Awkward Review: Mid-Season Finale

Andy Pham ’17/ Emertainment Monthly Writer
Just when viewers thought that Jenna was done with love triangles, our jaws dropped last Tuesday night on the mid-season finale of “Awkward.” Since its premiere in 2009, “Awkward” follows teenage blogger Jenna Hamilton, whose initial accident results in a falsely labeled suicide stigma, in addition to a sudden tryst with the popular Matty McKibben and a nastily written anonymous letter. After two seasons of watching Jenna struggle between best friends Matty (Beau Mirchoff) and Jake Rosati (Brett Davern), viewers on Team Matty rejoiced her decision. However, ten episodes into the third season saw Jenna face new relationship obstacles, especially a mysteriously handsome new student, the final minutes of last week’s mid-season finale had hearts racing, onscreen and off, watching the beginning of an inevitable demise to our beloved protagonist.
Last season ended with two new pairings: Jenna’s best friend Tamara (Jillian Rose Reed) has hooked up with Jake and Jenna can finally rest happily into Matty’s arms. And of course this calls for a “Tamara-ism”, in which she excitedly dubs the new foursome as the “BFGFBFF,” the “Boy/Friend/Girl/Friend/Best Friends Forever,” early on this season. However, viewers were left feeling uneasy, as Jenna’s fear of repeating her mother Lacey’s (Nikki Deloach) unhappy romantic past was forewarned, with the dropping of the other shoe with her decision—literally. The final moments of season two saw Jenna, perched onto Matty at a party, catching Tamara’s fallen shoe after her chosen beau had refused to get up and dance—a mirroring sign from her mother’s past.
After a summer of romance, the third season opens with the characters’ entrance into their junior year of high school. While Tamara and Jake are something out of a sappy French film after a cultural summer in Paris, Jenna and Matty appear to be past the honeymoon stage. Already communication seems to be a problem for the two, an ironic twist for a couple in which the series was built upon. The second episode of the full-hour premiere of the season found Jenna in a pregnancy scare, in which she fails to notify the would-be father, causing tension among the two lovers. This is also shown with Matty’s parental issues after the discovery of his and Jenna’s sexual relationship. However, trouble comes from Matty’s “A-list” status that seems to haunt the two, leading Jenna to question her value in the relationship through Matty’s eyes for the remaining first run of the season.
I can’t help but feel that Jenna has been trying to sabotage her own relationship this season. Sure, it’s not entirely her fault. New student Collin (Nolan Funk) has undeniably been putting out vibes to our girl Jenna since his arrival, whether he’s subtly picking up a pencil for her in class or inviting her out to art galleries. However, in views of Jenna’s own treatment towards her relationship with Matty, I was extremely frustrated by Jenna’s constant self-reminder that she and Matty were from different worlds, in terms of the stereotypical high school universe, especially with the posting of the “Hot” and “Not” lists during this season’s Halloween episode. Jenna can’t seem to stand Collin and everything she accuses him to be with his “pretentious” writings and favored treatment from their tough-as-nails Creative Writing teacher (guest star Anthony Michael Hall). However, Collin, in comparison to Matty, has been providing Jenna the confidence she needs in regards to her self-identification. Sure, Matty’s been around for Jenna’s comfort, but her focus on her and Matty’s social differences proved troubling. There’s something about this new guy that she can’t seem to ignore, enough to fantasize about in a sexually-driven essay. After episodes of dark clouds hovering Jenny and Matty’s relationship, the final minutes of the mid-season finale saw Jenna succumbing to her desires in a passionate kiss with Collin in his car, within yards of Matty from sight. I’m sure it wasn’t just me who was on the edge of my seat as we watched Matty approaching in slow motion, only to sigh in relief it was time for Jenna to step out of the car innocently. After all, this is a couple rooted by much of its fans, myself included.
