After an eight-month hiatus (!!!), class is back in session at Hester High, and let me tell you: I have dearly missed the shenanigans of Amy Raudenfeld and the rest of the gang. The first half of season two was one of the most engaging and thoughtful follow-ups to season one we could have hoped for, what with everything being a constant tangle of messy emotion and complicated conflicts. Amy and Karma’s relationship was full of painful and fascinating consequences! Lauren Cooper had a beautifully vulnerable storyline with tons of character growth! Faking It has never been perfect, but it has always conveyed more depth and emotional risk than most people were probably expecting back when the show was announced and the prevailing response was a highly skeptical “wait, it’s about girls pretending to be lesbians for popularity?” It was one of my favorite surprises back in the spring TV season of 2014, and one major question heading into 2B is how the series will keep up its momentum.
The current answer, with two episodes under the fall block’s belt: we’re taking a momentary pause to set up the new issues fueling everyone’s individual threads and arcs, which is likely a wise move. There’s Amy trying to figure out where she stands in her individual relationships with Reagan and Karma, Karma’s own struggles in the fallout of 2A’s finale, Liam trying to win her heart back, Lauren’s Theo-related heartbreak and her quest to reshape Hester High, and Shane hiding the fact that he publicly outed his boyfriend Duke. Obviously it’s too early to make any concrete judgments on these storylines one way or the other, but while we’re waiting for the drama to really kick in, there’s no harm in some initial note-taking. As such, some personal observations from my corner:
— Amy’s self-discovery has always been the soul of the show, so it’s been different to see her in more of a support position for other characters during the beginning of the season. That being said, we can still see her carefully trying to figure out her place in the world, and Rita Volk is charming as ever with the material. Her acting’s always been talked about as one of Faking It’s strongest points, and with good reason: you can really feel wanting to make things work with Karma so badly, and trying to figure out what she genuinely needs from Reagan. Plus, it’s great to see her genuinely becoming more and more of a friend to Lauren; that connection has always been a more low-key facet of the show, but it does so much for both girls. There’s just been some really solid work all around as the story builds different foundations for all of Amy’s relationships, so major props to the actresses and the writers for that!
— Folks, I really love Karma. It can’t be helped. She’s the kind of character who always has some sort of dark barely-repressed emotion bubbling up underneath, and we are clearly seeing that come into play more than ever with her swift and insistent attempts to move on with her life after learning about Amy/Liam and her parent’s drug-dealing. “Stripped” was particularly good at this, with her attempts to hide the fact that she’s stuck living in her own backyard. I’ve seen some sentiments out there that the show is growing repetitive, overly-reliant on subplots based in miscommunication and lies – particularly where the Karmy relationship is concerned – and I understand it not being everyone’s cup of tea, but I also think it makes perfect sense with where the characters are at right now. Karma’s always had this undercurrent of desperately needing to seem picture-perfect to the outside world, from her explicit plot-related schemes to more subtle things like her asking Amy whether anyone would cry at her funeral. “I need to be in control,” she tells Liam, and while I’m not really feeling their relationship right now (and we’ll get to that in a second), I love what it says about Karma and where she’s headed this season. Her character development has always fascinated me. I can’t wait.
— I like Shane as a character, but he’s making it difficult lately, and I’m not sure how much of it is intentional. He’s always had the flaw of thinking he knows best and outing people against their will (indeed, this is how the original premise for the show started in the very first episode), and it’s always been frustrating to watch because the real-world consequences of being outed are frequently emotionally damaging, if not physically dangerous. It’s a messed-up, inappropriate thing to do to someone on principle, even if nothing bad does come of it, so seeing Shane and Faking It as a whole treat it so cavalierly has always been one of the show’s more obnoxious recurring issues. The show is clearly gearing up for Duke to find out what Shane did and get angry about it, so we’ll see what happens then, but I’m concerned that the focus will be on how much it sucks for Shane to feel guilty over how painful it is for Duke to be betrayed.
— I know it’s trendy to pick on Liam and his relationship with Karma, but even in trying to be fair to the character’s place in the narrative I feel like this is all getting a little old. His declarations of love aren’t especially compelling and it feels like the show has stopped knowing what his purpose within it really is. I am way more interested in Karma’s trust issues as they pertain to her lifelong friendship with Amy, particularly in light of her as-of-yet-unacknowledged mutual romantic feelings. The prioritization of getting back to the dating-Liam place seems just plain off in comparison.
— Seriously, what’s with the entire concept of Theo? I liked him and Lauren so much before it was revealed that he’s actually an adult cop who pretends to be a teenager in order to pull off drug busts. Please save us from heading into Ezra Fitz territory, here.
— I am sort of disappointed that Reagan is becoming a mouthpiece for biphobia? But relieved the show actually seems to know that it’s a bad thing for Amy, which is a step up from their previous stereotypical and bizarrely insensitive jokes about bisexuals being “elusive” and confusing for gay people to date? But nervous about how they’re going to handle it, given those jokes and a general failure to have any positive representation for bisexuality on the show? I DON’T KNOW. But the whole attitude Reagan projects of suspicion and intolerance towards girls who are attracted to more than one gender is a real problem, so here’s hoping Faking It handles Amy’s situation with tact and sympathy. We’ll see how things turn out next week.
Faking It airs Mondays at 9:30/8:30c on MTV.