Spoiler warning for season 4 of The 100.
From The 100 and The Handmaid’s Tale to Wynonna Earp and Orphan Black, many of the science fiction genre’s more successful television shows of late feature female protagonists and a litany of badass female characters. Many also employ female writers and directors, infusing a woman’s worldview into our media narratives. Though we are definitely making strides in queer female representation in the genre as well, I am disappointed there are no shows to list featuring female protagonists of color. But it is worth celebrating the victories we have achieved, and here at The Fandomentals we are starting a Ladies of Sci-Fi interview series to pay homage to womankind’s triumphs.
This month’s guest is actor Tasya Teles, who plays the fierce but aloof Echo kom Azgeda on apocalyptic drama The 100. There could not be a more perfect choice for the first installment of this interview series. Teles was recently promoted to a series regular for season 5, which begins 6 years after a second nuclear apocalypse forces the characters underground or (in Echo’s case) into space.
It’s no secret that Echo is a favorite of mine and a character I enjoy analyzing, and I took this opportunity to dig into Echo’s psyche. Teles was kind enough to provide thoughtful answers that allow us some rare and valuable access into the taciturn warrior’s head. Read on to hear her dish on Echo’s backstory and her mindset during some big moments in season 4, as well as tease at what we may see from Echo next season.
The following interview was conducted via email;* it has been lightly edited for clarity, but any redundancy in questions is due to that format.
Lisa P: First of all, congrats on your promotion to the main cast! You said in another interview that you were jumping up and down when you got the news, a perfectly rational response in my opinion. What is your favourite part of being involved with this show?
Tasya Teles: Aww, thank you so much! I couldn’t be happier. I really fell in love with Echo, and I’m thrilled to have an opportunity to develop her story further. There’s so much I love about the show, where do I begin? The writing is surprising and ruthless, the characters are strong and complex, and I adore the cast and crew. Everyone is challenged to the highest degree, and this shared dedication to storytelling makes every day rewarding, crazy, and fun. Another thing I love about being involved with the show is getting to meet all the fans. Sachin Sahel and I were just talking about how much we love going to conventions. It allows us to get to know the fans, and hear from them face-to-face. The show means so much to many people, so it’s truly an honor to be a part of The 100 family.
LP: I know that fan reactions to Echo have not always been overwhelmingly positive. How much do you feel that’s changed this past year, now that fans have gotten to see more of both you and your character?
TT: I felt that people started seeing her differently this past year. Some saw beyond the warrior mask right away, and others are still warming up to her. Throughout season four, her armor starts to break, and beneath it is this vulnerable child who’s lost everything. She has to rebuild her world all over again, and deal with the trauma of the past.
At the end of the day, Echo isn’t inherently evil, she was trained to do one thing: protect Azgeda. Azgeda is a pretty brutal clan, so to survive, Echo cuts emotion out and focuses solely on strategy and execution (no pun intended). Part of humanizing Echo, as villainous as she was at the top of the season, was trying to figure out who she would be in today’s society. Along with my coach, we began looking at child soldiers and young terrorists. The stories of these kids really break my heart. Many were stolen from their families, and conditioned to behave a certain way. Finding Echo’s broken heart, and understanding that she must have been brutalized as a child, helped me bring her adult story to life.
Hopefully season five invites the audience to get to know a different side of Echo. But like they say, you can take the girl outta Azgeda, but you can’t take the Azgeda out of the girl. She’ll definitely retain her badass side that makes me love her so much.
LP: You’ve mostly worked with Bob Morley, Marie Avgeropoulos, and Zach McGowan in the previous three seasons. Heading into filming this season, who are you most excited to work with more?
TT: Bob, Marie, and Zach. Just kidding. But it would be amazing to work with Zach again! Maybe we can figure out another way to bring him back from the dead (hint hint writers)! I would love to work more with Adina Porter. She has a coolness and strength to her that is so mesmerizing. I think an Echo/Indra face off would be brilliant. But I love everybody on the team, I’m happy any way you slice it.
LP: Right now Echo’s backstory is a pretty blank slate. Do you have any theories or headcanons about her history that you use to help develop or understand her more fully?
