This is the third and hopefully last in what is a trilogy about the trials and tribulations of a gay kid coming out to his family and friends. The first two seasons were filled with teenage angst and fun.
It told a story and was entertaining. They were also filled with characters, while undoubtedly not really existing in real life, still were relatable. We could connect with them based on good screenplays. This latest, and worst, threw all that warm glow out the window for nothing more than a trope-filled, cliché-driven romp to Cutseville. This series ended by driving through Candy Cane Lane, down Cotton Candy Avenue, and then taking a shortcut through Marshmallow Lane. When I finished this series, my teeth had nearly rotted off from cavities from all that sweetness. I do not think I am spoiling anything by telling you that this ending makes all previous traditional Hollywood endings look sad.
This is sort of a continuation of the love story between Victor (Michael Cimino) and Benji (George Sear). The ‘cliffhanger’ from Season 2 left us with the burning question – who was Victor running to be with? Seriously? This is Hollywood! No real surprises here. It was always going to be Benji. The story, with its banal twists and turns, is their pilgrimage to reconciliation. But along the way, the other characters in this overall story also had their turn to resolve their issues. Not that any of that was necessarily wrong, but it spiraled the whole series into one trope after another. Resolutions had to be done quickly and admittedly too neatly for it to be real, honest, or even probable.
There are a lot of underlying concerns about this series that are glossed over rather cavalierly, and I think shamefully. When Benji relapses into drinking again, which in and of itself is a major medical condition; it is presented simplistically and superficially. Part of what leads to his ‘falling off the wagon’ are triggers, and Victor is apparently one of those triggers and therefore they must break up. While I am not an expert in dealing with addictions, I had worked in this field for many years, and I found that message to be disconcerting and can find no basis in fact that this is an accepted course of action to take or recommend.. Of course, people can be triggers, but’ love’ is not one of them. Toxic love or relationships obviously would be, but the kind of relationship that Benji and Victor had is hardly in that category. Remember, they are still adolescents quite prone to be clumsy in relationship development. For Benji’s father to state to Victor that he was bad for him and a negative influence for Benji was morally reprehensible. They made the whole notion of addiction try to fit into a nice, neat compartment of causes, which is simply not true. That whole theme should have been thought through way more seriously than that. And it was in your face homophobic.
Naturally, Victor, being a high schooler and not having much life experiences, internalizes that and therefore throws off the shackles of caring; beginning to see relationships as ‘casual’ and therefore, inconsequential, until it was not. Perhaps this might not be all that uncommon of a reaction, but with no filters to place on him and no boundaries either internally or externally to check him, led down a dangerous path. I dislike showing, essentially children, that the only path at that juncture is to throw out all your internal compasses and learned fortitude directions and take a high-risk path, rather than a more sensible approach. What concerns me the most is that this really is a series that hopefully reaches individuals who are struggling to ‘come out’ and to display the only path to feel less pain when you reach a roadblock; is to take the path that provides the most pleasure but comes with the greatest costs.
This series turned what were teenagers in the previous series into mini-adults or worse, kids roleplaying as adults. They felt ‘old’ and acted old. The magic and wonderment of being a teen were woefully lacking in this series. The spark that was in the other two series was gone and this one felt like nothing more than a mediocre exercise in acting class. Everyone, and I mean everyone, was on autopilot. They said their lines, in most cases adequately, and then left the building. I found no connection, no empathy to the characters and all the charm that made them who they were, gone. All it became was one cliché after another.
To be honest, none of the acting was impressive. And a lot of that had to do with the shallowness of the screenplay and the lack of depth these characters had. In the previous two series, you saw their struggles and pains and could relate to that. None of that is here. For me, the only person who stood out at all was a role of very minor importance, but she took it to a new level and gave it life. That role was Rahim’s mother, played by Artemis Pebdani. She takes this almost uncredited role and runs with it. She is not only accepting of her son, Rahim’s (Anthony Keyvan), gayness; she is supportive and encourages him with conviction to be himself. Here is a woman steeped in Muslim tradition and culture, fighting for her gay Muslim teenage son to continue to fit into his newly adopted culture and be himself. She becomes his champion of hope for change. She with every fiber of her being supports his dreams and desires. She is convinced that God will provide him a loving (male) partner. The scene between her and Rahim, after having to pretend to be ‘straight’ for his uncle, finds Rahim, despondent, saying to his mother that he wants to be himself always and not give into traditions that do not work for him. With tears in his eyes, he looks at his mother and says, “Never again’. She looks at him, saddened and misty-eyed, repeats his line, ‘Never again’ and nods. An astonishingly powerful scene in this series and one of the best that might get lost in the puffery of the rest of this story. She is the quintessential mother and for that, she deserves kudos.
Everything else about this series is so pedestrian. From screenplay to acting. There are only 8 episodes with about a half hour each. Since there were so many characters to wrap-up conclusions with, Victor and Benji became a tertiary focus. In fact, Benji’s appearances were very limited. Even when he was on, his affect was held back. It all had a very tired look and feel about it. There was certainly no chemistry or spark between them, even at the end.
The story twisted and turned itself into a pretzel trying to hit every cliché and trope about gay people, ethnic stereotypes, and family dynamics. None of it seemed real or even honest. For example, Victor, uncharacterically tells his mother he wants to go with her to evening Mass. As they talk in the church as to why, who shows up suddenly but a boy toy he had a causal relationship with after Benji. His mother, sensing something, decides to leave to talk to ‘Jesus’, so that they can finish talking. This was so astonishingly contrived that I was left speechless from its juvenility. This series was replete with these kinds of asinine encounters that perhaps looking plausible on an extremely rare occasion but happens all the time in this series. It just went on and on like this, apparently trying to find the right and happy ending for every single circumstance to finish this story.
This season left a bittersweet taste in my mouth. It went full blown trope with the dialogue insufferably cliché, and tripe, with almost nothing original. It painted all these characters as nothing more than caricatures and astonishingly privileged ones at that, who seemed spoiled, pampered, babied, and coddled. There was nothing real about this series, as the previous two, and I lament it ended this way. I shall only cherish the first two seasons. Summarily, I regarded this season as painful to watch and sad and wish it had not been made.
Rating- 2.5 out of 5
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