Last week, I talked about how this season seemed to be in a weird place — caught somewhere between nuanced emotional conflict and poorly conceived artificial misunderstandings designed to worsen the animosity between Karma and Amy. I was worried about how this week’s episode would go, with previews foretelling a lot of cattiness that seemed to spit on their relationship. Let me tell you: I’ve never been happier to be wrong.
While there was a lot to enjoy during Karmygeddon’s twenty minutes of runtime, the very best scene came at the end; whatever this show’s flaws, rich and complicated episode endings are a consistent treat. In the episode’s last moments, we were treated to one of the best exchanges on this show:
Amy: I had to ask myself — if I evolved, then why did it hurt so bad to see you kiss [Zita]? Why did it bring me right back to that shallow end of the pool? Maybe I’m not one hundred percent over you, and maybe I never will be.
Karma: And maybe I kissed you because maybe a small part of me does want you to be in love with me, ’cause it feels good. I know it’s so selfish. I don’t wanna keep hurting you, Amy. But I don’t know how to be your friend without hurting you.
Amy: I don’t know either.
An honest conversation like this — no blame, no accusations, no ultimatums — is exactly what these characters needed, both textually and meta-wise. They’ve finally cleared away the misunderstandings, the endless lashing out, and the lies about being fine to get to the core truths of their situation. It’s some of the most sincere, thoughtful writing I’ve seen during Faking It’s run, particularly when Karma admits that something she’s always had — an anxious desire to be the center of attention — might be playing into her dynamic with Amy in a very ugly way. I love that the writers aren’t scared of letting these characters be imperfect, and would have one of their leads admit to a genuinely unattractive desire like this. It’s so human and complicated.
The singular frustrating point with this episode was how other characters finally brought up the possibility that maybe Karma isn’t straight, something Karmy shippers have been hoping for since the first episode while paying attention to the series’ frequent hints, and yet the narrative backed away from any actual serious conversation about that idea once again. Faking It has always lain ambiguous seeds in Karma’s reactions to what Amy says or does — is she just jealous of Amy’s romantic relationships as a possessive friend, or could she actually be in love and denying it to herself? — while refusing to tip its hand, and somehow the way in which “Karmygeddon” chose to inch forward on the subject was both exciting and infuriating at once. (Faking It can be a very emotionally confusing show to watch in this respect.) On the one hand, seeing the narrative ask the “could Karma actually like Amy back?” question, at last, is a huge step forward, and it makes sense that Karma wouldn’t just agree with people right away or be ready to discuss that with anyone. On the other hand, the long pause when Karma brings up why she kissed Amy seems almost intentionally cruel, like we’re supposed to think maybe the writing will at last set Karma off on her own path of considering how she may not be as straight as she previously thought, after so many people have waited and hoped for so long — only for the story to back away from the possibility yet again, as Karma’s given reason is just liking that someone is in love with her.
Listen: in a world where Lexa’s death sparks huge fandom controversy and people have to constantly push back about how lesbian and gay viewers deserve more, it’s time for Faking It to get real. There’s some relief in how this is not the kind of show where people get killed off, so the protagonists are safe in that respect, but the endless baiting of Karma’s sexuality has always walked a very thin line between ‘interesting journey’ and ‘offensive stringing-along of the fanbase.’ One of the characters says to Karma, verbatim, “there’s a clear pattern of you kissing girls,” and yet we cannot get anywhere beyond her interest in Amy simply being that of a sad girl who doesn’t want her friend to love anyone more than her. This isn’t about catering to the whims of fanservice: this is about an underrepresented group constantly told via fiction that their relationships can never work out or be healthy and successful. Endlessly implementing these hints that maybe, just possibly, Karma likes Amy back, but no wait it’s just totally nonromantic neediness — it’s not just getting stagnant. It’s getting mean and exploitative. If this show really wants to pursue a message of inclusivity and love, it needs to start doing better. Let Karma explore the possibility of an actual romance with her best friend, or let Amy figure out she actually can find love and be happy elsewhere.
I’ve made it clear that I love this story and that I think this episode did great work. It’s just tiring that it can do great work while playing into such thoughtless, nasty tropes that are so negatively impacting the LGBT+ community right now. The bottom line is: quit punking out, show. Be the force for representation you advertise yourself as. Be the Hester High you want to see in the world.