TT: One thing I do think about a lot is where she came from. As I mentioned earlier, I’ve looked at child soldiers, modern day pirates, spies, and secret agents. Like child soldiers, spies are often people with no family, and nothing to lose, which is what makes them great spies. Using the idea of Echo as an orphan, or being kidnapped from her family, is where I started to build her backstory.
Growing up without a family in a ruthless environment, Echo was put into training almost immediately. She lost her childhood to combat training, which hardened her, but it also cultivated this cool, capable badass we met in season four, and saw a glimpse of in season two. Azgeda would be a scary place for any orphan, even those who were training as assassins. Little Echo was conditioned to be ruthless. She had to protect herself from a variety of threats at every corner, never having a safe haven to call home. So it follows that she latched on to Queen Nia pretty tightly when Nia noticed her. By promoting Echo into the royal guard, Echo suddenly had status, protection, and a purpose. That was the closest thing to a family she ever knew. How sad is that? But her fear of abandonment, and her incapacity to trust others easily, are scars from her childhood that never leave her, which we see her struggle with in season four. She’s terrified of losing her “family,” and will go to great lengths to protect her kin.
LP: You said at SDCC that what you most like about Echo is her strength and loyalty and how she always protects her clan first. That draws some interesting comparisons to Clarke, given the respective massacres they were involved in at Mount Weather and the underhanded things they both did in 4×10.
In 4×12 they have that moment where Echo asks if her actions were so wrong and Clarke seems to empathize and reflect on herself. She then gives up her own helmet to save Echo, which suggests she thinks Echo is no worse than her, or at the very least is worth saving. Do you think that’s a fair comparison, that Echo and Clarke are actually quite similar but Clarke just so happens to be our protagonist and belong to a (slightly) less brutal clan?
TT: I think that’s a fair comparison. There are parallels between Clarke and Echo, and maybe if the story was told from an Azgeda perspective, then Clarke may be seen as an antagonist to the main plotline. But yes, I think they do share similarities. Leading up to that moment, we saw them both cheating in the final conclave, and we’ve seen that they both won’t hesitate to put their own lives at risk for the safety of their clans.
LP: Bellamy and Echo’s relationship has been quite rocky so far because they have both done some awful things for their clans, clans that were often at war with each other. It has been teased that alliances will have shifted in the six years since the second Praimfaya. Is it safe to assume that those characters’ fierce loyalty will now be working for rather than against that relationship?
TT: I think that time is a great healer. I also think that in times of survival, with only a few people on the ship, there isn’t much room for lingering grudges or hatred. Both characters have lost so much including their best friends, and families. At a certain point you have to ask yourself, is it really worth it? So yes, it’s likely that some new loyalties have been formed among them. Whether these loyalties work for or against them sets up a really interesting problem in season five if everyone reunites. Seeing these new relationships under intense pressure will definitely make for some great drama.
LP: Trust has been a major theme for Becho in the past three seasons. After all that’s happened between them, how do you think Echo will have gone about trying to regain Bellamy’s trust?
TT: Echo has never known a life where she isn’t constantly faced with the threat of war and all the dangers associated with it. I would say that for the first time, Echo is in a place where she can be herself. Part of her transformation is learning how to trust others, and Bellamy and her have a lot of ground to cover. I do think she will eventually try to regain Bellamy’s trust, but how does she do it? I don’t know. Maybe she makes him a giant ‘I’m Sorry’ paper maché two headed teddy bear. Six years is a long time to be stuck in space, I’m sure they’ll get sick of board games pretty quickly.
LP: Octavia and Echo have had a pretty tumultuous relationship too. Last time they saw each other, Octavia kicked Echo out of the bunker and left her to die. What will happen if Echo ever sees Octavia again, now that she will be closely allied with Bellamy? That sounds like the most awkward family reunion ever. Does Octavia even know Echo is alive and was on that ship?
