Review: ‘Hart of Dixie’: No pain, no gain
There are three times during a normal TV season (and a fourth over the summer) in which we can expect our shows to be both outrageously depressing and insanely uplifting. The folks in the business call this SWEEPS. Every November, February, May and July, TV writers pull out all the stops for these intense ratings months because the more emotional the episodes, the higher the chances are of more people tuning in. We are a culture who thrives on drama and TV writers and the people who work at Nielsen know this.
During sweeps it is not uncommon for people to die, get married, have kids or break up. Hopefully not in that order – because what kind of backward zombie weird crap is that? – and hopefully not all on one show because my body can only take so much drama before it collapses. But these are things that happen. On Valentine’s Day ‘The Vampire Diaries’ [SPOILER] killed Jeremy Gilbert. Now, this isn’t exxacccctly surprising on a show in which half of the cast who appeared in the first season is no longer on the show, but it’s still a ratings ploy. And I’m going to go ahead and chalk the events of last night’s “Hart of Dixie’ up to a ratings ploy as well.
Last night viewers experienced both sides of the emotional spectrum as Tom and Wanda attempted to be the Ben and Leslie of Bluebell (i.e. stage a very quick wedding because they couldn’t stand not being married one second longer) and Zoe and Wade broke up.
That sound you just heard? Yeah, that’s the sound the Internet makes when a million fangirls have their hearts ripped out simultaneously by cruel and evil TV writers. All that’s left when they’re done is a big gaping hole where a million hearts used to be. But I’m here to put on my analysis cap and attempt to explain how this break up, despite being unbearably depressing – for Zoe, for Wade, and for each and every one of us who calls themselves a Zade fan – will eventually turn out OK.
It won’t be easy, because we’re going to have to put up with a lot of other stuff, primarily a lot of Dating Other People, but the end result will be much sweeter for everyone involved. I have faith – and I’m basing this faith on years of television viewership and the typical paths shows like ‘Hart of Dixie’ take over the course of their lifetimes – that Zoe and Wade will not only get back together, but will most likely be a couple at the end of the show (barring some unforeseen circumstances, like The CW not reading my blog every week and not renewing a show that is the closest they’ve ever come to replicating everything that was good about The WB).
But in order to get to this wonderful world of bliss, we’re going to have to buy in to the idea that it’s not the big moments that count (the breakup), but what comes after them (personal journeys) and how our characters react to them (character development) that matter.
To put this into the context of a beloved WB show that shares many things in common with ‘Hart of Dixie’, Wade Kinsella is, for all intents and purposes, the Jess Mariano of Bluebell, Alabama.
Late in December I made a handy score card comparing the world of the Gilmore girls to the world of Zoe Hart, and in case you missed it then, I’ve included it below.
Wade and Jess are both two terribly flawed individuals who were shaped by their environment. They were forced by their parents to essentially raise themselves and so it’s not exactly a surprise that they turned out with a thousand and one insecurities. They had no role models in their lives and they never really knew what it meant to love and be loved in return. And this is why they both struggle with accepting the love and support of their respective women.
In terms of Jess’ problems on ‘Gilmore Girls’, he failed a grade and was unable to take Rory to prom. Instead of talking to her about the problems in his life, he acted out, made poor decisions and picked a fight with
Sam Winchester Dean Forester. He pushed Rory too far and then instead of dealing with the fallout, he chose to cut and run. In the character’s defense, the show needed a way to write him out because he was going to get his own spinoff, but the truth of the matter remains the same: he was an insecure teenager who didn’t know how to handle the problems of his life and so he chose the coward’s way out.
Wade has shared a similar path on ‘Hart of Dixie’, and I won’t rehash it all, because this post is already on track to be fairly lengthy, but Wade is insecure about who he is and has spent the better part of his life living in a constant state of never feeling like he’s good enough. He doesn’t think he’s good enough for Zoe, a trained surgeon from New York, or to have friends like Lavon and George, who both have what society deems to be respectable professional lives. But the real problem is that he doesn’t think he is good enough or smart enough to start his own business. And these are products of being raised in an environment that wasn’t conducive to personal growth or self-confidence.
It’s not to say that in order to be a well adjusted and secure individual one must have been raised by two parents who not only love each other, but support each other and their children. It’s not say that Wade needed to have his good behavior and accomplishments constantly reinforced, but when there is no one around to contradict his feelings of inadequacy, it makes sense that he thinks they’re really true.
