Tuesday, August 14, 2018

REVIEW: 'Love Is ___' - Nuri Gets a Huge Break at Work but is Distracted by Yasir in 'A First Script'

OWN's Love Is ___ - Episode 1.09 "A First Script"

Nuri has a big professional moment just as issues in her relationship with Yasir come to light. Nuri makes a very personal confession.

Nuri and Yasir understand each other's aspirations. They both want massive success in the entertainment industry. Right now, that means Nuri writing a script for Marvin while Yasir getting recognized that he does have the talent to make it in this business. They are so encouraging of each other and their dreams. But conflict comes from them being in two different places in their careers. That has already been such a strong story throughout this first season. They are both intimidated by each other. Nuri already has a job writing and owns her own house. She is making adult decisions that absolutely confuse and scare Yasir. Meanwhile, Yasir has such confidence and intelligence in talking about the stories that need to be told for their specific community and how they are being undersold by the current media industry. She feels small when he talks about all of the films and stylistic flourishes that should be seen and appreciated. But "A First Script" creates a struggle where the two of them simply don't know how much to rely on the other when it comes to building on their own success in this business. Nuri appreciates that her dreams have become Yasir's as well. He wanted her to get a script during her first season on the sitcom. That dream is now becoming a reality because Angela and Norman are focusing on their drama pilot. That means Nuri has an opportunity to work on the script that Angela was struggling with just a week ago. They may not be writing partners but they do get shared credit at the end of the day for this episode. It's the first time Nuri's name will be associated with something on television. It's a major achievement for her. She feels like celebrating with everyone close to her. She sees it as an opportunity to help Yasir's career as well. She is very giving in that way. But it's so confusing to understand what both of them want too. They don't know how much they should give and take without it seeming like they are either weak or too controlling.

Nuri and Yasir have no problems connecting in a sexual way. In fact, the abundance of their time together may be counterproductive to the work that they need to get done. Both of them are feeling the pressure of deadlines. Nuri only has two days to deliver this script. It has to be a quick turnaround for production. She has to really step up and prove herself. This will secure her a future on the show. She has no problem fixing the story in ways that Angela was struggling with. She finds a way to make a very ridiculous and silly story that includes a pig funny while still managing to sneak in some realness to help further develop the female lead of the series. She is worried about the reaction at the table read. And yet, she is so excited to come home and tell Yasir how all of the actors delivered the lines exactly as how she envisioned them. It's a rousing achievement for her. And yet, he is choosing to focus on how she didn't call him when she went to work late at night. He wanted to ensure that she got there safely. He spent the night stressing out about her. He didn't know if she had been raped, kidnapped or murdered. Those are the thoughts going through his head. Nuri just believes it to be an honest mistake. She forgot about it when she arrived and prioritized the script over checking in on Yasir. She believed he was working on his script as well. She gave him a deadline to present something incredible in the hopes of impressing an agent. But he is choosing to focus on this miscommunication. It again highlights how the two of them aren't completely in sync. Nuri doesn't want to be controlled by any man. She is challenged by Yasir. She is willing to give so much to him. But she doesn't want to change who she is in order to fit into the box that he has for her. That's not the life that she wants.

And yet, Yasir is choosing to make Nuri feel bad. He doesn't want to accept handouts. He is grateful that Nuri gives him a space in her house in order to work on his scripts. She agrees to read what he writes and help him determine which is his best material. She is reading his script when she is given the offer to write the next sitcom episode. She is distracted by her own work. There is nothing wrong with that. She has to prioritize her life and her career. She can't simply be doing everything for Yasir. She agreed to give his work to her agent to get his honest opinion. She was willing to open that door into the industry for him. She wanted him there at the taping to celebrate the production of her first script. She saw it as an opportunity to advance his own career by making connections. But Yasir doesn't want to be seen as the boyfriend who is just using Nuri in order to get what he wants. This is a very selfish and vain town full of people who will use whatever in order to advance their own careers. Yasir doesn't want to be seen as the selfish boyfriend who brings his own script to this taping in the hopes of impressing someone with what he has to say. He doesn't want to take away from her own achievement. He wants to make it into this business because of his own skills. And yet, he has failed in doing so. He has been here for awhile and made no progress on his career. He was going to be homeless if not for Nuri. She saved his life. She continues to save it by making all of these offers to help. He is just a stubborn and prideful man who isn't able to accept that someone else wants him to succeed just as much as he does. Nuri believes in his talent. But he is continuing to question her commitment as well.