TT: If your assumption is that Echo and Bellamy become close allies, then yeah, that’s a Thanksgiving dinner I would skip. I don’t think Octavia knows that Echo is alive, and certainly not that she’s in space with her brother. Even Echo didn’t know that she was headed for space. Reuniting with the ground is troubling for Echo. Octavia greatly threatens Echo’s assumed trust in her new ‘space family’. Loyalties will be tested once again at this terrifyingly awkward family reunion. How much Bellamy decides to trust or defend Echo is up to the writers. My hope is that Echo has finally found a home, and some friends. Otherwise she might regress into being a lone soldier once again, which is a scary, but interesting, idea. If Echo goes rogue, nobody is safe. She’s definitely a warrior you want to have on your side.
LP: You’ve said previously that Echo was devastated when Octavia fell off the cliff and she thought she’d killed her, because she had both failed Roan and hurt Bellamy. But she looked downright miserable in that scene where she had to tell Bellamy his sister was dead and then watch him mourn. What was going through her head in that moment?
TT: Echo was miserable. Confronted with the repercussions of what happened on that cliff was the beginning of Echo’s unraveling. It was also a really emotional day on set for me. It was such a shameful moment for Echo, I think her head was spinning. Whether she wanted to admit it to herself or not, Echo respected Bellamy enough to not want to hurt him. She was ashamed, devastated, and remorseful, leading to another tiny crack in her foundation. For me, that’s the first time she ever questioned her Azgeda principles and belief system, “Why am I affected by this? This is war. People die all the time. It wasn’t my fault. It was Octavia who wouldn’t come. Why am I so tormented by this?!” She didn’t want to be there. She wanted to just disappear altogether, and she almost got away leaving the prison cell without having to confront her mistake, until Bellamy called out, “My sister will stop you. She’ll warn the others.” It was difficult for Echo, and there was lots happening in her head at the time, but she pushed all the emotion down so she could do her job.
LP: She really meant it when she said she was glad Bellamy would get a chance to see Octavia again, didn’t she? That was one of the few moments before her banishment where she seemed to drop her walls.
TT: Absolutely. That came straight from the soul. Echo isn’t someone who holds grudges, or politics around too much, and she rarely drops her walls. The nature of her job forces Echo to remove herself emotionally from much of what she does. The audience only gets these little peaks of who she really is behind the mask, so I loved that she snuck that in there, and she meant it.
LP: Personally, I’m totally Team Becho. But if Echo was to get involved with any other character on The 100, who do you think it would be and why?
TT: That’s a wonderful question, and I love your enthusiasm (laughs)! I think that there’s an endless world of shipping possibilities. For the group that’s stuck in space, it’s highly possible that they all dated each other at one point or another. Maybe all at the same time! No, that would be weird. But it would be really hilarious if out of nowhere Octavia and Echo became a thing. Talk about a plot twist.
LP: Echo’s clan was obviously very important to her, and after she was banished we saw her fall apart over the course of a few episodes, culminating in the ritual suicide scene where she lamented, “I belong nowhere.” How much of a treat was it to finally peel back the layers of this strong badass and show her vulnerability, now that she was in the midst of both an identity crisis and the apocalypse?
TT: Oh my gosh, such a treat! When I read that I thought, “FINALLY!” I had been playing her as a very controlled, and very disciplined warrior, and I really wanted to see Echo lose her mind. In the Seppuku scene, she finally broke. Her world was turned completely upside-down. The obscure idea of living in space, with no family, no Roan, no Azgeda, no purpose, and surrounded by this weird techno-world, reminiscent of Mount Weather, was too much for her to handle. Everything came tumbling down on her, and for the first time we saw this staggeringly deep emotional body that she had been hiding for who knows how long. Playing this stoic badass was incredible, but the release was even better.
LP: I must say, I loved how Echo just ripped that panel off the wall and was so willing to help Harper once they were on the Ark, and how desperately she crawled over to Bellamy to pull his helmet off and give him some air. Do you see her easily integrating into the group who went to space now that they are relying on each other, or do you think that old Azgeda loyalty will make it take a little longer for her to trust them? Or for them to trust her, for that matter?
TT: Yes! I absolutely love the moment when she scrambles to Bellamy. It actually wasn’t in the script. Bob and I brought the idea to our director, and he loved it. It made perfect sense that Echo would be the one to rip off Bellamy’s helmet at the last second, as Bellamy had just saved her life moments before, an exchange they’ve made a few times now. But Spacekru should be more nervous about Echo pressing a wrong button, than worrying about Echo’s previous loyalties. At this stage, survival becomes the immediate daily focus. Loyalties will be tested if they make it back to the ground, and that’s where things can become dangerous for her.