I feel it’s necessary to point out a key character that charmed audience with her spiteful mannerisms (her famous “You’re welcome”) has been lacking screen time and story. Sadie Saxton (Molly Tarlov), the popular yet cruel classmate of Jenna, has been a valuable antagonist to Jenna’s story of high school angst. From sending nude photos of Jenna to slipping to Jake about Jenna’s secret past with Matty, Sadie has shown herself a comically clever villain with her own wits. Season Three found Sadie lacking grief over the sudden death of her boy-toy Ricky Schwartz and her sinking status upon her family’s bankruptcy. While the ladder story offered more exploration into Sadie as a person beyond her money, the series veered from the character into being more of an omniscient figure, only good to deliver witty one-liners. An important character that was immensely incorporated into the first couple seasons, it is disappointing to see the villain we love to hate be dismissed.
Another point to mention is the slow development of Jake Rosati post-Jenna. The early episodes of the third season had little personality to Jake, aside from being Tamara’s puppy-dog. Jake, in seasons before, has shown himself to be a man to stand on his own ground with his own opinions. However, coming into his relationship with Tamara, I couldn’t help but cringe to see Jake debasing himself as a French lover-boy to his new girlfriend in the opening episode. Clearly Jake has always been a romantic since the show’s pilot, but where is the line between romantic and sappy? Eventually the writers begin to treat Jake more as his usual self after the first few episodes, smartly refreshing his bromance with best friend Matty. Tamara has stated this season that both she and Jake act as “the girl” in their relationship, so it’s nice to see a contrast in Jake’s character when he bonds with Matty. Memorable bonding times include Jake teaching Matty how to dance with his own style, as well as their competition to see who is more tied onto their girlfriends’ leashes.
Speaking of being on a leash, is it just me or is Ming (Jessica Lu) vs. Asian Mafia storyline becoming more cartoonish and irrelevant to the series? “Awkward” itself is a satirical series in its witty narrative and unrealistic portrayal of high school, to a point where it’s nearly a Disney Channel series for an older audience. Jenna’s other best friend Ming has been portrayed as the ultimate Asian hipster, with her furry hats and her “extensive sneaker collection” as she describes. However, her battle with the malicious Asian crowd in school this season appears to be one thought bubble away from being straight out of a Japanese animation, with fierce social and eventual physical attacks. Weren’t we all rooting for Ming when she threw a punch to Becca in the face? Nonetheless, such crowned Ming the official new leader of the Mafia. While I can sit back and enjoy watching the battle of the Asians in the world of “Awkward,” Ming’s torment by the Mafia appears out of character for the otherwise dramatic portion of the show, which itself implements comedic relief with Tamara and Sadie. The mid-season finale introduced us to the accountant of the Mafia and it is no other than…. drum roll, please… a little Asian boy suited up Justin Timberlake style, handing her a special cell phone for Mafia business. Once again, sometimes I had to ask myself if I was watching the same show I was mere minutes ago with Jenna’s confusion about her relationship.
Now all we are left with are questions: What will happen with Jenna and Collin? Will she and Matty break-up? Is Tamara and Jake’s relationship forever annoyingly bubbly? Will Ming take power in the Mafia?
MTV has released the trailer for the fall premiere, and it looks like our beloved Jenna will go down a spiral (named Collin), leaving Matty behind. With this comes what seems to be a new look for Jenna. Goodbye ponytail and hello to beanies? After all, Collin’s artsy side was what lured Jenna to his invitation to an art gallery. And where are Jenna’s friends and family to turn to? BFFs Tamara and Ming seem to be ditching Jenna as a result of her new choices, as well as her mother who says to her troubling daughter that she no longer wants to talk. The cherry on top of it all: police sirens. Looks like Jenna better watch her tail. Forbidden fruit may taste the sweetest, but perhaps she took a bigger bite than she can chew. And of course Tamara is there, probably coining new phrases to express her OMG factor.
Can we handle seeing our once beloved Jenna Hamilton take a turn for the worse? Stay tuned for the fall premiere on MTV. It’s sure to be… well… awkward.

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