Awkward., Season 3, Episode 20: “Who I Want to Be”
Written by Lauren Iungerich
Directed by Joe Nussbaum
Airs Tuesdays at 10:30 PM on MTV
Jenna’s relief at her life returning to its pre-Collin stage took a sharp hit at the end of last week, as Matty clearly indicated he had moved on from their relationship. Combined with Jenna’s guilt over all the pain she had caused during her sanity sabbatical, this latest action seemed to be the universe’s way of telling her that the road to recovery was not over yet. This week’s season finale focuses on Jenna as she tries to come to terms with the changes in her life, in a strong episode that emphasizes the season’s strengths while illuminating a different side of some key characters.
It’s interesting to see Jenna reconcile with herself this week. Despite how harsh her friends have been to her following her stint with Collin, Jenna has been her own harshest critic despite the forgiveness of her actions by others, including Valerie. The fear that she is on the path towards becoming the type of person her mother once was is an insightful look into what fuels her guilt. The entire season, in a way, can be characterized as one where Jenna finds herself, in both good and bad ways. Freed from the pressure of external perceptions that she faced in the first season, or pressing external concerns like she faced in the second, this season Jenna was free to truly find out what made her tick, and the results were fascinating to see. Despite the bad stint she had with Collin, the idea of an evolving taste on Jenna’s side is still a positive effect, and her ending decree of trying to be a person who survives without a boyfriend is not only a bold step for the character, but also the most logical progression of her development, and credit goes to the writers for having Jenna come to that conclusion in a natural manner, rather than in a misguided fit. A Jenna who is content with being alone is a promising idea, and hopefully one that Season four explores.
Watching Lacey’s reaction to the letter is also a great character moment this week. Lacey’s growing maturity, and willingness to put in effort to be a real mother to Jenna, has been a highlight of the series to date, and seeing her face the words she wrote to the daughter she is now fully supportive of serves to highlight how far she has come as well. It’s arguable that a key reason Jenna felt free to make the mistakes and explore things the way she did this season is that Lacey’s maturity allowed her to actually focus on herself, rather than forcing Jenna to be the mature one in the relationship. Lacey’s desire to find additional meaning in her life was also a strong aspect of the season, despite being in only one episode, and her time as a nurse at the school is a great way for the character to look for personal fulfillment from places in addition to Kevin and Jenna, a thread that hopefully doesn’t get dropped in the show’s ensuing seasons.
The reveal of Mr. Hart’s personal history this week also adds an intriguing layer to his relationship with Jenna. Throughout the season, Mr. Hart’s interest in Jenna’s writing has indicated someone who has a sharp eye for talent, and his unwillingness to let Jenna squander her potential has belied his abrasive nature. The reveal of him being a once-acclaimed author who burned out gives the audience a glimpse into his perspective when seeing Jenna, and proves that he spoke from experience whenever he went above and beyond to offer Jenna advice and help her out. Heather’s appearance earlier this season proves that Mr. Hart is not averse to maintaining contact with his past students, and it will be interesting to see if Jenna continues to solicit his advice for future writing endeavours. The idea of a professional mentor for Jenna is an exciting prospect, particularly someone who is able to relate to her emotional turmoil, as Mr. Hart clearly can.
Overall, this is a strong episode to cap off a very good season. While it would have been good to see some ideas and storylines get further fleshed out over the past season, the themes this season explored were nonetheless a treat to watch. The season’s final note is a very interesting one; with Tamara and Jake’s relationship still going strong, Sadie now in a serious relationship, Fred and Ming now together without any obstacles, and even Matty and Bailey seemingly happy together, Jenna now becomes the odd one out amongst her circle of friends, as the only single one. While this is bound to play a part in her desire to explore being alone, how her friendships are affected is going to be something worth looking out for next season. It’s a nice touch to observe that, while Jenna finishes the season in a different place than when she started, so does nearly everyone else, even without Jenna’s direct involvement in their lives. The Tamara-Jake relationship transitioning from its honeymoon stages to something more concrete has been one of the more compelling aspects of the season. The season ends with a lot of promise this week, and if season four maintains the show’s quality, it will certainly be worth a watch.
– Deepayan Sengupta