LP: What role do you see Echo playing for Spacekru? She’s a natural leader, but she’s the outsider on the Ark and Bellamy is already the de facto leader. Other than that, her talents are mostly combative, so how will she find a way to contribute during those six years in space?
TT: Décor. The space station is definitely in need of some new curtains and complimentary pillow cushions. She also makes a killer flambé! No, I don’t see her being good with décor, or cuisine, but who knows maybe there’s an underlying passion just waiting to be unleashed. She’s so mysterious, that Echo, you just never know.
Echo is a natural leader, when necessary, but she’s a better accomplice, strategist, and spy. I don’t think there will be any sort of power struggle. Echo is pragmatic, economical, and gets straight to the point. She doesn’t sugarcoat, or waste time tiptoeing around an issue. So she definitely became the space therapist. Richard Harmon and I have this long running joke about what therapy sessions with Echo would look like. She’s also an amazing PE teacher. I would say her specialty is mainly sword fighting, but perhaps a bit of bo staff lessons too, just to spice things up.
Thanks so much to Tasya Teles for taking the time to answer all my burning questions about Echo during this busy filming season. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter to stay connected, until we meet again. The 100 season 5 is due to premiere in early 2018 on The CW. January can’t come soon enough!
*Editors note: clarification regarding the method of the interview was added on 10/01/17.
Images Courtesy of The CW (unless otherwise specified)
Inhumans Muddles with Morals
“Somthing Inhuman This Way Comes..” is the 5th epsiode of Marvel’s The Inhumans. Things finally picked up last week, so let’s see if the show can keep it up.
Karnak and Jen reminisce about the night before. As they exit their tent, Reno shoots at them. Karnak blocks the bullet, but Jen gets hit. They run away, and hide in a ditch with Reno in pursuit. Reno receives a call and heads back to the pot farm to meet the caller.
Louise is driving while Medusa and Black Bolt cuddle in the backseat. Black Bolt asks Medusa about what happened to her hair. Reluctantly she opens up, but states it doesn’t change anything and that finding their family is more important. A banging is heard from the truck. Louise pulls over to let Locus out. Locus uses her powers to locate Karnak in the jungle. She makes a comment about the Royal Family’s behavior towards their people, and Medusa commands her to do her job. Louise objects to her treatment of Locus; Medusa replies that she was sent to kill them.
As they trek through the jungle, Locus’s communication device goes off and Medusa takes it from her. Maximus is on the other end. He lies to Medusa about Crystal’s locations. Black Bolt has Medusa tell Maximus that when they get back they will have words, and Maximus says he looks forward to the family reunion. Black Bolt then crushes the communication device, much to Louise’s dismay. Maximus summons Tibor.
On Dave’s farm, Audrey observes that Lockjaw is doing better. Revealed, Crystal is ready to find her family. Audrey protests, saying Lockjaw isn’t ready to run around. Crystal says that’s okay, they’ll just transport. Audrey doesn’t believe any of Crystal’s story until she and Dave are transported away.
At his lab, Declan performs an autopsy on Sakas (Matt Perfetuo), who died in the explosion caused by Mordis. Declan notes that he has a venom gland in his neck. Declan’s Assistant (Joseph Kingsley) looks to Auran, and wonders that her powers are.
Gordon wanders in the jungle tracking Karnak. In a flashback, Gorgon impulsively steals the Lunar Flag. Karnak tells him to put it back, because the humans will notice if it’s gone, which could jeopardize Attilan. In the present, Reno meets up with his boss, who asks to see Ted’s body. His boss then has him shot. He then commands some lackeys to take care of Karnak and Jen.
On Attilan, Maximus wants Tibor to choose the best Inhumans to go after the Royal Family. Tibor questions if this is forceful conscription, but Maximus tries to justify it by saying it’s to secure the peoples freedom, which must be earned.
