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Awkward., Ep 4.17: “The New Sex Deal” begins redeeming poor storylines

Awkward., Ep 4.17: “The New Sex Deal” begins redeeming poor storylines
Beau Mirchoff, Ashley Rickards, Jillian Rose Reed

Beau Mirchoff, Ashley Rickards, Jillian Rose Reed

Awkward., Season 4, Episode 17: “The New Sex Deal”
Written by Todd Waldman
Directed by Claire Scanlon
Airs Tuesdays at 10pm EST on MTV

The presence of the dude database, in response to the phonebook, flipped the script on the relations between the students up until the end of last week’s episode, as Jenna’s deletion accidentally revealed her involvement to the student body. This week’s episode sees Jenna deal with the repercussions of being blamed for the poor relations between students, an issue she tries to remedy with mixed results, in an episode that amounts to less than the sum of its parts.

While Lissa’s storyline in the second half of the season has previously fallen flat, this week’s episode manages to make it interesting for the first time. The removal of both Tyler and Lissa’s parents have put the focus on Lissa, and makes her crisis of faith easier to understand, as her isolation is unnoticed by everyone other than Theo and Cole, neither of whom she can turn to for comfort or understanding. If the show continues the storyline in this vein, seeing where Lissa’s crisis of faith takes her has potential. With her faith being an integral part of Lissa for much of the show, and especially the season, a move away from the kind of Christianity preached by her parents is likely to result in a major personality change for Lissa, and how she emerges on the other side could be the strongest arc for the character on the show so far.

Jenna’s continuing hangup about Matty, which could have made for a tiresome revisit, also manages to be somewhat intriguing this week. The reveal of his changed reaction to Gabby’s virginity serves to highlight the changes in both Jenna and Matty’s personality over the past few seasons. Matty’s interest in going at someone else’s pace in the relationship, instead of his own, potentially indicates a newfound level of maturity that makes for an interesting turn for the character, particularly on the heels of his adoption discovery and ill-fated affair. On the other hand, this may finally put Jenna on the permanent path away from Matty. Her constant veering back to him has been unchanged throughout the course of the show, but her realisation this week that he doesn’t value her the way she values him has the potential to finally break the cycle.

Despite the positive spins on otherwise irksome storylines, this episode fails to leave the impact it should. Much of the problem stems from the fact that the second half of the season has felt more episodic than serialised, with no common thread tying all the episodes together. While this is not a bad thing in and of itself, the show appears to be struggling to adjust to this new style, and character traits are losing out in the process. Tamara is perhaps the biggest example of this, as her proclivity for speaking in catchphrase-ready sentences that don’t make much sense has seen a noticeable uptick, to the point that it threatens to drown out all other aspects of the character. It remains to be seen how the show chooses to tie the season together in its final stretch, but hopefully it involves an emphasis on the characters once again.

– Deepayan Sengupta