It’s not news: I’m a total Karma Ashcroft/Katie Stevens fan. I try not to focus on that in my posts at the expense of other great characters and the talented performers behind them on this show, because everyone’s nuanced and compelling and I love talking about all of them! But our most recent episode, “The Deep End,” is a great jumping off point to discuss both Karma and her actress, who I think are genuinely underrated when it comes to what Faking It’s story has to offer.
The thing is, it’s not easy being a Karma girl. She’s gotten more than her share of irritable accusations online – Karma’s vapid and shallow! Karma’s incredibly selfish! Karma’s a terrible friend to Amy! Unsurprisingly, I’ve always found this pretty unfair to the character and will provide counterpoints any day of the week, and “The Deep End” is one of many (many!) season two episodes I think is a total blessing in terms of rich material for her. After a season of losing her home, failing to make her tumultuous relationship with Liam work, and repressing her confused Amy feelings, Karma really begins to spiral. This has been a long time coming for her — from little hints like her asking Amy if anyone would cry at her funeral if she died, to big moments confessing at drama club auditions that she needs other people’s approval to like herself. Karma has always been a low-key source of pathos on the show, with circumstances pushing her shame and lack of self-worth to greater heights until she finally implodes.
Lying about her sexuality didn’t work; it just isolated her even more and created complications in the one relationship she thought was completely secure. Trying to forgive Liam didn’t work; she only felt even more sure that she wasn’t good enough for him and therefore couldn’t trust that he liked her more than Zita or Amy or any other girl in his life. Even being herself didn’t work; she watched Amy and Liam move on to other relationships while feeling like she had to work twice as hard to earn anyone’s affection (be it Wade’s romantic interest or her mom’s parental pride). So, in 2.19, we see Karma completely let loose in that eternal coming-of-age classic: the wild teen party. She gets drunk and tries to advertise herself as a paragon of carefree table-dancing sexual experience, the kind of person everyone loves to be around (right?). There’s no way this version of Karma could seem boring or annoying or pathetic to her peers, when she seems so relaxed and up for anything. The whole episode, you can see her internal monologue in Katie’s portrayal: if I pretend to be happy and confident and cool, eventually I really will be. If I say yes to everything, I won’t seem less worthwhile and interesting than everyone else.
It’s like she tells Amy — “I’m still here. Sad, lonely, homeless Karma. And I didn’t want to be her anymore.” And Amy’s response is so perfect: she gets low self-esteem as much as the next teenager, but she doesn’t understand why Karma would fight so hard to change when she’s so much more incredible than she gives herself credit for. This is what makes Karmy such a compelling, heartfelt relationship for its fanbase: it’s a simple, genuine connection between two friends who love each other so much, and who are always ready to lift each other up.
In fact, Amy’s the one person who’s always consistently been there for Karma and who’s always brought her out of her own internal darkness, which is what leads to the first “real” kiss between the couple that everyone’s been screaming for since the first episode. It’s a solid moment of progression for the characters and their relationship, and it made Karma’s own development take a giant leap forward. I can’t wait to see how next week’s finale deals with this — the one thing I’m sad about is how we’re in for yet another long wait until these two come back. In any case: is it weird to be proud of a fictional character? Because that’s how I feel about Karma. She’s admitted twice over now how hard it is for her to feel unloved and why she’s always piling on performances to fix that; such confessions take a ton of strength. And, as the preview for next week indicates, that kiss is going to weigh heavily on her mind; we know that she’s the one who will want to talk about it with Amy, which is a big change for a character who’s consistently chosen flight over fight. Karma Ashcroft is evolving in huge ways, and I’m so excited to see where the writers are going to take her.