Back in the Jungle, Karnak tells Jen that he must remove the bullet. Using his Inhuman strength he pushes the bullet from the back through the front. Karnak patches her up. Jen wants to call the police, but he thinks that’s a bad idea. Karnak wants to go back to camp to ambush Reno.
Declan and one of his assistants study Auran’s and Sakas’ DNA. His assistant worries that the Inhumans will turn on the humans. Declan states this is why it is important to understand them. Suddenly Auran’s body jolts. Declan thinks it’s just postmortem spasm, but then Auran sits up and begins to heal herself. Declan stares in awe. Auran then grabs Declan by the throat, ordering him to tell her where Black Bolt is. Declan’s assistant tries to attack Auran with a scalpel, but she ends up killing him with it.
Jen and Karnak arrive back at the pot farm. Karnak isn’t sure how to proceed because he can’t see a clear outcome. Jen remarks that doubt can be helpful. In a flashback Karnak states that he and Gorgon are polar opposites. He is rational, while Gorgon is impulsive. Gorgon asserts that at he is at least doing something, while Karnak just sits around. In the present, Karnak decides to take a chance, so he and Jen head into camp.
Back on Attilan, Maximus tells Auran not to hurt Declan and not to tell him whom she is working for. Maximus tells her Declan’s research is important and to keep him safe. He then commands her to finish her mission and that he will be sending her help soon. Auran then contacts Mortis, who, with Flora (Krista Alvarez) is holding Sammy captive. Auran tells him to bring Sammy to her.
Karnak and Jen notice someone else has been at the camp. The lackeys arrive, and Karnak tells Jen to hide while he takes care on them. Across the island, Lockjaw, Crystal and Dave arrive at a secluded beach. Dave is amazed by how they’ve traveled all over the island in the blink of an eye. Crystal is frustrated that they can’t find her family. Dave tells her to let lose and not be afraid. Later that night, Karnak fights the lackeys, but is overpowered and captured.
Elsewhere Locus uses her powers and says that they are close to Karnak. Louise wants to know how her powers work, but Locus can’t explain it. Medusa explains that Terragenesis decides all. Louise remarks that she doesn’t like that idea, and Locus mentions that before Terragenesis she wanted to be a healer. Louise doesn’t see why she can’t both, but Medusa objects, saying echolocation is Locus’s one true calling. Locus retaliates that this is why she choose Maximus, and brings up Medusa’s parents. Louise thinks it ironic that Medusa and Black Bolt were thrown out for not wanting to change the caste system, while her parents were. Medusa says the law in Attilan wasn’t perfect, but they try to do what’s right. Locus declares this is why she supports Maximus, because he will change things. Medusa points out that he forced Locus here.
Tibor gives Maximus a list of potential recruits, noting that many weren’t happy to be drafted. Maximus repeats that you have to earn your freedom, using himself as an example. Tibor warns Maximus that some might think he is only acting in his own interest, and not Attilan’s. Angered, Maximus orders him to leave.
Gorgon finds Karnak and Jen. Together the fight and escape, but don’t make it far because of Jen’s injury. They hear fighting and gunfire in the distance, then someone approaching. It is revealed to be Medusa and the others, who have just fought the drug dealers. They share a long awaited reunion, and Gorgon shows some interest in Louise. Jen decides that she’s going to call the police and suggest that they all disappear before they show up. Karnak doesn’t want her to leave, but Jen says this is the way things are sometimes, but she had a good time.
Just as Jen leaves, Locus falls over, divulging that she was fatally wounded in the fight. With her last breath, Locus pleads with Black Bolt to change and become the king they deserve. She then tells Medusa that Crystal is on the island. Medusa asks where, but Locus dies before she can say.
On Attilan, Tibor is surrounded by the Royal Guard. He believes they’re there to kill him for speaking out against Maximus, but actually they want his help to overthrow Maximus, calling him a false king.
Similar to last week’s episode focusing on Medusa, this week’s episode focused on Karnak, who, like all the supporting characters, needed some development. The flashbacks with Karnak and Gorgon felt a bit repetitive, but it gave their relationship some longevity. When they are forced to think like the other in order to survive, it highlighted how much they have impacted each other. Plus, it was nice seeing Ken Leung get a chance in the spot light.
