Monday, January 6, 2014

The Carrie Diaries - "Under Pressure" Review

Season 2, Episode 9

This Friday, The Carrie Diaries returned from a two-week break -- both in the show's universe and in real life -- full of fresh starts and continuing dramas.  On the new beginnings front, it's the start of the spring semester, and Carrie is actually in school!  As far as continuing storylines go, Sebastian is still in California after his father made him move there with him in the midseason finale.  The main drive for this week's story, however, is Tom (more famously known as Dadshaw) going away for the weekend on a secret case, leaving Carrie and Dorrit alone to capitalize on their freedom in their own ways.

After some chiding from Larissa about the inevitable decline of all long-distance relationships, Carrie sees this unsupervised weekend as a way to keep the flame alight in her relationship with Sebastian.  So naturally, Sebastian flies to the other side of America to see her, because that's what all teenagers do.  Obviously, there's no way that Sebastian's move to California was going to be a permanent thing, since Austin Butler is a series regular, but it would've been nice to see them try to keep him on the sidelines for at least an episode or two.  Having him back in Castlebury (and the later revelation that he's moving back permanently) seemed a little too quick.

Carrie and Dorrit's plotlines converge as Dorrit takes the less smart route, choosing to take advantage of a weekend without Dadshaw by throwing a huge party, thus interrupting Carrie's canoodling with Sebastian.  All of this is in an effort to impress some new guy who looks exactly like the old guy she was dating.  (Dorrit, if nothing else, is at least consistent.)  This plot is an example of the usual "Dorrit being foolish and rebellious" thing, but this season they've managed to soften her a bit -- and have her appear less -- so it ultimately works.  Plus, it's a very fun and smart way to get all of the characters together.  Most notable on that front is the pairing of Mouse and Donna, who engage in a little bit of competitive beer pong.  Donna has consistently been the show's most entertaining character since early into the first season, and Mouse makes the most of her storylines being marooned in Castlebury while everybody else is having fun in Manhattan, so the two of them together is probably the greatest decision the show's writers could make.  The pure, simple fun doesn't last when the party quickly gets out of hand, as unsupervised parties on TV are wont to do, and the Bradshaw sisters have to work together to save themselves from getting caught by their neighbor who's been put in charge of keeping an eye on them.

Over in Manhattan, Tom encounters problems of his own, discovering that the super confidential case that he was put in charge of is just negotiating a prenuptial agreement between Larissa and Harlan.  Like the A-plot, this is another example of the writers trying to bring the show's many characters together, but it's much less successful than the party in Castlebury.  In having so many side characters, it's often difficult for a show like this to give all of them something to do, and the writers can sometimes flail around trying to find that something.  That's what this whole Harlan and Larissa relationship seems like, and it's been goofy and insubstantial from the start.  Things do take somewhat of an interesting turn here, when Larissa reveals that she doesn't want to move in with Harlan, out of fear that she might lose some of herself by being so tied down to him.  It's a development that ties into both this series' and Sex and the City's efforts to redefine female independence, and also colors her earlier relationship advice to Carrie.  The storyline isn't fully redeemed by that, but it's the most shading that Larissa has gotten in a long time.

The New York and Connecticut stories are not only united by the characters feeling under pressure (as Carrie so conveniently narrates for us), but also by the Bradshaws trying to figure out bloodless solutions to difficult problems.  In the end, Tom concocts a way for Larissa and Harlan to be happy -- Harlan will buy her the apartment right next to his, so she can still have her own space -- and it's pretty ridiculous.  Meanwhile, Carrie and Dorrit manage to avert their neighbor crisis when she comes over to bust them, but accidentally eats a pot brownie.  When Sebastian pretends the cops are coming to break up the party, the gang is able to clean things up before Tom arrives, and the neighbor is too embarrassed about getting high to rat on Carrie and Dorrit.  Problem solved!  "Under Pressure" is a bit unbalanced, but it's ultimately a solid episode, and a nice way for this fun, underrated show to enter 2014.

Random Asides:

-Welcome to my first attempt at episodic reviews!  I don't ever do them because I hate plot (and hate describing it even more), and an important part of a TV review is describing the events that unfolded.  As a result, this review is pretty terrible, and my decision to start reviewing The Carrie Diaries 9 episodes into this season is strange, but I'm doing it anyway.  Hope you enjoy!

-This week in AnnaSophia Robb being delightful: This will be a recurring segment where I point out one way in which AnnaSophia Robb, the most delightful screen presence on television, exhibits her delightfulness.  Did you see the way Carrie flicked Dorrit on the arm in that scene where their dad was telling them that he'd be gone for the weekend?  Absolutely delightful!

-Mouse Sweater Watch: In case you haven't noticed, Mouse always wears amazing sweaters.  This is where I'll talk about them.  Mouse's sweater game was a little weak in this episode, since she only wore a simple beige one.  But that tiny little mouse broach that she put on it brought it up a level.

-This episode featured alot of party cliches -- a random person breaking something valuable, keg problems, etc.  I think it worked because the show is set in the 80s, so it's almost like watching those 80s movies where the tropes first gained prominence.

-Harlan is played by Scott Cohen, better known as Max Medina from Gilmore Girls.  So I've just got to get this line out of my system: "Hey, it's me, Max.  Medina.  Maaaax Medina."  Okay, carry on.

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