met Lacey before she committed this act. Her actions before we even knew her have shaded all of her interactions, to the point that it becomes very easy to call her a monster, or a b*tch or even a bad mother. Watching Lacey try to put on a brave face after a series of calls that do just that not only communicates how pervasive Jenna’s blog has become, but more importantly, it humanizes Lacey in a recognizable and empathetic way. No matter what we think about Lacey’s decision to write the care-frontation letter, we sympathize with her in this moment.
All of which builds to a powerfully emotional moment at the end of the episode. Whereas we may have been expecting Jenna to come to a decision about her boys, she makes the mature decision to put her mother first. I definitely teared up as Lacey submitted to her daughter’s arms and the song – a lullaby used to put Jenna to sleep as a baby. Perhaps together these two can forgive, but not forget their own drama.
Regardless, it is with the decision to make her mother the “hero” that finally heralds the return of the Jenna that has been absent for much of the second season. Here is the girl who genuinely cares about people other than herself, who is compassionate and warm and intelligent and starkly emotional. This is the protagonist that drew me into the show in the first place. In the words of Chelsea Handler: Welcome back, Jenna, I’ve missed you girl!
- As hinted at by Ally in 2×07 ‘Another One Bites The Dust’ & 2×08 ‘Time After Time’, we learn some important truths about Mike Faiola’s Kevin. Principle among the revelations? Kevin was no white knight early in his relationship with Lacey. This reveal is integral to Jenna’s relationship with both of her parents because she – and we by proxy – have long blamed Lacey and sided with Kevin, even in matters beyond the care-frontation letter. Kevin’s admission that he wasn’t always around and that the lullaby he sang to baby Jenna is actually Lacey’s reveals that a lot of the goodwill we’ve assigned him is due to his compensating for being a lousy dad early on. Perhaps it’s time we all began forgiving Lacey?
- Speaking of the other caricatures, I found the use of both Val and Tamara spot-on. Naturally Tamara would be over-the-moon that her witticisms have been adopted around the school due to the popularity of Jenna’s blog. This is an example of how to use Tamara: a little dollop to infuse the show with manic energy and then she’s gone. I also loved how Val’s terrible perkiness and joke-telling went over like a bomb in French class. It’s helpful to remind us that Val is a bit of a social leper – this way we know we’re not alone in thinking she’s an idiot, which reinforces why her relationship to Jenna is so important to her. Jenna accepts Val and her ridiculousness, whereas she is simply tolerated by others
- Nicely tying into last week’s ’blog gone mad world’, all of the school set scenes focus on Jenna’s new found notoriety: Sadie (Molly Tarlov) is taking heat for being mean, Ming (Jessica Lu) is back in the good graces of the Asian Mafia because Becca is scared sh*tless of her association to Jenna and – of course – everyone has an opinion on Team Jake or Team Matty. Considering how much weight everyone assigns Jenna’s choice of future boyfriend, there’s remarkably little for Davern or Mirchoff to do. Their scene singing each other’s praises is about it
- I do love that the boys rekindle their friendship after watching French realist filmmaker Francois Truffaut’s Jules et Jim. It’s not a film for everyone, folks, but if it attains some extra attention thanks to the show, that’s a nice public service
- Can we bring back the Julies on a regular basis? I see recurring character status in their future
- Finally, Sadie vs the potential herpes: using hoodies to cover her lower lip = funny. Not actually following through with her dumping Rickey (thereby condemning his womanizing ways) = disappointing. I like that this storyline has given Tarlov more to do, but I’d prefer Awkward. get moralistic and ditch Rickey. Not only does he fail to add anything to the series, but the show makes it seem like the way he acts is okay and I am not a fan of that message. Feel free to chat that out in the comments
- Greer Grammer’sLissa (to Sadie, about Jenna’s blog): “You gotta give her credit. She can spell.”
- Val (complimenting Jenna’s life): “You have friends, a bro-down and a very nice way with words – because I devoured every last one of them”
That’s it for this week. What did you think of the episode? Shed a little tear at the mother-daughter duet? Surprised to hear that Kevin was a bit of a dead-beat dad early on? Happy with the fall-out from the blog gone viral? Want Rickey gone permanently? Want the Julies back in recurring-ly? (Clearly I will be getting no compliments on my “way with words”) Talk it out below!
Awkward. airs Thursdays at 10:30pm EST on MTV