A bit of this feels undermined by Karnak’s relationship with Jen. Even if Jen states in the episode that they were just having fun, their interactions weren’t framed that way. I understand Jen’s character is meant to play into Karnak’s arc of becoming more impulsive, but it felt more that the narrative was suggesting she healed him with the power of sex, which is a terrible trope. Speaking of which, it seems Crystal and Dave’s relationship is headed in the same direction, with the exact same plot. Right down to romantic rendezvous on a beach, with a swim in the ocean. That’s just lazy writing.
The trouble with Jen, or any of the other human companions, (besides Louise) is that they aren’t well written, and do little to serve the actual plot besides to drop some words of wisdom and then disappear. Jen literally leaves this episode, which is honestly a better outcome than I thought she’d get. When it was first hinted that she would be Karnak’s love interest, I though she might get stuffed in the fridge.
While Karnak got his groove back, questions of morality were (finally) being discussed in the subplots. Locus, who, unfortunately, did get stuffed in the fridge, brings into question the effectiveness of Black Bolt and Medusa’s rule, stating her frustration for having her fate chosen for her. Louise gives us more insight into her character and others by questioning Medusa and Black Bolt. Medusa is proving to be more of a morally grey character by believing herself to be in the right. While it is interesting to see that Attilan has deeper issue with individuality within it’s system, this is a topic that should have been brought up sooner. It doesn’t help that this episode is nearly over by the time this matter is addressed and answered.
Locus states that she followed Maximus because he would change things, but then changes her own mind in the end by telling Black Bolt to become the king they deserve. What prompted this? Medusa says that Maximus forced Locus to come to Earth, which is trying to play off Maximus’s forced conscription plot, but that doesn’t make sense in the context of the scene. Locus was a part of the Royal Guard, and was just following orders when she came to Earth. Really there isn’t any logical reason for her change of heart besides the writers wanting to prop up Black Bolt. If there was any doubt in her mind about Maximus’s intentions, it should been set up sooner. In these circumstances, it was completely underserved.
Further undercutting any moral nuance was Maximus’s plot on Attilan. Up to this point, Maximus has been a sympathetic villain. He did horrible things, but the audience understood his motivations. This episode eroded that by having Maximus develop a non-voluntary draft on the lower class Inhumans to find the Royal Family.
Now, this isn’t horrible character progression. However, combine Maximus’s plot combined with Locus’s sudden turn-around, and it felt more like the writers trying to manipulate the audience’s opinions. They’re basically saying ‘Hate Maximus because he doesn’t really care about the Inhuman people. Love Black Bolt, he truly cares.’ But we haven’t seen why Black Bolt is any better than Maximus yet, so the argument doesn’t hold up.
There’s the plot with Auran and Declan who continue to be puppets in Maximus’s schemes, but theres nothing new to add. However, it is becoming unnerving to watch Auran die in such brutal ways, only to come back to serve a man she has no clear motivations to care for. Auran, honey, you can do better.
So, once again, Inhumans continues to frustrate me. This episode posited some interesting questions and character development, but it all feels too-little-too-late. The season has passed the midway point, and as a result, these developments are all rushed. Maybe there should have been more episodes. Or maybe they should have hired a better showrunner.
Until next week, stay awesome.
Images courtesy of Marvel/ABC Television Studios
We’re All SAD: Broad City, “Abbi’s Mom”
Hello, dear Queens. This week on Broad City, Abbi’s mom comes to town and Ilana is sad, as well as SAD. As in, she’s very depressed, and it’s not just the winter.
We open on Abbi and Ilana making frantic preparations for Abbi’s mom’s visit. (Her name is Joanne, so we’ll go with that from now on). Joanne has always been what Abbi calls “conservative.” Abbi likes to keep it surface-level with her mom—light, fun. She plans a day of museum-ing, visiting Santa at Macy’s, and eating at Ilana’s new workplace, Sushi Mambeaux (apparently Sushi Mambo is a real place in NYC, and it looks exactly like the fictional version). The pair clean the apartment, make a fancy cheese plate and hang a garland.
