Welcome to the middle of One Day at a Time Season 2, where things get gayer and also straighter somehow? And some other important stuff happens.
In this episode, Penelope is going to get the apartment to herself as everyone heads out to their weekend activities: Alex is going to a Bar Mitzvah, Lydia and Leslie are going to the opera, and Elena and Syd are going to ComicCon for their first date, dressed as Dr. Who and the TARDIS. I don’t know who got them into ComicCon, but let’s just assume Schneider used his rich white guy pull and leave it at that. Elena and Syd are adorable, but Elena is hopelessly awkward to the point where she can’t hold an actual conversation with Syd. But we’ll get to that.
Penelope’s plans for her night alone are to have Max over, but just as things are starting to get steamy between them, a police helicopter swoops by outside the window, announcing that there is a manhunt on for a shooter and for everyone to stay inside. Luckily, none of the family had gotten very far so they all come back to the apartment. Unluckily, no one knows about Max (except Schneider). A slapstick sequence ensues in which Penelope and Schneider try to sneak Max out the door when no one is looking but get caught by hawk-eye Lydia. Schneider makes up a story about Max being his AA sponsor and we have the makings of a classic fishbowl sitcom episode- everyone trapped in one place.
While Leslie and Lydia cook dinner, Elena and Syd are in Elena’s room with Alex. Elena is losing it a little because of her extreme crush, and Alex drags her outside the room to tell her to chill out; she asks for his help and he agrees. Alex tries to bring some fun into the room by Snapchatting from the lockdown, joking with Syd about the zombie apocalypse, but Elena can’t relax into the game. She ends up pushing Syd farther away.
Alex, for the record, is being a really sweet brother, and I appreciate seeing a good-hearted teenage boy on screen with emotional range.
Eventually, Elena is able to open up to Syd about her anxiety around how much she likes them, and Syd reciprocates. They kiss on the little balcony outside Elena’s room and my heart melts right out of my chest.
The other big emotional note in this episode happens when Penelope finds out that Lydia has a gun in the house, one she’s apparently had since before Penelope was born. This upsets Penelope, who delivers this great line: “We have teenagers in this house. We have a gay teenager in this house. We have a veteran with PTS in this house. This is the last house that should have a gun.” I agree with her sentiment about guns being more dangerous than protective, but the episode ends with the reveal that Penelope has a gun of her own. Alex confesses that he found it under her floorboards a long time ago, but didn’t touch it, then asks her if she’ll stay true to her own words and get rid of it. She agrees.
Also in this episode, Schneider says Max is “like a male wonder woman,” which I just really like.
Work Hard Play Hard
This episode revolves around money and work and earning a living and what that means. When Lydia continues to spoil Alex by buying him expensive shoes, Penelope insists Alex get a job to pay her back (in money, not hugs), and it just so happens they need someone to do filing at Dr. Burkowitz’s office. Over the course of the episode, Alex goes from bored to teenager to jaded old man taking shots of apple juice, but I guess the crux of it is that he gains a healthy respect for what it takes to earn a living.
Elena also gets a job, sort of. She starts a Twitch account to livestream herself (and unpaid intern Schneider) playing video games. “You know what they say,” Elena says to Penelope, “do what you love and the money will follow.” To which Penelope responds, “That’s for rich white ladies who want to make jewelry.”
It seems to be going well at first, but after she breaks 100 subscribers, she feels pressure to play 24/7. Which, as you can probably guess, doesn’t really lend itself to things like sleep or showering or mental health. In the end, Elena, Alex, and Penelope have all had stressful and fulfilling experiences with work, more or less, and that’s about it for this episode. Not the most exciting, but definitely entertaining enough to get some laughs and some emotions out of me.
The first thing I’d like to mention about this episode is that Syd comes up with the name 15 Possible Girls for a possible genderqueer punk band, so right off the bat you know this episode has a least some good parts.
The “15 possible girls” are the result of Elena and Syd’s weird obsession with finding out who someone named “P” is, who texts Alex that they love him. Once Alex confirms that he is indeed straight, they narrow it down to all the possible girls from his yearbook and social media. While I find this childish and invasive, these are teenagers, so I guess I’ll cut them some slack. But honestly, I expected better from Elena.
So the title of this episode clearly refers to all of the relationships that are going on. While Elena and Syd are definitely exclusive, and Alex has a mystery person in his life, the adults have not defined their relationships with exclusivity. Leslie follows Alex’s advice to be less available to Lydia in order to be less of a servant and more of a partner, so he goes to the opera with a woman named Esmé. Lydia gets very jealous and enlists Schneider to take her to the opera so they can spy on them. She then proceeds to follow Esmé into the bathroom and ruin her discontinued lipstick.
I’m not a fan of this stereotypical cattiness, but ultimately Lydia and Leslie have a fruitful, adult conversation about their relationship in which they decide to just be friends. Lydia says she can’t ever be all-in with someone because her heart still belongs to Berto. Leslie understands, and she gives him another lipstick in the same discontinued shade to give to Esmé.
Meanwhile, Max and Penelope are having their own exclusivity struggles. They both seemingly want to be exclusive, but need the other to be the one who declares it without having to own the label themselves. It’s kind of annoying to watch, but in the end they decide to go for it and Penelope finally introduces him to her family- formally, under no pretense.
And lastly, the big reveal at the end of the episode happens when Elena decides to stalk Alex on his “date” with “P,” only to find out that “P” is their father, who apparently has been talking to Alex and taking him to pizza for some time without ever reaching out to her. It’s totally heartbreaking, but I can’t wait to see where it goes for the last third of the season.
Some thoughts on the season so far: I’m not a big fan of Max. He is portrayed as perfect in every way- respects women, cares only about Penelope, walks around holding puppies, etc. But the emphasis on his “perfect” body and his constant minor pranks on Penelope- for example, when she voices insecurities about their relationship, he lets her think the woman she saw him with on Instagram is someone other than his cousin in order to get her to label their relationship- rub me the wrong way. It’s played as funny, but I don’t like it. It’s a tired trope that in my opinion doesn’t belong on a show that’s trying to push heteronormative and patriarchal boundaries.
Some of the jokes in this show still rely on tired gender and racial stereotypes. But overall, it remains refreshing. Elena’s queerness is treated with respect as well as humor. Alex’s arcs of learning to adult, be a straight teenage boy, and still maintain a loving and respectful relationship with the powerful women that surround him is also unique in television, and sitcoms in particular. Penelope, Lydia, and even Leslie continue to be complex and well-rounded characters that are constantly reflecting, growing, and shining. I look forward to seeing how the end of the season plays out.
See you this weekend with the roundup of the last three episodes!