Awkward., Ep 4.16: “#Drama” is a misstep in many ways

The show abandons certain character traits it established to manufacture forced conflict between Jenna and Tamara that rings false, with the episode further dragged down by the unwelcome return of Theo and Cole.
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Zak Henri, Jillian Rose Reed

Zak Henri, Jillian Rose Reed

Awkward., Season 4, Episode 16: “#Drama”
Written by Steve Yockey
Directed by Claire Scanlon
Airs Tuesdays at 10pm EST on MTV

With both Jenna and Tamara wrapped up in their own situations in the first half of the season, the duo only met fleetingly, often spinning off into their own storylines. The season’s second half has seen the two friends spend more time with each other, and this week’s episode sees the two of them engage in the episode’s primary storyline, dovetailing with Jenna’s concerns about her relationship with Owen. However, the result is a below par episode that disregards previous character development, weighed down by the unwelcome return of two  needless secondary characters.

While it’s nice to see a storyline focused on Jenna and Tamara’s friendship this week, the source of their conflict is an odd one. Much of Jenna’s conflict about whether or not to tell Tamara about Owen stemmed from embarrassment and the negative connotations of sleeping with a sophomore, both of which Tamara herself exacerbated in prior episodes. Furthermore, there’s been no indication of what caused Tamara’s change of heart from the apparent disgust at sleeping with sophomores she has previously voiced. These facts combine to make the fight between Jenna and Tamara seem really contrived and over-reaching, and the sudden turn the two take against each other, becoming antagonistic without a proper conversation, further adds to this. It’s also disconcerting, in light of last week’s strong stand against objectification, to see both Jenna and Tamara accept Owen’s statement of being a legend for sleeping with two seniors without comment. The phrasing of the sentence dismisses Tamara and Jenna’s agency in the situation, while reducing them to trophies, and hopefully this, rather than last week’s storyline, is the anomaly.

While this questionable conflict may have been redeemed by other aspects of the episode, unfortunately, the extended return of Theo and Cole. The duo have been a grating aspect of the entire season, and this episode serves as a concentration of the worst traits of the characters. Both appear to be misanthropic, judgmental individuals with no redeeming qualities, and their sexual orientation seems to have been added simply as a way to justify their behaviour by painting it with a broad, stereotypical brush. Awkward. already has a similar antagonistic character in Sadie, making Theo and Cole both unnecessary, and by painting their actions as representative of the gay community, as the duo often voice, pulls the characters from grating to insulting. It’s unclear why the duo are part of any storylines, or how they continue to maintain any sort of relationship with their high school peers, and the sooner they exit, the better it will be.

Overall, this episode is a letdown. While it’s good to see Matty get his own storyline, the romance between him and Gabby seems to be stuck in the same gear, as the story this week plays out similarly to last week. Lissa’s crisis of faith continues to be at odds with the rest of the student population, and given that she has interacted with other individuals at the school, the fact that these ideas have not come to her before, especially during the time she has spent with Sadie, stretches credibility. Jake’s insecurity over his status is somewhat of a bright spot in the episode particularly as it plays on the character’s attempt to change his image from earlier in the season, and it’s good to see him and Jenna interacting again. Hopefully the friendship between the two is given more onscreen time as the season begins moving towards its conclusion.

– Deepayan Sengupta

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