AWKWARD Season 2 Premiere Review

AWKWARD. finally returns for a second season, like a dear old friend, with “Resolutions.” Right from the get go, it is clear that the high quality production, excellent writing, and delightful acting has been maintained from the freshmen run. AWKWARD. proves that MTV is not just for reality fluff, and of all the summer shows currently running on every channel, ranks at the top of the list of must-see.

“Resolutions” picks up shortly after the season finale. It’s Winter Break from school. Jenna (Ashley Rickards) struggles with whether or not she can forgive her mother, Lacey (Nikki Deloach), for sending her the insulting letter in episode one. Until Jenna figures out how she feels, she doesn’t want to broach the subject. Lacey senses something is wrong, but as is typical with her character, is a little clueless about the real cause. She tries to speak with Jenna, and help her with what’s wrong, but Jenna doesn’t want to listen, and who can blame her?

The mother-daughter relationship in AWKWARD. is one of the best on television. Mother doesn’t always knows best, but she tries, and she definitely cares. The letter may have been misguided, but Lacey did it because she wanted to help Jenna. Jenna understands this, a mature take for a teenager, which is part of why it’s so hard to bring it up. However, at the end of “Resolutions,” Jenna’s passive aggressive way to let her mother know that she knows is so classic teenager, that it reminds viewers the real age Jenna is. It’s a complex, nuanced dynamic that really captures a difficult time in a family’s life.

Lacey isn’t completely off base when she thinks that Jenna is upset about her lack of official couple status with Jake (Brett Davern), proving Mom isn’t completely out of it, though she guesses wrong at the source of the frustration. Jenna has trouble committing to Jake because she is conflicted over the way things were left with Matty (Beau Mirchoff). This uneasiness comes to a head at Matty’s New Year’s Eve party, when Matty asks Jenna for another chance.

Jenna has a lot to think about. She loves Matty, but is still upset at how he treated her. She likes Jake a lot, but there’s a little bit of a sense that she cares for Matty more. On the other hand, Jake is loyal and trustworthy, or so Jenna thinks at this point, and willing to be together publicly. Jenna’s indecision could be because she’d rather be with Matty, which isn’t fair to Jake, and there is definite sympathy for him as he is left alone at the party. Or it could be because she can’t believe that Jake is authentic, and has trouble putting herself out there after earlier events. Or, more likely, it’s a combination of both of these, as well as a host of other thoughts.

Whatever the reasons are, and that’s the problem with television, internal monologue is limited, Jenna chooses Jake. This probably isn’t a permanent decision, as Awkward. is a drama program, and Jenna comes across as far from certain. But it’s the right choice for now, and it will be interesting to see how this plays out over this season and, hopefully, future ones.

AWKWARD. does expose some of Jenna’s inner thoughts with her blog, a clever, trendy device. There is a great moment in “Resolutions” when someone comments on a blog post, which surprises Jenna. Not only does this kick off a new mystery (who is reading her blog?), but it also reminds teen fans that what they post on the internet is out there for anyone to read. It’s completely public, something many young people don’t think about in the internet age. Nice touch.

Jenna’s father, Kevin (Mike Faiola), giving her a big box of condoms for Christmas makes for a fantastically awkward opening to “Resolutions.” Using it to reveal cracks in Jenna and Jake’s new relationship later in the episode makes it completely relevant to plot. This is so smart, I am in awe of the person or persons that crafted such a perfect turn of events.

The New Year’s party brings guy trouble for more than just Jenna. Sadie (Molly Tarlov) runs into Matty at a particularly vulnerable time, she confesses her crush on him, and they make out a little before Matty passes out, half naked. There is some real Sadie exposure here, as she lets out her emotions out in an honest, healthy way. But the result, with Matty not able to go through with it, is anything but cathartic. Sadie may be scarred after this, deeply hurt, and even more bitter against Jenna.

There’s also Lissa (Greer Grammer), who seems to have stuck with her turned over leaf. She has abandoned Sadie as a friend, and is trying to get into Jenna’s good graces. Jenna doesn’t seem very open to a friendship with Lissa, but given Lissa’s tenacity and genuine sweetness, it’s easy to imagine something slowly growing here down the line. Sure, Jenna already has good friends, but considering how flaky they can be, it wouldn’t hurt to have Lissa as a pal, as well. Plus, this will only drive Sadie more crazy, likely leading to some wonderful Sadie plots, or which there can never be enough.

Lastly, the writers somehow manage to bring guidance counselor Valerie’s (Desi Lydic) romantic crisis into “Resolutions” when she first calls Jenna, then shows up at the party. In any other series with any other actress in the role, this would be completely goofy and insane and not work at all. Yet, Lydic sells the vulnerabilities of Valerie to such an extent that it fits! I am still amazed at how much I actually appreciated, rather than hated, this sequence, which on paper sounds ridiculous. Valerie is such a neat, specific character who constantly teeters the line of believability. Consistently, she lands on the correct side of that line. Bravo!

AWKWARD. is awesome because of the details, mostly in the way the characters are portrayed, and the moments shown in their lives. It’s hard to think of another series that gets characters so right, and maintains that from week to week without fail. It may be a show about teenage love, but there’s so much more here than what’s on the surface, and it something I would recommend for everyone’s viewing pleasure.

Tune in to AWKWARD. Thursdays at 10:30 p.m. ET on MTV.

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