While they go about prepping and Abbi is explaining the details of the day she has planned with Joanne, Ilana starts to flop over on the table. She doesn’t laugh at Abbi’s “thanks for cutting the cheese” joke and looks a little sick. She stumbles over the counter and switches on her SAD lamp. (SAD stands for Seasonal Affective Disorder, classified as seasonal sadness or depression mostly due to lack of sunlight). Ilana seems to fill her tank very quickly on this light and be back to normal. She insists that her depression is due solely to the winter (and fall, and late summer) weather/lack of light, and has nothing at all to do with the fact that she has steadily cut back on her antidepressants and now takes none. Abbi is a little worried.
When Joanne arrives, she reveals to Abbi that earlier in the year she found a benign lump in her breast, an experience that gave her some perspective on life. Abbi is taken aback and unhappy that her mother never told her this, but listens as Joanne goes on to say that what she really wants to do is have a wild night out with her daughter. (Which, okay). So before they head out to dinner, she dons Abbi’s iconic blue dress of multi-episode fame, which just sets things up perfectly.
At the restauranterie, RuPaul has declared Spring Cleaning night. This means whoever gets the most tips gets everyone else’s tips too, and whoever gets the least amount of tips gets fired. So, there’s that.
Ilana seems okay at the top of her shift, and gleefully seats Abbi and Joanne. But the sad/SAD is getting stronger, and she needs to sneak into the storage room to juice herself up on light again. Soon the light isn’t enough, and she implores Abbi, from a fetal position on the floor, to find a higher-wattage bulb. Abbi has the idea to reflect the light off of a sheet of tinfoil. As the night progresses, Ilana has lined the entire storage room in sheets of tinfoil and is bathing in this extreme light, with ever-weakening results. Between stints in the light-room, she’s unable to upsell her customers or be cheery. She sits at her customers’ tables and lays her head down, claiming that life is meaningless.
At first, this approach to a depression storyline rubbed me the wrong way. It’s utterly ridiculous (but that’s what Broad City is) and seemed belittling to the experience of depression. But the more I think about it, the more I actually think it’s a decent commentary on the stigma associated with medication (Ilana didn’t want to take it anymore) and the drive to be happy all the time (hence the extreme light dependence). In the end, Ilana goes back on her meds, and specifically calls out the futility of shame and stigma around antidepressants.
ANYWAY. Back in the restauranterie, Joanne has been taking shots and drinking martinis while confessing all kinds of things to Abbi. She’s only had sex with 3 men (as opposed to Abbi’s 32), hasn’t had hard liquor since the night she got pregnant with Abbi, and generally wishes she had “fucked up more.” While Abbi is horrified, she’s also empathetic and a little amused, so she takes her mom outside and they smoke some weed together. Back inside, Abbi tries to help Ilana again with the Power Light, but they blow a fuse and the power cuts out. When it comes back on, they find Joanne standing on the table, shouting that her daughter fucked 32 guys, before falling into the indoor koi pond and heading outside to make out with Owen the terrible rich waiter.
Meanwhile, Ilana tells RuPaul to take all of her tips and fire her, but she can do no wrong with him. He says her depression is “making his dick a little hard” and that he hopes she never gets better. YIKES. Another joke that didn’t land with me was when RuPaul’s child Parker, who has been working at this restauranterie without revealing their true identity, confronts RuPaul about his parenthood. RuPaul fires Parker, cackling as he claims he doesn’t work with family.
The episode ends on a high note, though, as Abbi and Ilana take Joanne shopping at a sex shop. They seem like they’re at home there. When Joanne decides she wants to get a Shinjo, there’s a very funny callback to season 2 when Abbi put Jeremy’s Shinjo in the dishwasher. Hand wash only, mom.
Overall, I give this episode 3/5 sake-rosé shots. Tune in next week for the recap of “Witches.” I have no idea what it’s about, but the title has me pretty psyched!
Images Courtesy of Comedy Central
SKAM Is Getting A US Version and That’s Bittersweet
If you’ve been around the fandom circles on social media in the past year, then you may have heard about this Norwegian TV show called SKAM that people, including me, started obsessing about all of a sudden. This happened mostly because of the show’s third season which aired from September to December/2016 and featured the romantic development between Isak Valtersen and Even Bech Næsheim.
