Saturday, February 1, 2014

The Carrie Diaries - "Run to You" Review

Season 2, Episode 13

Season 2 of The Carrie Diaries has been an up and down one, that's for sure.  At times, it seemed like the show was actively trying to bend and ruin everything that made it special in the first season.  Carrie became a little unlikable (particularly in her dealings with superstar playwright Adam Weaver), the show rarely ever knew what to do with Samantha, and there were so many different threads occurring in isolation that it felt like we were watching 6 shows at once.  But at its best -- like last week's penultimate episode -- it reminded you of its simple charm and the writers' ability to really nail the emotional moments that count.

This finale had alot riding on it, since it could be the show's final episode, after producing stable but low numbers all season.  But inside of its universe, the stakes were high as well, as all the characters find themselves at a precipice of some sort.  Really though, this episode is focused on the girl at the center of it all, confronting each section of her life one by one.  The first of those is her education, as we see Carrie and the rest of the gang graduating from Castlebury High School at the beginning of the episode.  It's a miracle that Carrie managed to get a diploma at all, seeing as she was rarely ever there, but nevertheless, she's ready to approach the next stage of her life, working at Interview full time in the city.

Misfortune strikes, however, when Larissa gets fired after being in a spotlight article where she doesn't give any credit to her vain boss.  Because Carrie under the auspices of Larissa, this essentially means that she has to get the boot as well.  It'd take an eternity to try to figure out the logic of how all of this works, but only a second to see how contrived this plot element is, nakedly serving to ratchet up drama.  Yet while I wouldn't say it entirely works, it's effective because the drama it causes is compelling.  Carrie's life has always been structured and driven, so this development puts her in a position that's new to her, one where there's no safety net.  That's only reinforced by her attempts to fall back on her acceptance to NYU, only to find out that she missed the deadline by 3 days, and wouldn't be able to start school until the next fall semester.

What's bad news for Carrie is a window of opportunity for Sebastian, who takes this series of unfortunate events and uses it to finally tell her that he's planning on going back to California, and asks her to come with him.  While Carrie's deliberating a possible move to the west coast, Tom finds out from Larissa that Carrie got fired from Interview, thus making her decision to forgo college all the more foolish.  This leads to the knockout scene in the middle of the episode where he goes to confront Carrie, dissolving one of the strongest and most subtle relationships of the show.  It still isn't enough for Carrie to up and move to California, after Larissa's vows during her and Harlan's wedding causes Carrie to realize that New York is her true home.  The scene where she shares this revelation with Sebastian is heartbreaking in its own right, but it's even more powerful because of the symbolic meaning it has for Carrie.  Since the beginning, it seemed like the show was treating Sebastian as Big Jr., the satellite that's always in Carrie's orbit.  But we know how her life turns out -- Sebastian isn't even a blip on adult Carrie's radar.  The show's done such a good job of feigning Carrie and Sebastian's epic romance that their parting still feels like a gutpunch, even though I was convinced that I had no vested interest in their relationship just a few episodes ago.  It truly is one of the "putting away of childish things" moments that this episode is all about.

"How do we know if we're moving forward or just moving?," Carrie asks herself in a rare example of beautiful narration.  In fact, the entire episode is about her orienting herself on the road to the second act of her life.  There may have been side stories with the various other characters -- Maggie gets a marriage proposal from Pete the Army Guy, Mouse is marooned on Mouse Storyline Island with West, Larissa gets married to Harlan, Dorrit and Tom eat waffles together, Bennet wears funny clothes, and Samantha does...something -- but "Run to You" is about Carrie becoming the woman we know her to be in Sex and the City.  And I must say, for somebody who wasn't wild about that show, and especially its interpretation of Carrie, I found this episode to be beautiful and moving.  It's the kind of illuminating finale that reconstructs everything that came before it.  The many narrative stumbles may still be there when you look back on this year, but those are just extra pieces in a larger story about one girl learning that her wide-eyed ambition is not the only ingredient to success, that hard work and personal growth are necessary as well.  The Carrie Diaries might have largely abandoned being a high school drama somewhere in season 1, but at the end of tonight's episode, I couldn't help but feel like I saw a wonderful two-season encapsulation of adolescence.  I'd love to see the show come back, but if it doesn't, this episode feels like a conclusive chapter to this portion of Carrie Bradshaw's life.

Random Asides:

-This week in AnnaSophia Robb being delightful: She did not disappoint in this finale.  That goofy smile that she gives to Walt when Harlan talks about having sex with Larissa on a plane might be her most delightful moment on the show.

-But seriously, there aren't enough words to describe how great of a performance AnnaSophia Robb is giving on this show.  Carrie's breakup scene with Sebastian and subsequent reconciliation with her father was just outstanding stuff.

-Mouse Sweater Watch: Mouse also went out strong with her sweater game, wearing a nice yellow and black striped sweater that made her look like a bumblebee.

-"Am I dating another gay guy without knowing it?  Is that my thing?"  The show didn't always know what to do with Maggie this year, but at least she gets this funny line.

-Well that wraps up season 2 of The Carrie Diaries!  I started doing this because I wanted to try my hand at writing weekly reviews, and in the process I've discovered that I'm probably not cut out for it.  This is hard to do, guys!  But if you've been reading and enjoying them, thank you so much.  Call me crazy, but I think the show is going to get picked up for a third season.  (Then again, I thought Bunheads had a good shot at getting renewed for a second season.  And we all know what happened there.)  If it does come back, I might make a return to weekly reviewing, if only to be able to have a "This week in AnnaSophia being delightful" section that documents the moment when she finally grows little wings and sprinkles fairy dust over everybody else.

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