And what this character analysis is leading to is this: Wade cannot become the man Zoe wants until he’s ready to accept that he wants it too. He has to have a reason to want to change his current situation. As long as he continues to live his life without confronting his deep personal issues, then he’ll never be happy and he won’t be able to have a real relationship with Zoe.
It’s true Wade has made small steps to address his insecurities and grow up – he’s changed considerably from the show’s pilot – but he isn’t there yet. Wade needs to want to change for himself, not for Zoe. And if his breakup is the catalyst for that change, then screw it, guys, I am all for this breakup.
On ‘Gilmore Girls’, Jess returned in season four to declare his love for Rory … and then he ran away like a little girl. He still wasn’t ready to face the music. It was a big stride for him to admit his feelings, but the show and the character weren’t there yet. He returned again to ask Rory to run away with him, and she told him no. Rightfully so. He wasn’t ready yet.
It wasn’t until season six that Jess returned to Rory’s life, and it was to tell her, “Hey, guess what? I finally got my shit together.” And he proved this because he grew up, he addressed the problems in his life and he rectified them. He set his mind to his dream and he wrote a book, and then he showed it to Rory to tell her that he couldn’t have done it without her, because she was the one person who believed in him. All those times that Rory denied Jess a return to her life were necessary so he could ultimately reach the nadir of his journey and start working toward its zenith.
I see this breakup between Zoe and Wade as the catalyst for the change we all want to see Wade make. We want Wade to address his insecurities and figure out his life and then write his own book (to be clear, that is a metaphor for opening his own bar). As much as we hate to admit it, because we all adore sweet, sweet Wade, nothing that happened in last night’s episode was out of character for him. Did he regress a bit? Yes, and that hurts. Did it kind of come out of nowhere? Very much so. The two characters only got together two months ago. But if we’re going to be subjected to heartbreak, I’d prefer Wade gets a jump start on addressing his insecurities than wait for them to blow up in an even more spectacular fashion.
To quote another beloved WB/CW show, “I think we have a choice. And I think we can take a tough but survivable amount of pain now, or stay together and deal with unbearable pain later. So, I vote for the pain now.” The wise man behind those words? One of TV’s most complicated and complex characters, Logan Echolls on ‘Veronica Mars’.
And so, folks, I too vote for the pain now. I want nothing more than for Zoe and Wade to stay together, but this breakup was inevitable, whether it happens now or whether it happens six weeks or six months from now. And I’ve been struggling with Wade’s inability to address his insecurities for the last season and a half. I’d really like to see him make some progress. And you should too.
To be clear, there’s still a big gaping black hole where my heart used to be, but if the product of this breakup is that Wade opens up his bar and makes things right by Zoe, then I’ll accept it. I don’t have to enjoy watching Zoe and Wade date other people, in fact, I’m already drawing mustaches on that other Breeland doctor (hey, I never said I was mature), but I do ultimately understand how this could be seen as a positive. Also, no one’s head is on fire. So there’s that too.
Some stray observations:
- Tom and Wanda got married. Zoe was maid of honor and Wade was awkwardly the best man. The women were dressed as elves and the men Jedis. And it is a testament to Wilson Bethel that I didn’t spend every second hanging my head in embarrassment for Wade that he had to sit on that park bench and beg Zoe to forgive him in a JEDI COSTUME.
- Lemon and Annabeth have seemingly come to an understanding – they’re relationship isn’t perfect – but before I can really give an opinion on this development, I’ll need to rewatch the episode. Zoe and Wade kind of took priority over their friendship for me. It’s hard to concentrate with a broken heart!
- As for George? I think the writers have really found a way to play toward Scott Porter’s strong suits. I love the way his character has changed this season. And that’s saying something, because he was my least favorite part of the first season. Please continue to make George do crazy weird things. Or play the straight man to the rest of the weird towns people. It works both ways. Just let him be George.
- New friendship alert! Tansy has suddenly become more fond of our favorite doctor because they share a similar pain – they’ve both been hurt by Wade Kinsella. As someone who’s bonded over with another woman over a shared ex, I can definitely tell you this kind of therapy works. Because when you complain about them and dissect them after the breakup, they know exactly what you’re talking about and feeling. Yay new friends!
Note: Photo courtesy of The CW.