Now, as per Deadline, the show has been officially greenlit for an American version after talks happening for a very long time. As a fan of the show, I can’t help but feel weirded out about this idea and it’s not entirely a matter of “I liked it before it was cool”.
You see, SKAM was a very unique show. For starters, each season was focused on one character and the episodes were a mesh of clips that were uploaded throughout the week to NRK’s website (the channel that produced the show). Not only that, but each clip was dated and timed in a way that, if the events of the clip would go down at 3 pm on a Tuesday, then that’s when NRK would upload it.
Therefore, the show was so well scheduled that it included birthdays, holidays, the Syrian refugee situation from last year, and even this year’s Ramadan. Plus, the page on NRK also included instant messaging with official Apple/Facebook software and Instagram posts from the characters. All of this created an immersive atmosphere that had people eagerly waiting for any sort of update.
I should also add that NRK did not provide English subtitles. Therefore, any viewer who did not know Norwegian had to wait for a non-official translation from some incredibly kind Norwegian folks who uploaded the clips with English subtitles or provided translations online — we even became known as the Google Drive Fandom, by the way, and SKAM won a few audience awards/pools like E!Online and Gullruten 2017 (Norwegian Oscar equivalent) from our votes. Sadly, due to its international fanbase, NRK had to geoblock the clips because of their local contract with music companies as the show embraced a myriad of current songs from Beyoncé to Nas.
Finally, SKAM was even more unique in how its teenage characters were also portrayed by teenage actors. The show was aimed at younger people, but it had no censoring of curse words. The actual high school that the actors attended served as their character’s school. The actors, allegedly, were paid very low fees which served as a testament to the show’s low budget and the actors’ love for their job. The low budget is also remarkable when you see how beautiful the cinematography is and much of that is thanks to the director, writer, and showrunner Julie Andem.
Now, why did I feel the need to write all this? Well, because that’s what makes this American adaptation worrisome. As much as there has been a push to hire age-appropriate actors (like in Riverdale, Power Rangers, and Marvel’s Runways, for example), it’s hard to have complete faith as things are right now. Facebook Watch being the producer is also a mixed bag of emotions because you wanna believe that newcomers to the broadcasting business can do good (such as Hulu’s work with The Handmaid’s Tale), but then again, we don’t have a lot to go on in terms of trust. And then there’s the fact that adapting this show is sort of moot when SKAM is perfect on its own, even if it is not accessible to more audiences.
Perhaps the way to our hearts is knowing that the original showrunner, Julie Andem, is also going to be the showrunner to the US version, but then it’s impossible not to ask yourself: if you are going to do this, then why did you have to end SKAM so soon? Many fans strongly speculated that, due to its “One Focus Character Per Season” format, we would get at least six seasons in order to properly tell the story of each main character. Instead, after the instant hit that season 3 became, the very first promo for season four already told us that it would be the last season, pulling the rug from under new and old fans alike. Four seasons were not enough: characters like Even, Vilde, and Jonas each deserved their own time to shine with their own spotlight.
Don’t get me wrong though: as much as some fans rightfully complained about some issues with season four, I still believe that SKAM ended beautifully… and yet way too soon. Like, guys, I actually learned Norwegian through online courses because of this show. I got in touch with an entirely new culture just by watching it. I wholeheartedly wish it was still airing so I could spend more time with these characters I loved.
I can’t see the future, but I am not too confident that SKAM US will be able to fill the void left in me by SKAM’s ending. There were a lot of important stories yet to be told and the show always told important stories: from learning to grow as a young woman independently, loving someone who can be bad for you, gaslighting sexual assault, coming out of the closet and accepting your sexuality, mental illness, to the struggles of a young hijabi woman in a faithless society.
SKAM was this huge deal for a lot of people and that’s why it’s bittersweet to see something so precious to you become distorted for a different audience when there’s perfection already made. We, the fans, are holding our breath to see if this will pay off. Until then, I guess rewatching Isak falling in love with Even or Sana Bakkoush reconnecting with her friends never gets old.