Review: ‘Hart of Dixie’: Second verse, same as the first
According to TVLine (among other prominent entertainment news websites), ‘Hart of Dixie’ is a lock for a third season. And apparently once this became clear, the writers decided it was a good time to go on holiday and let the interns limp to the finish line, because the last two episodes have been very weak when compared to the engaging and fun first half of the season.
Truthfully, I didn’t mind last week’s episode as much as some of you did. The writing was definitely sub par, but I was just happy to have Bluebell back in my life after such a long hiatus that I let it slide. The spring breakers were loud and annoying, but Lemon and Wade competing for the boat was fun, and Wade proving once again that his heart is bigger than anyone ever gives him credit for was enough to salvage the episode. The only thing that could have saved this week’s episode would have been a shirtless Wilson Bethel and the scientific technology for cloning.
The problem that plagued this week’s episode is that it was a rehashing of everything we saw in season one. And in case you’ve forgotten, while the first season had some definite highlights, it was not even close to perfect.
The writers are still trying to force their Gagenda on us even though George seems happy with Tansy and isn’t spending all his time on his houseboat thinking about our favorite New York transplant. Sure, there was the odd scene regarding the New York Times no longer being sold at the Dixie Stop, but let’s be real – Zoe doesn’t read the newspaper, and if she did, I can guarantee she wouldn’t be reading the New York Times. She seems more like a New York Post kind of girl. And also, if it was that important to her, she would just read it online. I mean, what does she do the other days of the week since the Dixie Stop only got it once a week? Did she sit at home and mumble to herself, “God, if only there was a way to read the news on the computer. Guess I’ll just have to play hide and seek with Burt Reynolds and wait for [insert day of the week here]?” No, of course not. And for the record, there’s an app for the NYT crosswords – so come on, writers, at least pretend to try.
The other reason that scene came off as awkward and forced is that George is only ever seen enjoying New York-y things when the writers need to prove that George and Zoe are a believable relationship. It’s a crutch, and one they’ve gone back to one too many times now. George’s relationship with New York was fleeting. He left the city to return to Lemon, but he didn’t pack up and leave the second their engagement was called off. In fact, references to George’s love affair with NYC have been few and far between this season and it’s because it wasn’t that meaningful to who his character was anymore. New York was his past, but it’s not his present and it sure as hell isn’t his future. The writers didn’t mention it until now because the story didn’t need to create a false bond between the two characters when Zoe and Wade were together. And for the record, a fondness for reading newspapers and Woody Allen films is not a foundation for a relationship. So if the writers want us to even contemplate the idea of a relationship between George and Zoe, they need to find something more solid to bring them together. And they should also call up Walter White to teach them some chemistry, because Zorge have zero.
The final piece of this messed up Gagenda puzzle is of course, Tansy. Poor girl, the writers couldn’t settle for dragging both Zoe and George through the mud this week, they had to bring her along too. It’s not exactly uncommon for a television character to insist their significant other kiss someone else in order to prove they don’t have feelings for them, but it’s one trope that I’ve never really understood. It’s contrived and stupid and not at all something someone would do in real life. But more importantly, it always leads to the two characters breaking up down the road, and it actually makes the insistent character look like the bad guy when the relationship implodes.
The most obvious example of this came in 1998 when Cory (Ben Savage) met another woman (Linda Cardellini) on a ski trip and kissed her on ‘Boy Meets World’. Topanga (Danielle Fishel) later insisted that Cory go on a date with the girl to see how he felt about her. But even though Cory realized that no matter what he ever felt for any other woman, it would never compare to how much he loved and cared about Topanga, it didn’t matter. In the end Topanga could not forgive Cory for actually going on the date, telling him, “I never needed to test my feelings for you. I moved away from my parents in Pittsburgh to be close to you. Ever since we were little kids I felt like I belonged with you. And I would have given you everything… I forgive you. I forgive you for lying at the lodge. I forgive you for kissing her and I forgive you for the letter… but that you needed to see her to test how you felt about me, I don’t forgive you for that, Cory.”
