Review: ‘Hart of Dixie’: A lesson in misdirection
Alternate title: “The one in which George Tucker finally grows a pair and becomes instantly more likeable.”
Writing television and writing reviews go hand in hand. There’s really only so far you can go with the latter when the former refuses to change. Up until the last few minutes, I was ready to write off this week’s episode as yet another misstep in a long line of misjudged humor and drama. Another weak outing for what started as a promising sophomore season.
When ‘Hart of Dixie’ is running on all cylinders, the wonderful individual pieces all come together neatly to form a quirky, funny and endearing romantic comedy. But it seems that since the writers broke up the chemistry-rich star crossed lovers Zoe and Wade, the show hasn’t been able to find solid ground. What makes romantic comedies so popular is that viewers identify with the protagonist and want to see her do well and succeed. Her flaws are flaws that can be found in any one of us if we look hard enough, but she will eventually overcome them and find happiness. But Zoe Hart isn’t a deep enough well for that kind of introspection and so far we haven’t seen any character development, a reward for our continued efforts. And that’s why most romantic comedies stick to feature films whose story can be told in two hours.
When a story is drawn out on television, there has to be forward momentum of some sort, otherwise you have a lopsided story that no one wants to read or watch. Subsequent episodes have shown Zoe making poor decision after poor decision, and though we’re supposed to see this and accept her behavior as that of someone who’s just had their heart ripped out of their chest like they’re on ‘The Vampire Diaries’ and not a charming southern dramedy, it never really works because Zoe isn’t a likable character. Her selfishness isn’t balanced out with a redeeming quality.
When a show’s creator has to come out and specifically tell her audience how viewers are supposed to be interpreting the protagonist’s actions, that is a red flag. It makes sense that Leila Gerstein wants her audience to stick around through the season finale and a third season should the show be renewed, but good shows stand on their own without this sort of just wait mentality.
The majority of tonight’s episode was typical ‘Hart of Dixie’ flair. George and Tansy faced another bump in the road when her three idiot brothers came to town. This was just an excuse for George to prove how much he cares for our favorite hair stylist, but it was probably the least offensive of the storylines in that it gave Scott Porter plenty of opportunities to play the straight man, which is what he’s best at here.
Meanwhile, Lemon and Wade clashed over what they both thought was the best fit for the new Rammer Jammer, a parlor room complete with hideous settee or a big screen TV for the sports crowd, while Annabeth and Lavon interfered in their friends lives. Because this is Bluebell everything worked out in the end, that is until Lemon and Wade get the bright idea to knock down a wall and create a functional event space. As the wall came crumbling down, so did their faces because the wood was rotted. Insert complaint about Wade never catching a break here.
On the Zoe front, she stuck her massive foot in her even larger mouth and then had to somehow fix it before episode end. This is by far the most overused and annoying trope the show puts into action and it’s tiresome. It’s rarely funny to watch your protagonist fail so horribly, especially when you know there won’t be any consequences and everything will work out in the end. Of course, having everything work out is kind of The CW’s MO, but shows are more interesting when characters are held accountable for their actions. The real world doesn’t work that way, but then again, no one has ever accused Bluebell of existing in the real world.
Not one of these stories is remotely new ideally. They’re formulaic in the worst way. The paths of these characters are well traversed in the terrain of Bluebell, Alabama and everyone seems to be stuck in the same spot they were several episodes ago. All that’s changed is the wardrobe. I was ready to call this week a wash and forgo forcing you all to read yet another essay on how Zoe refuses to grow up and how forcing Zoe and George together doesn’t make them likeable. And then something strange happened. Zoe confessed her feelings to George and he reiterated the fact Jonah had made earlier in the episode: that Zoe is a lock for mental gymnastics should the Olympics ever allow it.
Since the show premiered, Zoe Hart has been a girl in a hamster ball, running from one thing to the next, bouncing off the boundaries of her cage again and again because she can’t seem to remember she’s done it before. There’s no pattern to her madness, she just keeps running around Bluebell as if it’s all a bright and shiny new playground. The only way to stop this madness is for someone to put their foot down and spell it out for her. And even though Lavon and Wade have both done this several times now, it took George Tucker yelling at her and asking her if she’d lost her mind for her to see the error of her ways. She had her chance, but she chose Wade instead. And now she has to live with it.
The fact that Lavon and Wade have both told Zoe that she’s kind of insane and unlikable in her inability to make a single decision and stick with it, it’s interesting that it took George for it to seemingly stick (though I suppose we’ll really need to see the final episodes to know for sure).
From Lavon’s standpoint, he’s her best friend and it’s his job to sit Zoe down and tell her when she’s being a complete idiot. He’s done it a few times now, never more memorable than when he kicked Zoe out of the kitchen while Wade had a bitchfest about everything that was wrong with her. Zoe, much like the stereotypical New Yorker, thinks the world revolves around her, and when Lavon informs her that isn’t true, it hurts, but it doesn’t really sink in. It’s kind of like all those times your best friend tried to warn you that your (now) ex-boyfriend was a douche and you refused to see it. Our best friend’s always have our best interest at heart, but we don’t always see it at first.
As for Wade, it’s more difficult to explain why Zoe refused to see all of his comments (and yes, there were many) about her shortcomings, but I chalk it up to the fact that her feelings for him overrode the truth of those complaints. Wade is, first and foremost, a friend – an annoying, but genuine friend – who only wants what’s best for her. The problem is that Zoe and Wade are a romantic couple and after Wade’s betrayal, Zoe probably looks back at everything Wade has said with tainted glasses. She’ll never be able to take Wade’s insights to her failures and grow from them, though his comments are the one’s that she should probably listen to the most.
If you haven’t yet seen the end of the episode in which George Tucker finally validates his existence (and punctuates it with the advice to eat smaller bites), I suggest you watch the episode, or at least the last five minutes. Because they mirror the Christmas episode in that Zoe shows up to George’s houseboat and confesses her feelings. Instead of agreeing to her crazy and kissing her, George let’s her have it and it’s a beautiful, beautiful thing.
It’s not to say that the episode wasn’t still a rather dull and lifeless episode, or that the writing wasn’t over the top and boring at the same time, but it was definitely a 180 from what you’d expect to have happen. And it’s for that reason alone that I have a little bit more faith in Leila Gerstein and her overall vision for the show. Now, if we can just get that Zoe and Wade confrontation scene in before the end of the season, then maybe I’ll forgive her for Lemon thinking a place like the Rammer Jammer could ever be more than just a bar.
P.S. Brick is fine and engaged to Shelby. Drinks all around.
What did you guys think? Were you surprised by George’s outburst at the end? Relieved by it? Are you getting tired of watching Lemon and Wade fail so horribly? And what the hell was Annabeth’s dress made out of this week?
Note: Photo courtesy of The CW.