Awkward., Season 5, Episode 01, “Prank Amateurs”
Written by Mike Chessler
Directed by Peter Lauer
Airs Mondays at 9 pm ET on MTV
Season four of Awkward. saw Jenna wrestle with a low school ranking and possibly losing out on going to college. While both situations resolved themselves, she was still left with trying to resolve her feelings about Matty, especially after discovering the latter was willing to wait with Gabby when he hadn’t been so patient with Jenna herself. With the show entering its final season, the fifth season premiere stumbles massively with regards to Jenna, but nonetheless holds some promise for an enticing season that would serve as a good sendoff for the series as a whole.
One of the major issues with the season premiere is Jenna’s focus on Matty. While this is not uncharacteristic of Awkward., Jenna’s previous romantic flings, with Matty or others, have always been key to fleshing out the character and giving the audience a deeper understanding of Jenna and how she was changing. Jenna’s discomfort with being friends with Matty, however, is territory the show already explored last season, and the circumstances are similar enough that it feels like a retread. Furthermore, Jenna’s one-track mind on Matty takes the focus of the series away from her and puts it on him. Matty is the one who does things and to whom things happen this week. Jenna, on the other hand, simply spends the episode thinking about Matty, bringing into question whose story the show is telling. This is particularly glaring in light of everything else going on in Jenna’s life, most importantly her impending sisterhood which, given that she’ll be off to college during her sister’s early years, should have some effect on her. Hopefully, as the season continues, the writers delve into other aspects of Jenna’s life and how she feels about them, as well as how her relationships with other characters, such as Tamara, Jake, and Val are affected by her impending graduation.
Sadie’s story, on the other hand, comes with a lot of potential. Sadie’s distaste for Los Palos has never been a secret, and given her acrimonious relationship with both Allie and her peers, her open desire to be off to college is unsurprising. However, a potential reconciliation with her mother adds a significant counterbalance to that idea. The balance of the school year and the summer is enough time for Sadie and her mother to start to repair their relationship, but not fully develop a meaningful bond. It’ll be thus interesting to see how receptive Sadie becomes to the idea of reconciliation, and how persistent her mother remains in the face of rebuffs. If they do manage to have a breakthrough, that should significantly affect Sadie’s mood about going off to college, and might affect where she goes to college as well. If, on the other hand, Sadie becomes receptive to her mother, only for the latter to repeat her pattern of behaviour, it might be the last Los Palos sees of Sadie. Either development is bound to strongly affect the direction of Sadie’s life in a more substantial fashion than anything else so far, and whether or not she chooses to take the experience to become harder or learn to open up to people no matter how they react will be worth watching.
Overall, this is a somewhat middling start to the season, but one that nonetheless doesn’t bode poorly for the show’s final lap. Tamara’s engagement and impending marriage is a potentially intriguing avenue to explore, especially given her rigid and planned nature. Getting married before going off to college, to someone she only has a passing familiarity with, would certainly be a curveball on a level that Tamara hasn’t had to deal with so far, and one she is not equipped to handle. The writers continue to be unsure of what to do with Lissa, although there seems to be no continuation of her ill-advised storyline from last season with her adopted brother. However, there doesn’t seem to be a formative storyline for Lissa yet, although future episodes may unearth something. The idea of someone as devout as Lissa losing her faith is a storyline that ended up really shortchanged last season, and hopefully Lissa gets a good sendoff this time around. Theo and Cole continue to be grating characters, in large part because they seem to have been conceived to appeal to people who look down on the show in contempt. Not only does this mean they tonally don’t fit in with the series, but their constant berating of the main characters more often than not feels like an indictment against those who watch and enjoy the series. Their eventual addition to the school prank, however, hopefully means they’ll be more integrated into the series in its final season, and how the characters and storylines play out should be worth keeping an eye on.