March 29th, 2010
Mark it on your calendars, ladies and gentlemen: today is the day when Life Unexpected finally stopped showing its basic premise in its “Previously on Life Unexpected” clip package.
It’s a momentous occasion, really, a sign that the show might be ready to grow beyond that premise to become something which goes beyond its initial dramatic potential. This is not to say that that initial potential has resulted in a weak television series, as I’ve found the show to be a fun and effective piece of drama thus far in its first season. The problem, though, is that we knew that from the beginning: the show has showed signs of wanting to evolve, but it’s always sort of reverted back to the same drama over and over again to its detriment.
“Storm Weathered” does not signal an entirely new show, and the show somewhat returns to the status quo of showcestual tensions which threaten to explode at any moment, but it does signal that we are at least at the point where the drama is no longer contingent on the pilot, and that the show has the opportunity (if still not the willingness) to move on.
One of the most interesting things that we’ve seen the last few weeks was the realization from Lux that she is part of the problem. This is not to say that we have the same expectations for maturity for a teenager than we do for Cate and Baze, who unquestionably make up most of the problem in the show’s messed up situations, but it does mean that Lux pushes people away as much as she is rejected by them, and for all of their errors neither Cate nor Baze have done anything to actively alienate their daughter. People are, in fact, human, and they make mistakes which may create the impression that they don’t have the best interests of others in mind, but this does not mean that they will inevitably let you down.
What has effectively happened over the past few episodes is the sort of self-reflection that goes beyond “a messed up family tries to make it work” to “messed up people try to make a family.” No longer centred around the conflict that Lux brought into their lives, the same sorts of problems remain: even with Cate and Ryan together again, and even with Lux back together with Bug, and even with Baze broken up with Abby, there remains plenty of issues that are unresolved even when the drama in their life comes to an end. It’s like the show telling us not to worry about the main plot developments (Cate and Ryan’s breakup, Lux’s custody, Bug’s departure) coming to a close, because these characters are still messed up enough that new drama will arise quickly and effectively.
Now, some of it seems a bit forced: I think the show is rushing to the point where Baze is legitimately in love with Cate, and the show is in no position to break up Cate and Ryan again if they intend on keeping Kerr Smith as a regular (which, as far as I can tell, they do). I have no doubt that Baze wasn’t “lying” with he told that to Abby, but I do doubt that he would come to that realization so quickly – Abby being some sort of low-rent therapist is the sort of shortcut that makes the adults on this show seem like patients, their psychological hangups too clearly labeled for the audience. I usually like what they get from those discoveries, and the show’s cast is great at playing things out, but how they get there is rarely that elegant.
And so it works better when it’s happening to Lux, because teenagers are supposed to experience things like jealousy and have excuses to be in environments where “It’s Complicated” is a legitimate relationship status. That Lux would get jealous about Jones just moving onto another girl within minutes of Lux having definitively stated that she was not going to be with him is perfectly natural, and using that as an excuse to delve further into Lux’s past as it relates to rejection and acceptance isn’t the worst shortcut the show has utilized. My one major issue with it was that I felt like they were retconning things: the idea that Lux, up until just a year ago, was desperately holding out hope that her mother would come and save her seemed to go against the sort of hardened cynicism in the character early on in the season. I understand that she wasn’t always that way, but it seemed like that sort of thing that would develop over time rather than serve as some sort of sudden impulse; the only reason it was made recent, really, was so that they could have Robertson play the flashback, which would have been impossible if it was at 12 or 13 (19 only stretches so far).
The show remains really predictable: we know that the wedding will end the season, and we know that Baze will have to confront his feelings, and chances are Lux will have to do the same. The show hasn’t gone so far as to pretend that it isn’t still about an intertwined group of people with complicated relationships with one another that could lead to any number of romantic pairings in the long run, but it has sort of indicated that that drama that will send that group into a tizzy is no longer solely dependent on the pilot’s machinations.
- I’m presuming that we’re meant to take something from the fact that we didn’t get to see any of the scene between Lux and Jones, correct? While Lux indicates that he “understood” where she was coming from, we don’t know what she said, and I’ll be curious to see how that continues to play out (since the clear parallel between Cate and Lux’s situations will absolutely be played up at the wedding).
- Speaking of Jones, his “you’re a hard person to give up on” line (not sure on the exact wording) was way too on-the-nose in both the “Lux investigates her past experiences in the foster care system” and “Lux thinks about Bug leaving her” columns.
- Yes, the show had to move some pieces around in a fairly contrived fashion in order to get characters in the positions they wanted, but storm-stayed is enough of a TV trope that I’ll forgive them for it.