Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about television as a medium, and how fundamentally weird it must be to try telling a story with it. Most of the time, you have very little idea where the fiction you are creating will end. You don’t have full control over the very structure of the thing you’re constantly pouring time and effort into. A show might continue on for years, to the point where the audience grows tired and feels like enough is enough as character arcs stagnate and plotlines get increasingly messy. Or, more frequently, cancellation will cut it off at the knees, leaving a story feeling incapable of reaching the potential it was designed for. It’s true: an incomplete narrative just feels so wrong, like a song abruptly cutting off in the middle for no reason.
Of course, this experience isn’t exclusive to television; a planned movie franchise or book series can also be cut short if they underperform severely enough. But renewal season is an annual thing for TV lovers, and let me tell you, it does not ever get less stressful. Actually, it’s the worst. Anxiously waiting to hear which of your favorites might get axed is just bad for your skin.
So when it was initially announced that MTV would not be picking Faking It back up for a fourth season, I was genuinely saddened, and then also very nervous because how in the world were they going to wrap this up? Much as I enjoy it, Faking It is also very prone to wheel spinning and cliffhangers. Like most shows, it is as flawed as it is well-intentioned. And, considering that season three had so many relationships on the table, it was entirely unpredictable as to how the show would wrap them all up. While showrunner Carter Covington promised that the last episode was written to feel as complete and satisfying as possible, everything still felt very up in the air.
With all that baggage in mind, once I finally watched “Up in Flames,” well…
First of all, I’m actually okay with where Lauren, Shane, and Liam ended up. The last two have pretty much always had development about them changing from self-absorbed jerks to kids giving this whole “considering other people’s feelings” thing a try. While it’s very debatable on how successful those arcs were (particularly with Liam, a character the show never seemed to know how to use when he wasn’t angsting about Karma), their endings were solid. I’m particularly glad we had Shane sincerely apologizing for his transphobia, and Noah accepting him back on his own terms. And Lauren, who has turned into one of Faking It‘s truest gems over the seasons, found an actual friend in Liam whom she could trust to support her. Faith in other people’s loyalty has been as much a part of Lauren’s storyline as her intersex identity — we saw her relationship with Amy evolve into something positive and then dissolve when Lauren felt let down by her too many times, as well as her revolving door of new Lisbeth’s and her quest to make the Internet love her. I’m really glad that, as this amazing character leaves us, we get to see Lauren connect with someone who defends her from an ex-friend’s snottiness and reminds her that there are people in her life who genuinely care about her. It’s a truncated conclusion, to be sure, but it works for the person that Lauren has become.
However, Amy and Karma are where this episode gets weird.
The thing is: Karmy fan though I may be, I was never expecting this episode to show them suddenly realizing they belong together. It would have been too much, too fast. I do think the show as a whole wasted a lot of time avoiding the subject of Karma actively reconsidering her feelings, and in an ideal world, I think season three could have been built around her asking that question, with a shortened ending closing on Amy and her choosing to date. It could have worked even with the show’s future being cut off — but since that’s all pure speculation and alternate ideas replacing the actual storylines, let’s instead pursue how this finale didn’t quite work as a series closer even while trying to do its best with what it had.
And what it had is Amy forgiving Sabrina’s lies and reuniting with her, while Karma starts a new relationship with Felix. The former is essentially the episode’s big emotional climax, while the latter is the one remaining thread to tie off in our very last scene from the show.
Strangely enough, none of this is about Karma-and-Amy, the unit, the duo, the BFFs that we’ve followed for three seasons. Faking It has always been the story of this friendship, but their dynamic is curiously off to the side instead of being the fundamental point, or even just a gentle closing note with the girls meeting up at the episode’s end after their individual romantic journeys have been resolved. What gives?
And if you interpret the show’s narrative as being less about both characters and more concerning Amy’s personal growth, seeing as how she’s the central leading protagonist, then it just gets even more bizarre to see everything end with Karma and Felix’s newfound heterosexual desire for each other. Again, I ask: what gives?
Like I said before, I would not have wanted a slapdash official Karmy romance that didn’t honor the current emotional place of either character, and I am happy that we end with Amy getting a girlfriend who appreciates her, even if Sabrina is unfortunately extremely underwritten. And I’m largely indifferent to Karma/Felix, but not opposed for any reason. The status of various pairings isn’t my issue. Rather, my issue is the emotional focus and weight of this episode, and how Amy and Karma’s friendship doesn’t really factor into it despite having been the heart of the story for so long. The story was always going to turn out rather open-ended when viewed as a whole — such is the nature of cancellation and writers’ rooms being unable to help that — but so many things don’t add up. The Faking It team didn’t know for sure that the show was ending, but they knew the possibility was very real and wrote with it in mind as a result. Knowing that, there isn’t really a reason why our final scene wasn’t Amy and Karma catching one another up on their love lives, sharing congratulations, and reestablishing how much they mean to each other one last time. Alternatively, there isn’t really a reason why our final scene wasn’t oriented around Amy reflecting on how she’s finally found the internal peace and happiness she spent the entire show looking for. There just isn’t a sense that anything driving Faking It for thirty-eight episodes is pivotal to its concluding moments.
Still: I’m glad we had this show while it lasted. It was often frustrating, but always sincere and well-intentioned. Amy Raudenfeld was an incredibly important character for television as a queer girl who’s trying to figure life out. Carter Covington’s goodbye letter is a very worthwhile read providing some further insights into the series — it’s a shame we won’t see those ideas come to life. I just wish their spirit could have been more present in the thematic workings of Up in Flames.
So long, Faking It. It’s been a sweet, funny, maddening ride.