Sunday, February 10, 2019

REVIEW: 'One Day at a Time' - Penelope and Elena Face Crippling Doubts About Their Futures in 'Anxiety'

Netflix's One Day at a Time - Episode 3.09 "Anxiety"

When Penelope has anxiety attacks, her support group helps her figure out what's triggering her, how to cope and why she's not telling her kids.

In 2018, there were 495 scripted shows airing amongst the linear channels and streaming services. The way people are consuming content now is so different than it used to be. It happens according to one's own schedule. As such, there is less necessity to provide ample coverage of each specific episode in any given season from a show. Moreover, it is simply impossible to watch everything. As such, this site is making the move to shorter episodic reviews in order to cover as many shows as possible. With all of that being said, here are my thoughts on the next episode of Netflix's One Day at a Time.

"Anxiety" was written by Janine Brito and directed by Kimberly McCullough

One Day at a Time has done a phenomenal job across all three seasons of addressing mental health. It is always checking in on its characters to see how these problems are developing and the coping methods that allow them to keep their worst impulses in check. It was scary the last time that Penelope thought she no longer needed her medication. That was her essentially realizing that she would be suffering from depression and anxiety for the rest of her life. That's not the problem in this episode. Instead, she is having sudden anxiety attacks because of all of the stress and pressure she is under. As the head of the household, she is juggling a lot. She wants her family to see her as the rock. They can always rely on her no matter what is going on in their lives. She has to remain stable. As Pam points out though, suffering from these diseases doesn't make a person unstable. It simply makes them a more complicated human. Penelope has put in the work to tackle these issues. She meditates and takes medication. She has also been open with Lydia and Schneider in the past about her anxiety. They have their own unique reactions whenever they are confronted with it. However, they have mostly been supportive of her as she hopes to maintain her sanity. Sure, Lydia mostly appears here for comedic relief as someone who prays in order to stay grounded. She has shame about her daughter being on medication. And yet, she is still proud of all that Penelope is trying to achieve as well. She is just part of a generation that can never openly share that with her daughter to ensure that she knows that all the time. Penelope has been striving to do better for her own children. And yet, she's not letting them in on everything that is going on with her. Sure, they are willing to help her study for her boards. They understand that that's a big test she needs to focus on right now. However, they don't see the aftermath of it all and the fears that quickly consume her. They don't understand what's going on when she suddenly breaks out into sweats. Penelope is able to write it all down with Schneider. There is that level of comfort between them where she can share what's going on in the middle of this attack. He is there for her. It's also just so much fun seeing the photos he texts her in order to have a calming effect. He also follows up to ensure that Penelope is better and that she is not just saying she is in order to stop bothering him. That is the true sign of a great friendship. But again, all of this is deeply rooted in everything going on in Penelope's life. She has stress about this exam, her kids, her mother and her new relationship. In fact, this episode may tease that her bond with Mateo may not be built to last because she is already terrified of it being too relaxed and casual while just being pleasant overall. That's telling. But so is Penelope's reactions to the suggestions amongst the group about what she should be doing in order to better combat this disease.

Pam states that not every coping mechanism works. It's all about trial and error. The people in the group have to find what works for them and stick with it when anxiety sneaks up on them. Some of their coping mechanisms aren't healthy at all - like an over-dependence on alcohol and anonymous sex. However, Ramona has made progress over the last two years because she knows that she should imagine a stop sign before setting anything on fire. That's huge for her. The impulse to be destructive is still very real for her. She still receives a sentence to do community service here. However, she is also recognizing this behavior as destructive and wrong while trying to correct it before it happens. But more importantly, the group urges Penelope to let her family in on everything that she is going through at the moment. Sure, they are proud of the conversations she is able to have with Lydia and Schneider. They too laugh along at the anxiety that Lydia has and has passed down to Penelope. That tease of all of this being genetic should really inform the audience about the direction all of this is headed in. Penelope still views her children as her babies. And yet, they are teenagers now. During puberty is when symptoms of anxiety and depression can already appear. Elena is also studying for a big test at the moment. She is preparing for the SATs. She too is putting a lot of pressure on herself because she wants to attend Yale. That's the college she has decided on going to. At first, it's amusing that she breaks pencils in half when time for the practice tests are up - or if Alex is just sitting near here. However, that also shows a disassociation from reality where she doesn't realize the extent of her actions. She needs to perform well. She has to do so because she wants to achieve all of these plans but is also seeing her family as against her every step of the way. The school is too expensive and she's not as unique as she claims to be. That's absolutely horrifying. But those are the thoughts frequently associated with anxiety. She spirals and Penelope is the only person who can help pull her out of it. That is a very revealing moment for the entire family. It allows Elena and Alex to see their mother as a complex human being and not just the parent raising them and punishing them when they do something wrong. It also makes Elena feel seen and understood. She thought she was going crazy and that she was all alone in this. But she's not. Penelope is willing to support her no matter what she needs. It's peaceful when they meditate together. Sure, Lydia has her own form of prayer going on. That's a solid laugh to cut away to the credits on. But it also highlights just how much this family strengthens when they have honest conversations with one another about what's going on in their lives.