Much in the same way Carrie is searching for her place in the big city, The Carrie Diaries is searching to find a consistent storytelling groove. So far, the pilot is the only episode that truly felt like a flowing, cohesive episode of television, telling a story with a consistent point of view and fully satisfying beginning, middle, and end. The catch here is the show achieved this by focusing on Carrie almost exclusively, fleshing out her character and filling in the world around her almost completely through her eyes.
But this technique—although very effective—could not continue. If the show is to have legs, it simply cannot survive on Carrie stories alone, no matter how much more interesting she is than anyone else in the cast. The rub? So far these secondary stories have had far more misses than hits. Aside from Walt’s interesting sexuality issues last week, Maggie and Mouse’s stories have been completely erratic, interesting one week and deadly the next, and never more than slight. It’s a problem the show needs to figure out, before Mouse and Maggie cease to really be their own characters at all, and only exist to be foils to Carrie.
Before delving more deeply into those issues, however, Carrie’s plot this week must be addressed. Other than a cute runner about taking her driver license test, Carrie spends all of her time in New York either working or making new, extremely fancy friends. It’s the first significant New York segment that doesn’t feature Larissa, and it’s a mixed bag at best. The good of the story is Carrie’s newfound bond with boss Barbara, who is finally starting to see Carrie as more of a person and less of someone to boss around, in turn showing off a softer side of the character that’s really very pleasant. Their bond strengthens even more when boss’ son George Silver shows up and takes an immediate liking to Carrie, inviting her to a fancy party at his mother’s house (her name is Kick—the quirkiness of this fact is important because they say it at least 25 times throughout the episode) and generally being very charming.
Carrie is reluctant to attend the party at first because of Sebastian, but decides to give it a go after finding out Sebastian has already moved on with Donna. The party is basically Gossip Girl a la 1980 but with less backstabbing, all snobbery and people putting on airs. Carrie acquits herself nicely, not falling into the trap of swooning over all of the posturing and never once pretending to be anything other than who she really is. Her steadfast refusal to be anyone but herself is the character’s best trait, and the one thing the writers are best at writing to (and AnnaSophia Robb is best at playing). Carrie manages to even win over Kick, who knew Carrie’s mother back when they all lived in the city together. The story itself is rather bland, but the little insights Carrie gets into her mother from Kick are a wonderful little note within larger, more boring trappings of the setting. As for George, he’s also quite bland but nice, which might not be the most interesting thing to watch but is likely the thing Carrie needs most post-Sebastian. While the themes of self-discovery and growth in Carrie’s New York adventures remain solid, the show is still struggling with portraying the world with equal interest to these themes.
As for the previously mentioned secondary stories, they were once again all over the place in terms of pacing and quality. Mouse’s insecurity over her ability to please Seth in the bedroom was the dominant story here, and for me, it took a highly uncomfortable turn halfway through it never quite recovered from. The scenes of innocent Mouse stressing over her experience and then watching a very graphic how-to video with Walt in order to increase her skills were ridiculously charming, as was her ability to then use those skills with Seth. Where things got dicey was Seth’s near panic attack after Mouse tells him she learned those moves by sleeping with someone else (which, mind you, she only said because he admitted to sleeping with other people while they were broken up). This story is sadly very realistic but does nothing to strengthen Mouse’s character, mostly because although she forces him to calm down and stands up for her right to be able to sleep with anyone she wants to if they’re not dating, in the end, Seth is only mollified by learning she actually didn’t sleep with anyone at all, and Mouse just accepts a quick apology and moves on. The whole thing was a bit of a naked attempt to expose double standards and show a girl standing up for herself in the face of them—which is a noble goal—but having the offending party escape from any true consequences of holding this double standard feels like a cop out.
And then there’s poor Maggie. Maggie was stuck in a ridiculous war over diner seats with Donna, who in a completely insecure fit of insanity decides she and her gang are going to “take” Carrie’s diner away from her. It’s a bizarre little story—seemingly meant to be a comedic runner that falls flat—adds nothing to either character, and ends up accidentally weakening Sebastian’s character a bit in the process. The Sebastian-dates-Donna thing was inevitable as soon as he and Carrie called it quits, but to have him go out with her and then state that he likes her “in spite of her being a bitch” is just not a place you really want to take your romantic lead so soon. It seemed from earlier episodes we were going to get more shades of Sebastian, but the only shade added here was “horny teenage boy.” Not necessarily groundbreaking stuff.
Still, despite any reservations about this episode and the direction of the storytelling as a whole, there is still so much to love about The Carrie Diaries. Much of this is due to the earnest, sweet tone of the show, a tone that’s missing from so many teen shows these days. I’m rooting for you, show! Get it together!
- Spot That Fun 80s Thing: Other than the soundtrack, I didn’t notice one fun 80s thing! Come on, show! Throw me a Rubik's Cube or something.
- No Larissa or Dorrit this week, and Mr. Bradshaw had a very disconnected (yet sweet) story about moving on from his dead wife. The writers really need to get a handle on how to integrate all these elements more smoothly.
- By the time I took the driver test in Florida, they had removed the parallel parking requirement. This meant I had no idea how to parallel park, which ended up being a skill I had to teach myself on a busy street with lots of honking horns around me. Damn you, Florida!
- Carrie looked absolutely amazing in both dresses, but I am sad we didn’t get a true Pretty In Pink “making the dress” montage.
- Maggie: “Adorable and rich trumps stupid and lazy any day.”