That's what ultimately ruins this night for Nuri though. Yasir is only choosing to see this conspiracy working against him. He is always angry at the world for seeing him as a black man who is simply not good enough. He came from a community where he had to fight so hard just to get anywhere in life. He still only sees the opposition he faces. It is honestly just a mistake that he can't get into this taping on time. There is just some mixup with the names on the list. Nuri should be trusted when she says that she made sure to include Yasir. But he is questioning her commitment to this relationship. He does so not realizing just how crazy and ridiculous it sounds and thus ruins her big moment. Instead of taking the applause and recognition on the sound stage, she is outside getting into a fight with Yasir. He forces her to miss her big moment. She is at the taping for the rest of the night. But that only comes with the realization that she should never sacrifice her ambitions and dreams for a man. The rest of the world does see Yasir as someone just trying to use Nuri in order to advance his own career. Nuri laughs off the suggestion by saying that Yasir is talented and that she loves him. But again, she hasn't found the right balance where she can succeed at work without being distracted by this relationship with Yasir. Right now, she is simply too worried that Yasir is jealous of the success she already has. He is envious of that and resents all that she can already do. He wants to forge his own path without jumping onto her own success. But that also means he's just going around in circles as well not really doing anything with his life. That's not a quality that Nuri needs right now.

And then, things take such a dramatic and difficult pivot. Nuri is essentially pushing Yasir away. He is no longer a healthy influence in her life. She wants him to focus on his life. The timing may not be right for the two of them as a couple. She pushes him away but he chooses to stay. It's played as him wanting to fight for this relationship because he sees the value in it. He just chooses to make his move of support when she is sleeping. That leads to such a horrifying moment where Nuri no longer feels safe in her own home. The show plays it with the revelation that she was molested when she was a child. From ages 9 to 12, she was abused by her stepfather. It's this painful part of her past that she carries around with her. It's a difficult part of her story. It's something that every version of this character struggles talking about. The wiser Nuri and Yasir know the difficult turn the story is about to take. Them allowing it to play out for the audience shows that they are willing to reveal every painful thing that ever happened between them. They don't want to hide anything even though there are some really painful moments in their story. Right now, Yasir frightens Nuri. That's a new feeling for her. Even when he got angry, she was never afraid that he would hurt her. And now, she has this huge reaction. She thought she was alone in her bed and Yasir came up to her. He ultimately comforted her by saying that they have more in common than they would like to admit. They both have childhood traumas that bring them together. As such, this is played as the moment that actually brings them back together as a couple. If they can see each other at their most raw and vulnerable, then they can survive anything. The rest will figure itself out. And yet, that also runs the risk of the show shortchanging these emotions and feelings just in order to hit this very specific plot point.

Some more thoughts:
  • "A First Script" was written by Melora Rivera and directed by Rachael Holder.
  • Norman and Angela walk into the writers room with a complete new outlook on life. They walk in with complete swagger and new updated looks. They are strong and confident because they have just sold this pilot to the network. They are running high because of the potential of working with Whitney Houston. It's something that everyone in the room stops and takes notice. Of course, it's more of a slow-motion walk for Angela and just a normal day for Norman.
  • And yet, why is Angela still showing up in the writers room? She was fired from Marvin. Norman made that perfectly clear right before he made this offer to her to write a drama pilot with him. The show could easily explain that these are simply Norman's offices where he would be running all of his projects. She still has her hands on this script that Nuri is re-working. But it's still a little strange seeing her pull up a seat to the table.
  • Norman and Nuri have such a complicated dynamic. At times, Norman is a healthy mentor who wants great things for Nuri. He has seen her talent and wants her to shine in this environment. At other times, he's the oblivious boss who says something sexist to her. Here, he chastises her for getting too caught up in this relationship. And yet, he's also intrigued enough to read Yasir's script too - which could be a promising development.
  • Yasir's hours are cut back at the book store. He only just got that job. He gets along with his fellow employees. In fact, he's one of the few people who actually reads some of the books that they sell. And yet, it's an industry struggling with the rise of the internet. As such, there is less of a demand. That is forcing cutbacks. It may mean more time for Yasir to write. But it also comes with less money.
  • After almost a full season, the show has earned telling stories completely from Norman and Angela's perspective because they help fill out Nuri's world. They exist as characters in this universe. The same cannot also be said for Sean and Ruby who come in and out of the narrative almost completely at random. There's just no real sense that those dynamics are important and will be meaningful for Yasir moving forward.