When we last saw the Hester High crew, there were plenty of loose threads ripe for future story arcs. Lauren had singlehandedly saved the school’s future with a monologue (hooray!), Liam was about to embark on a good old-fashioned journey of self-discovery (eh?), and, most importantly, Amy left on a road trip to find herself while Karma cried in the street alone (ow). It was the best of times, the worst of times, the adolescent yearning-est of times, and MTV thankfully decided to grant us a shorter hiatus than last year’s. We are now two episodes into the third season of Faking It, with the A-plot evidently conceptualized as the fight of all Karmy fights. Amy refuses to apologize for making an emotionally healthy choice to take care of herself, while Karma resents Amy for, you know, leaving her to cry in the street alone. Throw in the feedback of Lauren and Shane, naturally motivated by both characters’ individual insecurities and desires, and we’ve ended up with a highly complicated social circle comprised of fundamentally selfish-yet-sympathetic kids. Classic teen drama nonsense! I mean that in the fondest way possible, as someone who loves teen drama nonsense.
The thing is, I’ve always loved teen drama nonsense driven by rich characterization and organic storytelling: stuff that gets how it feels to be growing up and knows how to be emotionally honest about it, rather than being shallow or forced. And, for the most part, Faking It knows how to do that! The season three premiere “It’s All Good” is great at it. Everything stems very naturally from where Amy and Karma are at in their lives.
Which, of course, is why it’s a shame that the follow-up events of “Let’s Hear It For the Oy” are kind of frustrating and half-baked. It’s not that the girls’ core conflict has stopped working: the meat of the story there is still deftly compelling to watch. The issue is how it seems as if the show doesn’t feel that’s enough to work with, so there are all these phony miscommunications propelled by external characters to make things worse. As Amy and Karma individually struggle to figure out where they are, a somewhat absurd Liam/Zita subplot stirs up trouble in having Zita accidentally witness a close moment between Karma and Liam to be jealous of, leading to a series of events that ultimately results in their breakup. Her “screw you” gesture is kissing Karma (??????), which Amy sees and assumes is Karma trying to hurt her. This motivates Amy to upload an embarrassing video; next week’s promo indicates this is going to escalate into an all-out war of Amy and Karma publicly humiliating each other.
It’s not that Faking It hasn’t traded in misunderstanding-based conflict before, but it’s obnoxious to see it take over the show’s primary storyline and core relationship this way. It distracts from the real problems — Amy feels like her closeness with Karma has been dysfunctional, while Karma believes Amy wants to abandon their friendship and pick it back up whenever it’s convenient for her — and instead makes the girls be awful to each other for no other reason than contrived mix-ups. Instead of evolving naturally, the character clashes feel silly and cheap. It’s weird to watch when I know the show can do better: precisely one episode before all of this it was doing better. Argh!
Shane has a line within the second episode, a meta-joke where he asks Lauren “What show have you been watching? Those two can’t stay mad at each other. It’s only a matter of time before their teary reunion.” It sounds like some kind of weird apology from the writing itself, admitting that it has no idea how to sustain a genuine rough patch between the main characters without resorting to lazy mistaken assumptions as plot fuel. I’m not sure what further turns this storyline will take, but I’m hoping all of these misperceptions are corrected soon. That way, we can get back to a much more interesting story about Karma and Amy having incompatible ideas about what their friendship should be or require from each other, and attempting to figure out how those ideas can possibly coexist at this stage in their lives.