Awkward, Ep 2.06: “What comes First: Sex or Love?” effectively explores relationship dynamics

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Awkward, Season 2, Episode 6: “What comes First: Sex or Love?”

Written by Lauren Iungerich

Directed by Ryan Shiraki

Airs Thursdays at 10:30 PM on MTV

Relationship navigation can be a tricky thing at all ages. The concern and worries that accompany it, however, are only exacerbated in high school, where an air of “this is the most important thing in your life” permeates every decision. Throw in the question of sex, which is a weighty subject in itself, and love, and everything gets that much more complicated. Ultimately, though, their own feelings on the subject is something everyone has to confront and arrive at sooner or later, and following the three magic words Jake said to Jenna at the end of last week’s episode, her grappling with the issues at hand was inevitable. In dealing with a topic as tricky to navigate as love and sex, there’s always a fear that any given show will drop the ball, and lose themselves, as well as what makes the show work, in the importance of the issue. Fortunately, Awkward manages this week to avoid this pitfall, instead delivering a charmingly funny episode that nonetheless manages to give the audience a glimpse into how the characters feel about the subject.

In a way, all the storylines this week revolve around various characters dealing with this very issue. This is a very interesting way to approach the subject, as it allows for three completely different perspectives (although the term love is used very loosely in Ally’s context, but it’s nonetheless enlightening to contrast her fully formed views on relationships next to Jenna and Sadie’s still-developing ideas on the subject). Jenna’s grappling how she feels about Jake, especially in light of how she felt about Matty, has an air of authenticity to it that’s rarely found in television relationships. Similarly, the writers have wisely avoided painting Jake in the shades of a lovestruck puppy, while also not making him out to be inadvertently self-centered, and that pays off well in this episode as well. There’s a sense of genuine warmth in the scenes between Jenna and Jake that adds more weight to Jenna’s conundrum, and combined with the individuality both characters display, this allows the question of love and sex to become another building block in the story, rather than something that threatens to consume the show.

Sadie’s newly-blossoming romance with Ricky Schwartz also allows for an interesting new look at her character. Having someone be truly infatuated with her is something the audience has never seen Sadie experience, and is possibly something she never really has experienced, so how this particular relationship progresses will be very telling about the character as a whole. As well, Tamara’s reaction (or, since that’s what she prefers, Tinklebell’s reaction) once she learns the whole truth will also be something to look out for; while this episode focused more on Sadie’s reaction to Ricky’s newfound crush rather than Tamara’s, the latter is also clearly not over Ricky, as was evidenced last episode.

The show is also doing a good job of handling the friendship between Jenna and Matty following their breakup. Rather than make Jenna pine for Matty in a manner that eclipses every other aspect of her personality, or having Matty turn into a two-dimensional antagonist, the show, both last episode and this episode, is going in a very mature direction. It will be interesting to see where the two characters eventually end up in relation to one another, and if this current path is any indication, it may be someplace unforeseen at the beginning of the show.

Overall, the tricky balancing act the writers pulled with this episode paid off, as what could have potentially been a cloying, heavy-handed episode turned out to be quite charming and enjoyable. Jenna’s accidental broadcasting of her sexual intentions with Jake was played perfectly by Ashley Rickards, as her false poise fell at the drop of a hat upon the realisation of what she’d done. The continuing growth of Lacey following last season’s reveal is also a nice touch, and hopefully her attempts to be a genuine mother to Jenna will be an ongoing affair, rather than a booze-induced isolated incident this episode. If this week is any indication, next week’s examination of how Jake and Jenna are affected by this new phase in their relationship will be worth tuning in for, even if nothing else happens.

– Deepayan Sengupta

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