'Awkward' Review: Episode 'The Gift'
October 23rd, 2013 8:46am EDT
On the first half of season three, Awkward’s constantly worrying protagonist, Jenna, devolved from a thoughtful but invisible girl to an extremely unlikeable character. Her thoughts became solely about her own actions and feelings, lacking the empathy she felt in the first two seasons. Then she cheated on Matty, who spent the entire season proving that he was a fantasy boyfriend, with Collin, a guy who was mysterious to her simply because he took writing classes and cared about art. Way to be a cliché, Jenna.
Too bad the midseason premiere had to begin with everybody celebrating Jenna. It’s her 17th birthday. The people in her life, clearly oblivious to the self-involved monster she’s become, are desperate to find ways to make her happy. Jenna’s mom wants to throw her a surprise party to make up for all the ones she hasn’t been able to throw for years. But, of course, Jenna doesn’t appreciate the effort. Matty wants to her a photo from the artist she loved from the episode before. Meanwhile, Jenna continues to cheat and act like making out with a boy is as unavoidable as an alcoholic reaching for the beer.
Awkward is clearly trying to set up Jenna as an anti-hero. In a scene with her creative writing teacher, Mr. Hart, he spells out the intention. There’s a sort of joy audiences get out of watching an anti-hero fail. Only he says it in a very “Awkward” way: “Heinous skanks are a pleasure to read and ruin.” It couldn’t be clearer. This season will be about Jenna’s fall from grace and transformation into a selfish monster. The biggest question will be how she pulls herself out of the whole.
However, there’s a problem with Jenna being an anti-hero. Although the anti-hero genre is popular now, with the success of Breaking Bad and Mad Men, female anti-heroes have always had trouble working. It may be because female characters are held to a different standard. Or it may be, like in the case of Awkward, the writer’s didn’t spend enough time building a character outside of the anti-hero qualities. If Jenna is going to go down a dark road, we need to know what she’s doing it for. If it’s just out of teenage selfishness, that’s not fun to watch.
The show has always had its awkward moments. After all, it has to live up to its namesake. But the change in Jenna’s character and her actions are the first time the show has had truly cringeworthy moments. As if her multiple cheating moments and watching Matty be blissfully unaware of the pain that’s about to befall him weren’t painful enough, there’s no sting worse than that last scene. Once again, Jenna has found herself magnetically attached to Collin by the lips, but this time falling ass backwards into her own surprise party. There her friends, family, and boyfriend are to witness her secret shame. The real hurt has yet to come.
When Tamara keeps a big secret, the little secrets start to spill out. That’s how we get to know she has a yeast infection. Oh joy.
The best subplot was Ming’s turn as the new head bitch of the Asian mafia. With Becca out of the picture, her boyfriend Fred Woo can come back to school. Unfortunately, Ming is heading down the same road Becca once did. She’s abusing her powers by getting fire alarms pulled and free coffee at a moment’s notice. Fred is dubious about sticking with her while she slowly becomes Becca. However, if she gives up the power for him, Becca returns to power and he’ll have to leave again. That’s how you do star crossed lovers. It’s the perfect campiness this show needs right now.
Sadie: “We can write a story about the genesis of a girl who goes from heinous wallflower to hideous skank.” Mr. Hart: “So it’s an autobiographical piece.” Sadie: “Yes!”
“If you want to bully Miss Hamilton, do it online.” Mr. Hart has the best lines.
Photo Credits: MTV