Awkward., Season 4, Episode 01: “No Woman Is an Island”
Written by Mike Chessler and Chris Alberghini
Directed by Peter Lauer
Airs Tuesdays at 10 PM on MTV
The ending of the third season of Awkward. saw Jenna end up single, yet on her way towards personal happiness following a year of turmoil. Her lack of a partner made her unique amongst her friends, as Jake and Tamara had moved past their first major fight, and Matty and Bailey were beginning a new relationship, with Ming giving up the Asian mafia for Fred. The season opener this week brings the stress of senior year down on everyone as Jenna adjusts to a level of irrelevance that comes at a bad time, in an enjoyable episode that sets up some promising stories.
Jenna’s anonymity becoming a detriment to her is an interesting development. For much of the show’s run, Jenna has craved less attention than she has gotten, whether for her injury, her rise to popularity from dating Matty, or from her affair with Colin and associated outburst. In theory, Jenna should be enjoying the fact that she is no longer the centre of attention for an uncomfortable reason. However, her senior year and the college pressures associated with it have put her in a relatively new position of wanting to be noticed just as she had managed to escape the spotlight. With her current knowledge of how not to attract attention, it will be worth seeing this season how Jenna raises her profile in the school. While it may not seem like it, her experiences have given her an advantage, not only in being able to write a compelling essay about her life, but also to notice and avoid pitfalls in her search for recognition. Thus, how she handles herself in her senior year will be worth keeping an eye on. It’s possible that her earlier experiences will leave Jenna gun-shy, particularly if a task that would push her up the class rankings list also brings her in conflict with someone like Sadie or Valerie. On the other hand, Jenna’s fear of not getting into college is clearly weighing on her, and how she reconciles these two sides over the course of the season will be worth keeping an eye on.
Sadie’s ongoing conflict between her desired public image and her actual one is also a fascinating aspect of this week’s episode. Her cheer squad defeat to Lissa, in particular, puts the two of them in an unprecedented position. While Lissa has shakily stood up to Sadie before, it has always been clear that Sadie holds the balance of power in that relationship. The election of Lissa as cheer captain, however, gives her power over Sadie for the first time. Lissa also appears to have gained the confidence from her summer trip to be able to say no to Sadie, something that the latter is likely to see as a further deterioration of her life. How Sadie copes with her new position in life and the school, especially once she’s had time to adjust to both, will be worth keeping an eye on. Her abrasive nature has earned her few friends, which leaves her with a considerably smaller support system, particularly with Lissa not firmly on her side anymore. It’s possible, however, that the permanence of her new status might highlight Sadie’s alienating nature to herself, leading to a personality shift. It will also be worth watching whether Jenna decides to try to help Sadie, and how that affects the relationship between the two in what might be their final year together.
Overall, this is a fine return for the show. The introduction of Lissa’s brother Tyler is a hilarious scene that effectively undercuts the self-righteousness of Lissa’s mission to Africa, while still keeping her confidence intact. It’s also nice to see Jenna’s writing capability get emphasized, as it has been the one skill she has honed throughout the show, whether it was for her blog, or her assignments for Mr. Hart last season. Tamara being wound up even tighter than usual is a storyline that has potential. While the character has always been more tense than those around her, the pressures of senior year, along with the friction in her relationship with Jake, are clearly straining her usual tolerance levels. It will be worth watching to see how Tamara deals with these pressures over the course of senior year, as well as any additional issues thrown her way, and how far she can go before she snaps. How the lack of sexual pleasure affects her relationship with Jake, and the group dynamic by extension, will also be worth keeping an eye on. Ming’s absence is keenly felt this week, particularly with Fred still around, and what role the latter plays now has the potential to be fascinating to see. Eva is a great addition to the group, and how she adjusts to everyone, as well as how everyone adjusts to each other as the stress of senior year mounts, will be worth watching over the course of the new season.
– Deepayan Sengupta