Awkward. review – 2×12: ‘The Other Shoe’

Courtesy of MTV

MTV’s hit show Awkward. comes to a close after a very uneven second season with a finale episode that not only doesn’t satisfy, but basically wastes our time. It’s time to send creator Lauren Iungerich hate mail!

Let’s bitch it out…After twelve episodes, I can honestly say that Awkward. S2 has been a huge disappointment. I still like the witty banter and Jenna Hamilton (Ashley Rickards) remains a pretty awesome sassy teenager. But in terms of plotting and character development, S2 has suffered from one of the more dramatic sophomore slumps that I’ve seen in recent years.

S1 was all about Jenna’s on-again, off-again relationship with studmuffin Matty McKibben (Beau Mirchoff) and ended with a split-second decision to pursue a relationship with “nice guy” Jake (Brett Davern). It nicely set up the second season to explore the consequences of Jenna’s decision and establish a central conflict around the relationships between her and both boys. Unfortunately instead of exploring the interesting elements of these ramifications, creator Lauren Iungerich spent the majority of the first half of the season turning Jenna into an unlikable, petty, jealous harpy caught between two men. Things righted themselves somewhere in the middle but anytime the triangle regained the central focus, it threatened to capsize the show. Lost at the expense of this decision are the majority of the supporting cast, especially Ming (Jessica Lu) who was given juicy storylines only to see them discarded either for the triangle or for frustratingly one-note characters such as Tamara (Jillian Rose-Reed) and Val (Desi Lydic).

After last week’s blow-off episode – essentially a stop-holder until the finale – I expected that the triangle angle would dominate the final episode. Imagine my surprise then, to see that the opening of the episode essentially eliminate Jenna’s indecision by opening with her having already chosen Matty and reestablishing their relationship. On one hand this is nice because we don’t have to spend 22 minutes watching her waffle back and forth between the boys. One the other hand, though, by opening with all of this narrative ground covered, we’re all but removed from the decision. After spending an entire season waiting for Jenna to (inevitably) choose Matty, to simply open the episode with that decision already made and Jake being okay with it (?!) is incredibly frustrating. It’s as though Iungerich is admitting that she made a mistake and she wants to simply jump ahead. It’s as though Jenna making the decision and breaking it to the guys isn’t worthy of being included – despite the fact that we’ve been waiting for this for twelve frickin’ episodes!

Courtesy of MTV

Similarly the reveal that Clark (Joseph Haro) is the “Anonymous” commenter from Jenna’s blog is handled in such a random, matter-of-fact way that it feels incredibly anticlimatic. It’s been clear throughout most of the season that this is a less important “mystery” than the S1 care-frontation letter sender. Similar to the reveal that Jenna and Matty are already dating again, Clark’s status as ‘Anonymous’ makes sense, but the reveal itself feels like Iungerich realizing that she has yet to address the mystery, so she just slips it in randomly and then moves on. This leaves us with a sense of nonchalance: so Clark is “Anonymous.” Who cares? Apparently we’re not meant to, because it has no affect on anything at all.

The other fatal mistake that Iungerich makes with this finale: after choosing Matty, Jenna ends the episode doubting him because he embodies the same qualities that mom Lacey (Nikki Deloach) disliked in her ex-beau, Ben. Obviously we’re meant to associate Matty with Ben, and therefore identify him as the “wrong partner.” After a season of building him up as a worthy partner for Jenna, we close out the season – a finale filled with Jenna lamenting how awesomely good her life is, waiting for the sky to fall – deciding that her new/old boyfriend is bad (or an ill-fit) because he exhibits the same characteristics as her mom’s bad boyfriend. Well, thanks for wasting our investment in this relationship just so that you can pull the rug out from under us in the finale…

Other Observations:

  • Another huge disappointment: the random re-introduction of Kevin Wu (Kelly Sry)…solely so that he can dump Ming because he’s been “redistricted” to another school by Becca (an unseen Jessika Van). It’s a disappointing conclusion to a storyline that never really got off the ground. The fact that there’s merely a hint of revenge by Ming also feels like a wasted opportunity – is this going to be a continuing narrative in the third season? If so, that’s promising, though the show has thus far failed to follow-through on any of its outstanding narratives aside from those involving Jenna’s love-life
  • One development that I am kind of excited for: Jake and Tamara. If anyone is going to make Tamara more palatable, it’ll be Jake. I’m interested to see this develop…although again,if we consider the show’s track record, that may never happen
  • After weeks of slowly drifting apart, Sadie (Molly Tarlov) gets the brush-off from Ricky (an unseen Matthew Fahey) and eventually catches him in the closet making-out with Clark. It’s always strange when an actor isn’t available, but considering that this is the finale and the two have had such a tumultuous relationship, it’s yet another disappointment that the big reveal doesn’t actually involve any kind of confrontation. The break-up does give Molly Tarlov some scenes of heartache to play, though, which she knocks out of the park dramatically and comedically. After two seasons, it’s clear to me that Tarlov remains a key (underused) asset on the show
  • Same goes for Lissa (Greer Grammer), who always injects some humour and moves things along. Here’s hoping Iungerich finds more for Grammer to do in S3
  • In case anyone is wondering, Kevin (Mike Faiola) and Lacey are officially back together. This was more or less confirmed last week, but with this finale – after a full season – Jenna’s parents are back together

Best Lines:

  • Clark (to Sadie): “I’m not into bears”
  • Sadie (to Ricky after he misunderstands her on the phone): “No. Call me. Comma. Beefcake. You’re the beefcake”

Soooo…that was incredibly frustrating. Am I way off base with this assessment, or were you annoyed that we seem to be recycling the same old storylines? Are you excited for Jenna and Matty to be together, despite the fact that we’re already being told he’s no good for her? Is there a future for Jake and Tamara? And what do you want to see with the other supporting characters do? Hit the comments below

Awkward. has now finished its second season. It will return for an expanded twenty-episode third season next summer 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

2 thoughts on “Awkward. review – 2×12: ‘The Other Shoe’

  1. I have to say I agree with you on your assessment of season two. Sure, the comedy was entertaining but the love triangle was utterly mishandled. I was really disappointed with the whole season really. It began with Jenna’s indecision and ended with the exact same thing. We’ve done that, we’ve seen it all before. The whole story line just felt stale to me.
    I can’t say I’m really invested in any of the sub plots either. So what Ricky’s gay? It wasn’t that big of a leap really. And as for Clark being the mysterious anon? The epitome of a letdown.
    I think the time has come for me to bid Awkward goodbye. I could honestly say I was bored by episode 6.

    • I’m not ready to say goodbye because I really do love these characters, but I’ll be looking for Iungerich’s confirmation that she mishandled the situation and has a plan for S3, especially since it’s supersized to 20 episodes (which often causes significant narrative issues).

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