Life lessons: the modus operandi of the teen drama.
Did you shudder upon reading that sentence? It’s okay – I kind of did, too. After all, when a writer tries to strike upon a universal coming-of-age “message” that everyone can relate to, it can result in a trite, clichéd story. Something like be yourself or stand up for your opinions or growing up is hard can sound pretty shallow if it isn’t delivered with a fresh take.
However, on the other side of the coin: some clichés exist for a reason. When multiple people have experienced a truth, and fiction honors it with a fleshed-out, complex portrayal, it can make for some amazing drama. You know a high school show is satisfying when you can wholly empathize with everyone and think yeah – definitely been through that. Similarly, season 2B of Faking It has been so surprisingly honest and compelling with material that, on the surface, might sound like standard fare. Here are some of my personal favorites thus far, all moments conveying maturity and depth as the characters struggle to grow:
- Shane’s breakup with Duke. In my earlier posts about this season, I mentioned Shane was becoming pretty hard to like at times, given how badly he was treating his boyfriend. “Boiling Point” was a great episode for many reasons, and one of my absolute favorite scenes was seeing Duke say goodbye – not because I have any particular desire to see Shane suffer, but because it was so human and interesting to see his character finally deal with the fact that he’d done something truly awful to a loved one. Really: who hasn’t been there? Who hasn’t felt genuine remorse and shame over the realization that they’ve screwed up? One of the hardest parts of gradually moving from child to adult is realizing that sometimes, you’ve been the jerk. You’re the one who has to make amends. It’s great when a series can let its characters be wrong, and then let them grow.And, on Duke’s side of things, I absolutely loved hearing his line: “I said I accepted your apology. I didn’t say I forgive you.” Forgiveness is beautiful, sure, but there are times when some behavior is so unacceptable and painful that it can’t easily be washed away. A lot of storylines fumble this, granting characters absolution too fast; it’s so refreshing to see a sympathetic character who isn’t ready to let go of how hurt they are. Plus, the scene is full of excellent work from Michael Willett and Skyler Maxon. I was worried about how this arc would play out, and it turned out to be one of the most rewarding things about this season.
- Karma almost accepting the check from Liam’s father. Reader, let me tell you, I LIVED for this particular Kiam fight. LIVED FOR IT. Karma’s money problems have put her in such a tough place this season, and the writers have only pushed her to further levels of complexity. They can only do so much in twenty minutes of screentime a week, but they get what a big deal this is for her. It’s so easy to write a character’s financial problems as something that shouldn’t matter that much – something where, if they ultimately compromise their values or relationships for security, then that makes them some kind of sellout. Liam accuses Karma of this, but the story doesn’t allow him to be the only one in the right. Karma gets to yell about how her situation is real, how it’s hurting her and her parents, and how it’s something Liam can’t understand from his life of privilege. Ultimately, she does give the money back, but it remains a gray situation where Liam still acknowledges his faults. I like it so much when teen shows give weight to something like money issues, instead of treating them like it’s morally wrong when characters have to take such a thing into consideration. Faking It is a heightened comedy, to be sure, but it’s willing to get sincere when Karma has legitimately difficult decisions to make.Man, you guys! “Boiling Point”! Such a good episode!
- Amy’s returning crush on Karma, and Karma’s confused reciprocation. Feelings: so frustrating, so stressful, so paralyzing. Amy, in an attempt to avoid the same heartbreak she endured last season, is attempting to deny and circumvent her own emotions with a vengeance; meanwhile, Karma’s experiencing a totally new attraction to her friend that she doesn’t know how to deal with. It’s ambiguous as to whether she’s still deeply in denial or starting to realize that she, you know, like-likes her best friend, but Katie Stevens’ acting makes it clear that Karma dies a little bit every time Amy makes some remark about how COMPLETELY OVER her previous crush she is.The great thing about this, of course, is that you know they would both feel better if they had an open conversation about this, instead of haplessly trying to navigate around each other. But it also doesn’t feel contrived, or like the writing is simply stretching out the conflict as long as possible for no reason – Amy and Karma have a lifelong friendship that they’re terrified to risk, so they keep secretly hurting themselves in an effort to minimize any potential threat to that. This is one of those things where the “lesson” about honesty and functionality in any kind of relationship is going to feel SO GOOD when we get to it, because the storyline has taken its time to flesh out these characters as much as possible. We have such an intimate understanding of their insecurities and what they have to lose, so we get it fully when they conceal their actual desires the way all of us have at some point (particularly during high school). As a result, the moral inside of this conflict doesn’t feel preachy or eyeroll-worthy. It feels like something where viewers can see themselves inside of both characters, and just really, really want them to figure it out.
- Lauren’s character growth. Outside of some Theo-related missteps, this season has been super good to Lauren, and I particularly treasured the handling of her response to Farrah’s infidelity towards Bruce. We saw her cycle through so many responses – anger and the immediate impulse to tell her dad, backtracking to hide the secret and keep the Raudenfeld-Cooper family together, and the final realization that Bruce actually does deserve to know what’s happening. Where Lauren really got to evolve, however, lay in how she chose handle the options in front of her. She’s always been an angry character, inclined to charge impulsively when upset, and it seemed like the show might close off this particular facet of development with her decision to protect the family’s stability.However, the best part came in “Faking It Again,” when she told Amy it was fundamentally unfair to ask that Lauren help hide the truth, and that Bruce needed to know his marriage was in trouble. At the same time, Lauren was still reasonable enough to give Farrah the chance to explain things herself, which is a huge step forward. When the first episode aired, Lauren was one of the more immature characters, fond of temper tantrums and lashing out. Now she’s developed into the kind of person who still feels that urge, carefully weighs her options, and chooses the action that hurts the fewest people (even if some pain is still necessary). She stands up for Bruce and herself while remaining considerate, even as she’s justifiably scolding other people. It can take a long time for anyone to achieve, but learning to strike the balance between assertive and fair is such a key part of life. A sentence I never thought I’d write: we should all strive to handle sensitive conflict as well as Lauren Cooper. (Watch me eat my words when she unleashes another ill-advised scheme. Look, she’s still only sixteen and flaws make characters interesting and nobody’s a saint, okay?!)
As of now, we have three more episodes to go this season, and I kind of can’t wait to see where everyone ends up. It’s been a long road of highs and lows for these kids, and while they’ve generally been changing for the better, no one’s journey is even a little close to being over. One thing’s for sure: if the closing chapters of 2B are as rich and layered as the buildup, it’s going to be awesome. And potentially heartwrenching. But hopefully still awesome.