Wednesday, January 11, 2017

REVIEW: 'One Day at a Time' - Penelope Struggles with Her Feelings Following Elena's News in 'Pride & Prejudice'

Netflix's One Day at a Time - Episode 1.11 "Pride & Prejudice"

Although she wants to be accepting and open-minded, Penelope feels weird about Elena's revelation. Seeking advice, she makes an unexpected connection.

The coming out experience is very important and can be difficult. It's a step towards truly accepting one's personal identity. One has to feel comfortable with it enough to tell others about it. It's a big moment in life. It's scary and emotional. But in the end, it can be a great moment because it means the person is finally living their truth. Elena has struggled with her identity this season. But now, she's certain that she's a lesbian. She shared those feelings with her mother at the end of the previous episode. And now, "Pride & Prejudice" continues to deal with the fallout of that revelation. The show gets at how the coming out experience has changed and is different in 2017. It plays to all the nuances of the situation. But it also does a very smart thing in keeping the story largely about Penelope and her response to the news. It would be easy to set this episode up as a big conflict between Elena and Lydia. That's the expected route to go. Focusing on Penelope's own weird feelings makes this a more interesting and unique story.

Penelope is happy for her daughter. She is proud of Elena for feeling comfortable enough with this identity to come to her with it. She's excited that Elena has this newfound confidence to start living in her truth. Elena comes out to Josh, who is perfectly fine with it and is still willing to be her friend and quinceañera escort. She also comes out to Lydia, which goes better than anyone really expected. Penelope is happy for Elena. She wants to be the cool and understanding parent who accepts her daughter completely for who she truly is. She did make sure Elena's coming out experience started well. She listened to what Elena had to say and respects her just as much as she always has. She loves Elena the same amount as before she knew. She's proud that she's raising such a strong and confident daughter. She's still very hopeful that Elena's future is filled with wonderful opportunities and happiness. And yet, Penelope still feels weird about this whole situation. She can't really find the words to explain what she's feeling. She just knows she can't let her uncertainties and weirdness affect Elena. She wants to be the supportive parent. But this is so much for her to wrap her head around.

Penelope is looking for advice on how to be that perfect parent who is supportive of Elena's major news. She goes to Schneider in the middle of the night. He mostly feels relieved that he no longer has to keep that a secret from the family. He's happy to finally have it all out so he can be with them even more. That reaction lets Penelope in on how much the rest of the family already knows. Alex knows the truth and is fine with it. Schneider knows the truth and is fine with it. They still have to worry about Lydia. That's a huge scene Penelope is expecting to happen sometime in the future. But right now, she's worried that her mixed feelings will somehow cast a dark shadow over the whole proceedings. Schneider confirms those fears by opening up about how his father's rejection of his dreams led to his addiction problems. That's still an awkward character detail that the show doesn't always know how to handle well. Most of the time Schneider's problems end up as punchlines instead of the basis for a more realized character. In this moment, it works because he is able to form that connection with Penelope. But that only opens her up to more questions which leads to her overcompensating with her acceptance.

Plus, it's so amusing to watch Lydia figure out how to be okay with all of this in just a few minutes. Elena tells Lydia offscreen. At first, it seems like that scene is going to be a case of misdirection and Penelope would accidentally reveal the truh. But no, Elena really does come out to her grandmother. Lydia puts on a happy face and is proud of her granddaughter. But it's in what happens next with Penelope that is really terrific. Everyone was worried about how Lydia would react because of how religious she is. She has the worldview that love and marriage is between a man and a woman. Anything else is a sin in the eyes of God. But then, she starts thinking about God's message of being kind and accepting of all people. Then, she remembers that the Pope says they shouldn't condemn gay people. Plus, she also believes that God doesn't make mistakes. All of that is enough for her to easily rationalize all of this as a good thing. She works it all out by herself. She's simply talking out loud to Penelope. It's a moment that ends with her beaming with pride at the thought of getting to lead a parade. That brings her happiness and comfort in all of this. And yet, it doesn't help Penelope with her own complicated feelings on the subject.

Not even Penelope's new friend from the veterans group, Ramona, is able to help her understand why she feels this way. Ramona takes Penelope to a gay bar to have her fully embrace the culture. She says that all Penelope needs to do is maintain an open and honest dialogue with Elena. That really is some great advice. But Ramona soon gets distracted and leaves Penelope not feeling much better at all. She's instead drowning her emotions in alcohol. That's when a random stranger, Ben, shows up and is able to give her the clarity she's been looking for. It's because of him that she accepts that these feelings will go away in time. She just needs to get used to idea that things will be different but they will still be special. The life she had envisioned with her daughter has changed. They won't be talking about boys and going through pregnancy scares. But that doesn't mean their connection will just go away. Ben shows her that and then asks her out on a date. He's not gay. He's just supporting his brother. It's through this interaction that gives Penelope the courage to return home and just talk with Elena. They can still talk about flirting and relationships. The context has changed a little bit. But their bond will be just as strong as ever before. Penelope just has to be open and willing to accept the changes as they come - which she is.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Pride & Prejudice" was written by Sebastian Jones & Andy Roth and directed by Linda Mendoza.
  • The Schneider and Alex subplot didn't really work at all. The show has been so smart in addressing Cuban stereotypes and making sure the characters are more than that. But a story of Schneider becoming an honorary Cuban family member and making jokes about it just didn't feel right.
  • Of course, it's not surprising that things quickly turn on Schneider at the hotel. Alex and his friends aren't going to listen to the rules. And yet, it's surprising that Alex and Finn are still friends considering Finn tried pressuring Alex to steal his mom's pills to sell. That was a story important to one episode but not to Alex's overall character arc.
  • Schneider is frequently seen as a dopey hipster who still manages to have lots of sex. But the moment where he thinks something is about to happen between him and Penelope is also odd. The show isn't really built around any kind of sexual tension between the two. Plus, Penelope's reaction is the appropriate one to have.
  • It's nice to see Carmen again. The show is very smart in remembering that just because friends leave town doesn't mean people can't still talk and be friends with them. Elena and Carmen just have to Skype now. And yet, that makes sense given how close they were at the start of the season. Though nothing romantic was going on between them.
  • That moment where Lydia brags to Penelope about being right on Elena's sexuality was pretty great. It was just a brief moment but it shows that the series remembers its own past and how the characters have viewed this subject.
  • Penelope was reluctant to start dating earlier this season. And now, Ben shows up and is able to comfort her in her time of need. She's really excited to get a text from him later on. She can't play it cool even though that's what Elena says she should do. So, will Penelope start getting serious about dating again?

As noted in previous reviews from this show, every episodic review was written without having seen any succeeding episodes. Similarly, it would be much appreciated if in the comments, the conversation would only revolve around the show up to this point in its run.