Review: ‘The Carrie Diaries’: Uncharted waters
Every week I pray each new episode of ‘The Carrie Diaries’ will be a return to the perfectly paced structure and downright pleasant storytelling of the pilot, and every week I’m disappointed. I recognize that I am at fault for allowing my expectations to get the better of me – a seasoned television viewer – but the show is at fault for setting the bar so damn high.
Though Carrie mostly remains a shining jewel this week (no pun intended), the show still falters in its clumsy attempts to service the rest of the characters. So far the only subplot that has had any real meat to it has been Walt’s ongoing struggle with his sexual identity, but this week that story is relegated to the sidelines. His continued sexual relationship with Maggie is referenced in a few select scenes, but none that require a lot of intense discussion.
As a whole, this episode seems to suffer from a case of High Ambition, No Follow Through. The show attempts to raise several interesting points, but ultimately fails in its execution of how it deals with those points. Carrie faces a new foe who only changes her opinion of her once she realizes she knew her mother, and Mouse’s boyfriend is kind of a douche bag. Both of these are flaws in an uneven script.
Let’s talk about Carrie first. In an attempt to move on from Baby Fish Mouth, she accepts a goofy looking guy’s invitation to a high society dinner – The Jewel Dinner, where everyone wears sapphire, ruby or emerald, except for the host who wears white and is a hoity-toity bitch of a woman named Kick. Yes, Kick. Goofy Looking Guy is the son of Max Medina (Good Looking Dad’s friend) and Hoity-Toity Bitch, and Carrie calls him out on his pretentiousness. Which he and I both enjoy immensely.
This storyline provides ample room for character development, but not for Carrie, though it does allow for several shining moments in which she declares, “This is me and I don’t care if you like me or not. Suck it, losers,” (I might be paraphrasing). No, the real development comes before the party actually happens. Her boss, Barbara, who up until this point has merely existed as a roadblock to antagonize Carrie, becomes a pleasant confidant as she helps Carrie prepare for the party. She begins to see Carrie as a hard working individual – as an actual person, really – instead of her minion.
The party itself goes as one would assume: everyone looks down on Carrie because she’s from the suburbs and therefore a lower lifeform unworthy of stepping foot into the world of art and haute couture. Carrie, as previously mentioned, resists the urge to throw her drink in their faces and declares that just because she’s not from Manhattan doesn’t make her less of a person, it just makes her not from Manhattan.
Goofy Looking Guy decides that he likes Carrie because she’s not part of that world, and once his mother, Hoity-Toity Bitch, realizes she knew Carrie’s mother Way Back When, her entire stance on her son dating Carrie changes. Up until that point she had been vehemently against Carrie’s existence in her home, let alone as someone her son might be interested in. But once that knowledge bomb is dropped, she becomes the sweet loving nostalgia machine that foils the entire storyline.
Making Hoity-Toity Bitch sympathetic to Carrie is just another symptom of her bitchiness. Once she realizes that Carrie isn’t the equivalent of bird excrement and is, in fact, the daughter of a friend who used to be a Manhattanite, she decides she’s worthy. The woman hasn’t changed her opinion of Carrie based on Carrie, she’s changed it based on status. “You’re Carrie Bradshaw,” she says at one point, as if her last name is Coppola or Barrymore. And the fact that Carrie eats up her sudden fondness is bothersome to say the least. While it’s sweet that she was able to learn a little bit more about her mother, she shouldn’t have been so quick to excuse the woman’s prior rudeness. She insulted Carrie to her face, and Carrie should have stood up for herself at that moment just like she had moments before.
While Carrie’s battling Kick and Blythe (Goofy Looking Guy’s ex-girlfriend, naturally) in Manhattan, her friends are busy holding down the fort (literally in Maggie’s case as Donna LaDonna and her motley crew attempt to take over the diner) in Connecticut.
As the show continues its quest to find ways to integrate the rest of the characters into the fabric of the show, viewers are subjected to another chapter of the Mouse and Wannabe Seth Cohen saga. (Side note: I really cannot be the only person getting a Seth Cohen/Adam Brody vibe, right? I mean, aside from sharing a name, the character’s body language and hair remind me of of the once and future holder of my heart. Don’t get me wrong, Wannabe Seth Cohen is nowhere near as adorable or lovable as the real deal – I kind of hate him, actually – but please tell me I’m not alone in this?)
This storyline is where the episode breaks down. And where I begin to hate this show. Mouse, afraid that she is bad at sex, asks Walt – the only guy she knows or feels comfortable with – for help. This is amusing as a viewer because Walt just lost his virginity last week – and because he’s actually secretly gay. But whatever. She asks him for help, and he shows her a HOW TO VIDEO. I’m sorry, what? A how to sex video – not porn, but an actual instructional video. Do these actually exist? Someone research this and report back. I’m not even going to go into the fact that Mouse and Walt watch the video together and that Mouse actually takes notes during it. But that’s what happens and I needed you to know.
Apparently whatever was on that video was some damn good advice, because Wannabe Seth Cohen is in awe of Mouse’s new-found sexual skills. But he assumes that her skills have come as a result of her having had sex with another man, and he blurts out that he had sex while the two were broken up. And with more than one person. And here’s where this episode completely baffles me.
The show attempts to form a commentary on the double standard of women having multiple sexual partners and being labeled slutty, while men can have multiple partners but be labeled as a sex god. But it fails horribly when it has Wannabe Seth Cohen become increasingly jealous of this supposed other man who experienced Mouse’s ladybits, as if he’s the only man who should have claim to them, despite the fact he slept with not one, but two other people. Mouse doesn’t want to look like a fool and so she doesn’t deny his incorrect assumption until Wannabe Seth Cohen meets Walt at the diner the next day and loses his cool.
This storyline had promise, but instead it makes Mouse look weak and it glorifies rather than criticizes the double standard. Mouse accepts that her boyfriend slept with two other women, and the show simply writes it off as “We were broken up!” They allow her boyfriend to be let off the hook because he was jealous of another man. No, no, no. Just no. I’m not normally one to go on a feminist rant, so I won’t do it here, but this was a horribly executed storyline.
This show still shines in its innate innocence, a welcome reprieve from the over the top teen dramas of the last ten years, but if it doesn’t figure out a way to work the friends’ storylines in with Carrie’s, or find a way to make them more interesting, the show is going to falter. Carrie can only carry the show so far. The other characters need to step up and accept their share of the burden.
Some stray observations:
- Baby Fish Mouth moved on quite quickly to Donna LaDonna, yeah? Last week the writers attempted to show us that he was more than just a pretty face, but this week he’s basically a douche.
- This was the first episode without Martha Jones. And the show didn’t lose anything by it. Interesting. No Young Dana Brody either.
- Good Looking Dad lost his wedding ring, hit a woman with his car and now has a potential new love interest. Because of course he does.
- Carrie got her driver’s license, after nearly running Baby Fish Mouth over.
So what did you guys think? Did you miss Martha Jones? Where is all the super cool ’80s fashion? Did you fail your driver’s test the first time too?
Note: Photo courtesy of The CW.