Thursday, January 12, 2017

REVIEW: 'One Day at a Time' - The Family Comes Together for Elena's Quinceañera in 'Quinces'

Netflix's One Day at a Time - Episode 1.13 "Quinces"

Everyone pitches in to prepare for Elena's quinceañera. While rehearsing their father-daughter dance, Elena reveals a truth about herself to her dad.

One Day at a Time opened its season with Elena fighting with Penelope and Lydia about having a quinceañera. She stood against it because of the misogynistic undertones of the ceremony. It caused a huge fight amongst the family. But she ultimately decided to do it for her mother who needed to show to the world that she was making it all work despite being a single mother. The season ends with the quinceañera actually happening. Everything comes together for this big day. After a season of planning, it is finally here. Some things go according to plan but most don't - largely to give this finale a familiar sitcom story. This has also been quite a year of growth for the characters. These aren't the same people from the start of the season. They've grown a lot but they've faced a number of hardships as well. Penelope actually spells it all out to her mother and the audience too. Elena has had to deal with her parents divorcing, her friend moving away and having to come out to her family. After all of that, it would be easy for the show to make her quinceañera this grand celebration of happiness to end the season. Instead, it smartly knows that some of these issues are ongoing and can't easily be fixed by the end of an episode. That's okay because Elena still has the support of her family. This finale proves that things will only continue to be complicated in the future. But the family will be able to face them as long as they have each other.

Most of the problems come once again from Victor. In the previous episode, he proved that he really hasn't changed that much since the family last saw him a year ago. He's just better at hiding his problems. Penelope is still protecting Elena and Alex from it too. She's created a perfect cover story that explains why he has moved out of the apartment and is now bunking with Schneider. She said he wasn't comfortable on Lydia's bed. It was all a lie. Penelope threw him out because he is a problematic and tortured man. And now, the big mystery of the finale is if he'll even show up at the quinceañera. Again, Elena and Alex don't suspect anything of being wrong. Elena believes that her father will show up and do the traditional father-daughter dance. It's cheesy and set to a very corny song but it's something Elena wants to do. She wants her father to be included in this turning point of her life. She wants to be as open with him as she is with the rest of the family. She wants to be honest with him about her sexuality. But it's clear that he's not willing and ready to accept that yet.

It's heartbreaking to watch Victor lash out after Elena comes out to him. Elena blames herself for just ambushing him with the news. She believes it's her fault even though that's not true at all. It's unclear if Victor has a problem with it because he's homophobic or because his own issues are keeping him from truly connecting with and understanding his daughter. It's just clear that this causes such a big divide. It creates uncertainty over the whole event. Will he show up and still do the dance with Elena even after learning the truth? At one point, Schneider comes to Penelope saying Victor is packing up his bags to leave. He's not leaving because he has clarity over the situation. He doesn't suddenly realize that he's no good for his family and needs to get help. He instead wants to run because Penelope is encouraging this behavior which he deems reckless. He sees it as a phase and nothing more. To him, Elena is still just his little girl. A little girl who doesn't know anything about the world. And yet, the family is preparing for a celebration that symbolizes her becoming a woman. She has the maturity to truly understand her feelings. That's something that she has and her father lacks.

And yet, Victor still shows up to the quinceañera. That's a moment that feels like such a major victory. Penelope's big speech actually inspired him to stay. In that moment, she was tired and running on fumes. She was spiraling out a little bit trying to make everything perfect for her daughter. She had to worry about everything and everyone. It's the broadest part about this finale. All of the family tension leading up to the quinceañera works when it focuses on Victor. That's an emotional side of the conflict that has been well fleshed out at this point. All of the stuff with Penelope flailing around jugging last minute changes was a bit over-the-top. And yet, the quinceañera happens and it's absolutely magical. Penelope is able to get some sleep. Alex is able to pick up the slack and make sure everything goes well for the family. He found the strength to do that. That was his gift to the family. And when Victor shows up, it seems like Penelope finally gets to stop worrying about this day and just enjoy the celebration. She gets to experience the moment where Elena is speechless about the dress she'll get to wear. And then, Penelope gets choked up while delivering her big speech. She is so proud of the strong and confident young woman Elena is becoming. That strength is inspiring even in these times of uncertainty. It's a wonderful moment of celebration. Elena comes out with her court and they put on quite a well choreographed show filled with surprises (Carmen returns!) and moments of humor and heart.

It truly is a magical moment to end the season on. But the show takes the time to find the devastation and emotion in this moment as well. Victor showed up to the quinceañera but he leaves before the father-daughter dance. He just can't do that. It's absolutely devastating to watch the faces of everyone in the family sink upon learning that he's gone. They had their hopes up that he finally made peace with Elena's sexuality. But he disappears anyway. His reasoning is left unclear. The show smartly doesn't over-explain this action. Is this the moment where he realizes he's not alright? Or does he leave because he's actually ashamed of what his family is becoming? All of that is uncertain. It's just important that he leaves again. He abandons his family in their time of need. They need him right now and he's no where to be found. Penelope once again needs to step up and support the family. It's such a heart-warming moment to see the entire family - plus Schneider and Dr. Berkowitz - embrace Elena in the end. That's a great moment to end the season on. It brings all of the main characters close to show just how much they truly mean to each other. They depend on family in order to get through the toughest obstacles life has to throw at them. This may not have been the quinceañera the family pictured. But it's a pretty perfect one that encapsulates this whole family as they are in this moment of time.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Quinces" was written by Gloria Calderón Kellett & Mike Royce and directed by Pamela Fryman.
  • The show has joked many times about sexual tension between Penelope and Schneider. It does so yet again here. But this time, Penelope is actually aroused by Schneider. He does clean up well. That's quite a shocking reveal. Of course, he's still Schneider once he opens his mouth.
  • The suggestive banter between Lydia and Dr. Berkowitz is really upped significantly throughout this episode. At times, it seems like Lydia knows what she's doing in the hopes of getting him to help. At other times, she seems surprised that her daughter would think they're having sex.
  • It's not surprising that Lydia would choreograph a really elaborate dance number complete with multiple songs and dance styles. And yet, it's still quite a spectacle to behold when it actually happens. And yet, how did she get all of those teenagers to take it seriously?
  • The joke about Schneider picking up the wrong family at the airport didn't really work at all. However, it is amusing that he spends so much time with the Alvarez family and still barely knows any Spanish.
  • It was a mystery of how gender conforming Elena would want her quinceañera to be. She walks out in a suit instead of a dress but she still ultimately dances with Josh, which is perhaps the slight that truly gets to her father.
  • Dr. Berkowitz after knocking over the seating chart: "I don't feel safe." Dr. Berkowitz was ultimately a thin character but Stephen Tobolowsky sure knows how to make any line hilarious with just the perfect line reading.
  • Alex to Penelope: "Immigrants. We get the job done." Oh, I see you One Day at a Time with your Hamilton reference. It completely works in the situation too.
  • The show has only been out for less than a week. And yet, it has received some wonderful reviews. This was a strong first season that showed that Netflix is capable of doing multi-camera comedy well. I expect a Season 2 renewal at some point soon.

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.