As an 11-year-old girl at the time, that episode hit me hard. It stuck with me. And as I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that it stuck with many of my peers as well. Cory and Topanga were The Couple in 1998, the young couple who loved each other so deeply that even the most jaded of 11-year-olds believed that love could conquer all. It also led to a lot of delusions that I’d meet my soul mate in the 6th grade, but it’s 15 years later and I can tell you that most assuredly did not happen. Anyway, Topanga and Cory broke up over this, and much like Ryder Strong’s Shawn Hunter, I was devastated. It doesn’t matter that their breakup led to my favorite episode of the show (Jennifer Love Fefferman! They killed Kenny!), they broke up and Linda Cardellini now has to live in a world in which she will not be remembered for ‘Freaks and Geeks’ or her current role on ‘Mad Men’, but for being the other woman that led to the Cory and Topanga Break Up of ’98.
Anyway, what that really long tangent is leading to is this: the entire Tansy/George/Zoe storyline in tonight’s episode was wrong, wrong, wrong. But unfortunately, the break up that is coming (though I am hoping I am wrong) isn’t even the worst product of this storyline. No, the worst part is that it makes Tansy a weak character, one that is so insecure in her relationship that she must constantly be reassured of George’s feelings for her. And while that’s actually in line with who Tansy is given her unfortunate history of always dating jackasses (yes, Wade included), it’s unfortunate that the writers would ruin an otherwise likeable and fun character this way. Tansy and George were a good couple, each bringing out the best in the other, but the writers seem to be set on driving the show into the ground by forcing contrived plot developments down our throats.
Not even Wade Kinsella and Lemon Breeland’s Adventures in Restauranting could save this episode. In fact, their B storyline was almost as aggravating because it brought out the worst sides of both characters. Of course, it’s possible it would have been better received had it been paired with a more likable A storyline, but Lemon came across shrill and controlling and Wade came off as horny and, well, horny.
After the kitchen and wait staff quit in the wake of Lemon and Wade buying the restaurant, the two were forced to sit through a rather depressing montage of applicants. Lemon, of course, wanted to hire the fancy chef with the impressive resumé, while Wade wanted to hire the sexy waitress with a nice rack. Neither wanted to hire the guy who cooked roadkill. But the problem is that this is the Rammer Jammer and the chef Lemon hired couldn’t cook grits and the waitress wasn’t 19, the minimum age to be able to serve alcohol. In the end, everything turns out OK because this is The CW, but it didn’t do anything to advance the plot or develop the characters.
The one shining moment of the entire episode came towards the end when after Zoe kissed George while they portrayed Romeo and Juliet (and Zoe, once again, ruined a town event because her life is kind of the worst), Zoe told Wade that he really messed her up. He acknowledged his part in making Zoe an emotional mess and gave her a very sincere apology. And if the writers want to know what natural chemistry looks like, they only need to look at this one 30 second scene, because it felt more genuine and real than any of the earlier Zoe and George scenes. It doesn’t matter that Zoe claimed she felt nothing when she kissed George (she made this pronouncement to George, so that was weird), because as soon as she found out Tansy would be living with George for awhile (Tom and Wanda’s bees took up residence in her trailer – Zoe’s fault, don’t ask), Zoe had her “Oh, shit, I’m conflicted again” look on her face.
We just can’t win, guys.
Some stray observations:
- Lavon had an unfortunately bad performance in a middle school theater production and it has been haunting him ever since. Because it was mental health week, Brick suddenly became a therapist and acted like a nut job himself. Whatever. Lavon ended up putting on a great performance with Annabeth and any scene that lets Lavon and Annabeth be adorable is basically the best, so.
- There is something wrong with Brick and he’s been avoiding Shelby for a week. For everyone who thought he looked a little too happy and his response about being fine was a little too rehearsed last week, you were right. Something bad is happening to our other favorite doctor.
What did you guys think? Are you underwhelmed by the return of the Zoe and George mess? Do you like the Lemon and Wade dynamic? Why did everyone have to have really bad hair in the Shakespeare event – they didn’t even have curling irons and crimpers back then.
Note: Photo courtesy of The CW.