Wednesday, February 7, 2018

REVIEW: 'Grown-ish' - Zoey Relies on Her Friends in Order to Get Over Her Breakup in 'Un-Break My Heart'

Freeform's Grown-ish - Episode 1.07 "Un-Break My Heart"

After going through a traumatic breakup, Zoey begins partying to get out of her feelings. When a power blackout on campus forces her to stay in for the night, she must confront her true feelings in order to begin the healing process.

"Un-Break My Heart" is the second episode of the season where Zoey has to learn how to get over her recent breakup by relying on the support from her female friends. The first time around it was a very condensed story. It was in that episode where Zoey started dating two boys at the same time and got dumped by both after they learned what she was doing. It was an episodic story that barely had any time in the end for Zoey to learn her lesson and actually apply it to her life. It didn't stick and the narrative of the season knew that. She was declaring herself done with relationships to focus on her friends and then met Cash two seconds later. That's literally what happened. And now, the story is being repeated. That could be annoying. However, it's more profound and important the second time around. This time the show can devote an entire episode to Zoey trying to get over her first serious boyfriend. Her relationship with Cash has been a serious story for a couple of episodes now. It's been the prominent story of the season. It's been the significant story for Zoey. She was willing to change her entire life in order to make that relationship work. She was willing to make that sacrifice. It was Cash who decided to end things because he wasn't mature enough to know exactly what he wanted and deal with the consequences of those decisions. He was immature. But it was still a heartbreak for Zoey. It was a definitive breakup. And now, she finds herself just lounging around in her dorm room unable to get up and do anything besides eating Doritos and watching old rom-coms.

It is not a pretty look for Zoey. It also does a great job in establishing the headspace she is in immediately at the top of the hour. She's depressed following a breakup. It's a story that does dabble into magical realism a little bit. That plays into the satire of the story. It takes Zoey's four female friends to help her get dressed and ready to go out for a night on the town. She's unable to put herself together like that right now. But it only takes two seconds for her to get rid of all of that and go back into her pajamas as soon as a blackout hits the dorm. It's a ridiculous twist that is pretty amusing to watch. It also highlights how partying isn't the solution to these emotions she is having right now. She can't just repress all of these feelings by going out and getting drunk. That's the mentality that is encouraged by her peers at the moment. They are all underage but this is the advice that they have for her. It's absolutely irresponsible but it's playing to the truthful nature of this world at the moment. These young adults have access to alcohol. Even though the friends don't ultimately go out to this party, they are still drinking in the dorm room trying to help Zoey. That is more healthy for her. Actually talking about her feelings and trying to find some peace in this uncomfortable situation is exactly what she needs in order to move on from it.

As such, "Un-Break My Heart" basically becomes a bottle episode that spends the majority of its running time just in Zoey's dorm room and this conversation her friends are having with her. Yes, there are some cutaways for jokes that happened elsewhere on campus - like when Sky and Jazz are icy to Cash walking in the commons. And then, Zoey spends a little bit of time by herself in the lounge area of the dorm. But for the most part, this episode takes place in that one room where candles provide the only light. It's very intimate and focused. It never cuts away from this main story. Zoey is trying to get over Cash. And yet, she's still in love with him. She is idealizing their relationship. She is struggling to say anything bad about Cash and move on from what happened between them. She's just depressed and not feeling inspired to do anything. He changed her in such a short period of time. She never knew anything about basketball until she started dating him. And now, she can quote statistics and offer commentary on which teams are playing well and which aren't. It's not natural for her. Her friends encourage her to find herself again. And yes, they do that mostly by getting her to drink. But it still comes from a place of love and concern. Her female friends are the exact people to take care of her right now. Sure, it means Zoey has to be pretty naive when it comes to relationships. But that still makes sense considering just how serious this relationship actually became with Cash.

