Tuesday, December 9, 2014

REVIEW: 'Chasing Life' - Brenna Stages a Christmas in May for April After She Starts Losing Her Hair in 'Locks of Love'

ABC Family's Chasing Life - Episode 1.11 "Locks of Love"

April's grandparents stir up trouble when they pay a visit, and the Carvers celebrate an early family Christmas. The full contents of Leo's cryptic voicemail are revealed, leading April and Leo to rethink their last goodbye. In an attempt to help her friend cope with the effects of chemo, Beth helps April with a makeover, or two.

In all actuality, "Locks of Love" is only tangentially a Christmas-themed episode. April is still in the hospital undergoing her first week of intense chemotherapy treatments. It does make it somewhat awkward that the show is suppose to deliver an episode geared towards the holidays. And the Carver family does throw up a lot of Christmas decorations to put a smile back on April's face. But the hour isn't solely about that. Instead it smarly evokes Christmastime through its themes of family.

The holiday season is the time of year where families come together. That is both good and bad. You get to catch up with those relatives you've missed. But there are also those relatives that you have to put on a fake smile for and just deal with while they are there. The latter perfectly describes April's grandparents from her father's side. It's obviously a bit of stunt casting solely for this one episode. It's not like we are going to see Ed Asner or Marion Ross on Chasing Life every week going forward. And yet, they were both excellent as the grandparents who are distant but believe they know the rest of the family so well.

The grandparents each have a perception of who April, Brenna, Sara and George should be. They aren't that subtle about it either. But they are so focused on the way they want to see things that they don't see what is actually happening with the rest of the family right in front of them. They are upset that George doesn't have his own family. They are pestering Brenna about having a boyfriend. They tell April she's a fighter every time they see her. That's not emotional intimacy. It's the allusion of such. The family just wants to put on a smile and deal with the two of them while they are here for just a short time. And yet, that is increasingly hard to do because they are so out-of-touch with the family. Everyone's focus needs to be on April and making sure she can get through this experience. The grandparents make things about themselves and that is not what April needs in a time like this.

April is breaking down because her hair is starting to fall out. It's such a trivial thing. Hair will grow back. And yet, it's the small thing that pushes her over the line. She is allowed to break down and rely on Brenna. That is why the younger sister plans all the festive decorations. It's very uplifting in the end to see April with a smile on her face that is actually real while also being surrounding by her entire family. Life is uncertain for her in so many ways - including her romantic troubles. It's just so great for her to be allowed this moment at the end of her first round of chemo. It's rewarding and makes this episode worthwhile.

But the episode also has to deal with that big cliffhanger from the summer finale - aka Leo leaving a voicemail on April's phone. He has decided to get the surgery to attempt to remove his brain tumor. That's the outcome I always expected but it's so nice to see him wanting to fight while still always being there for April. He may die during the surgery and all he wants to do is just have some simple fun and be like a kid again. He is there for April in a way that her family isn't until the very end of the episode. Once the family does though, he is taken into surgery and the episode concludes with yet another cliffhanger with his heart stopping. That's an odd decision to make. Perhaps it's just to prolong the anticipation for the winter premiere a bit more. But it's still thematically very relevant with the rest of the episode.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Locks of Love" was written by Susanna Fogel & Joni Lefkowitz and directed by Lee Rose.
  • It's just awkward that we have to spend time with Dominic as he's trying to figure whether or not to go back to Europe after breaking up with April. It didn't seem all that necessary.
  • Beth is also getting a new roommate who seems kinda crazy.
  • April's first two haircuts were great. The pixie cut was not that great. But it was all adding up to the big reveal of her shaving her whole head. That's a big moment as a cancer patient.
  • Sara and George are delaying the talk about their relationship until after everything calms down in their lives. That could be awhile.
  • Everyone in this family loves to keep secrets from each other! The grandparents knew about Thomas' affair and still held him above everyone else. That's just awful but it definitely goes into the idea of this family being okay when the opposite is actually true.
  • Leo's voicemail: "Hey April. It's Leo. I have something important to tell you. Wouldn't it be funny if the voicemail ended before I could get to the point?"