It all still eventually pivots back to Aaron clearly being the longterm love interest for Zoey. This episode would have been perfectly fine if it didn't include any of the show's regular male characters. There is a strong focus with these women empowering their friend who really needs it right now. But the action still eventually includes Aaron and Vivek. Aaron just casually shows up at Zoey's room hoping to have sex during the blackout. He's not willing to admit that when the girls call him out on it. Then, Vivek strolls on by doing the exact same thing to prove their point. It's a source of levity to break up the strong emotions of the main story. But then, Aaron and Vivek become a main part of the story. They enter the plot in order to offer a male perspective on breakups. They come in boasting about how men are better at compartmentalizing their emotions with this stuff. It just means they are better at repressing their emotions and don't feel the need to talk about them with a group of their guy friends. They are different from women in that way. This has the potential to be a very cathartic experience for Zoey. She is expressing her feelings and learning how to cope as she learns more about what Cash has been doing lately. It still builds to Zoey and Aaron being all alone in the room together. Everyone else just needs to go to the bathroom at the same exact time. That's a little forced and awkward. But it doesn't ultimately push for Zoey and Aaron to have another romantic moment. Instead, it just further blows up the story with the suggestion that Cash is now dating Zoë Kravitz.

Now, it's an absolutely ridiculous suggestion that Zoë Kravitz would be dating a college freshman - even one who is a basketball star with nationwide fame. But Zoey doesn't care about that. She just stresses out about Cash replacing her with someone exactly like her. They share a name. She sees it as Zoë Kravitz being able to offer him what she couldn't. That makes her incredibly insecure and want to lash out. She wants to be mad at him. She no longer wants to hide her frustrations. She's finally willing to let these feelings out. But in the end, she doesn't call Cash. That's a mistake that everyone is warning her not to make. They know just how destructive that could be. It would be better just to remove all contact with Cash so that she is never tempted by him again. But Zoey isn't thinking rationally. She rebuffs her friends' suggestions simply because she believes she knows what's right. She needs to come to this conclusion by herself. It would only be real and genuine if she does it alone. Her friends can say it over and over again. But it will never stick with Zoey until she accepts that she can't spend her life trying to be good enough for Cash. Their relationship ended for a reason. Even if he came back now and apologized for what happened, they would still have issues that could force them to break up. She just has to take that step back and think things through. She eventually does that and is rewarded by the power coming back on and continuing this party with her friends. As such, it's a very rewarding ending that keeps the focus for the show exactly where it should be.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Un-Break My Heart" was written by Kara Brown and directed by Steven Tsuchida.
  • All of the alcohol use is so casual in this show. It's just a part of this lifestyle. The show doesn't exactly glorify it even though it can be a potentially troubling visual. It could be something that could upset some people. And yet, the show is being very wise in allowing it to be a part of this world without it overwhelming the characters in their interactions. They enjoy it from time to time while never really having a problem with it or seeing it as an irresponsible action.
  • Throughout this entire time, Zoey and Cash have still been talking. The content of those conversations really isn't important. It's just the knowledge that it's happening that turns Zoey's friends against her. They need to tell her that the first rule of a breakup is cutting off all communication with the ex. Otherwise, texting and social media posts have the potential to suck Zoey back into the drama.
  • The only really consistent characteristic the show has come up with for Ana is that she always has confusing stories about her family where it seems like she is in love with or sleeping with one of her relatives. It's not really a great joke. And yet, it has been a recurring feature of her character. Everyone else is just as confused as the audience probably is. Plus, her metaphors aren't all that special or memorable.
  • Similarly, it seems like the only constant trait of Aaron's is that he is pining after Zoey. That's the only thing that really gives him importance in the narrative. It was fascinating a few episodes ago when he was struggling with his own direction in life. But that isn't something the show has picked up since. Now, it's mostly wondering when he'll make a move to get back with Zoey.
  • I still don't entirely understand why Deon Cole and Chris Parnell are series regulars on this show. This episode represents everything that this show does well. It has honest and frank conversations about what is really going on for this particular generation at this moment in time. Charlie and Dean Parker only show up when the writers need something more comedic in order to break up the more serious stories happening in the narrative.