Friday, December 4, 2020

REVIEW: 'Big Mouth' - Nick, Andrew and Jessi Have Different Expectations for Sleep-Away Camp in 'The New Me'

Netflix's Big Mouth - Episode 4.01 "The New Me"

At sleep-away camp, Jessi befriends her trans cabinmate, and Nick discovers his two best friends have a little too much in common.

In 2019, the television industry aired 532 scripted shows across numerous outlets. The way people consume content now is different than it used to be. It happens according to one's own schedule. As such, it's less necessary to provide ample coverage of each episode in any given season from a show. Moreover, it is simply impossible to watch everything. As such, this site provides shorter episodic reviews in order to cover as many shows as possible. With all of that being said, here are my thoughts on the season premiere of Netflix's Big Mouth.

"The New Me" was directed by Andres Salaff with teleplay by Andrew Goldberg and story by Andrew Goldberg & Patti Harrison

At the end of the third season, Nick and Andrew basically realized that they don't actually like each other. They view each other as the monsters in their friendship. It's a relatable and understandable impulse as well. They have both done heinous things across the series. They love to write it off as the puberty they are continuously undergoing as well. And yet, that excuse can only go so far. They have to be responsible for their actions too. At first, they were expecting to spend the summer apart from one another. Nick would be at sleep-away camp. Andrew would be at home. That's not what happens. It somewhat feels like the show needing these characters to remain the central dynamic despite this realization. However, it works because their presence in each other's lives is necessary for them to have these serious conversations with themselves. Nick would not have questioned or challenged his behavior in this new environment. In fact, it may have only been encouraged through his friendship with Seth - who truly is the camp equivalent of Andrew. That proves that Nick seeks out certain types of people for friendships. It means he is insanely jealous the moment Andrew arrives and bonds immediately with Seth. Sure, it highlights how incredibly gross Andrew is. That has always been his baseline as a character as well. He dreaded going to camp. He pleaded with his parents not to go. He arrives because his father already signed the check. It's not long before he grows comfortable with this place and the people he is spending his time with. The roles are reversed. Andrew is thriving and Nick is paralyzed with anxiety. He fears others bullying and demeaning him. It's all in his head essentially. He doesn't have an especially hard life. When Natalie enters the story, she is genuinely afraid for her safety in this world through a new identity. As a trans woman, she doesn't know what to expect from her peers. The counselors do absolutely nothing to protect her or show her the respect she needs. Instead, they just allow all these insensitive actions to come out. It's gross on both sides as well. The girls want to dress her in elaborate ways to project one version of inherent femininity. Meanwhile, the guys are curious about what her genitalia now looks like. These people are inherently gross. They ask all the wrong questions and do so in a way that isolates her. Jessi would love to hold onto the animosity of the past. And yet, Natalie can present as a genuine friend who views the world in a similar way. These kindred spirits can be allowed to find each other and thrive. Sure, it's also insane to see the extreme chaotic energy that is brewing back in town with Jay and Lola growing closer. They too have a lot in common. People misunderstand them and they lash out repeatedly because of those growing frustrations. They can actually help each other. Right now, it's just important to see the destruction they are capable of pulling off together. This premiere just wants to get back into the swing of things. These kids are insecure and fear what others think of them at all times. They are dealing with a lot of emotions. No one has the same experience either. This is a time to explore and figure out who each person is. It's a wild ride. One that highlights how cruel teens can be to one another and those who just want to love them. It's hard. And yet, it's incredibly relatable because everyone understands this journey. The comedy is very effective as well while bringing even more new characters into the mix who will likely have a lasting impact on the core ensemble. Of course, some of them may be confined solely to the time spent at camp. Having stories take place back at home also ensures that Nick, Andrew and Jessi won't be away for too long. Time is passing in this world though. Camp is seen as freedom to some and hell to others. It has that mixed reputation. People want to believe in its value and importance. Parents have cherished memories in this experience. That doesn't mean their children will. This time away may not offer what everyone is hoping to get out of it. Nick's plans are disrupted right away. He is left riddled with a panic attack in the end. That's not good. It may force him to confront some things in his own behavior. Meanwhile, Andrew befriends someone who does every vile thing he has done since entering puberty. Some people do relate in that way. That can be freeing and accepting. However, that too highlights how the world at large isn't always well-equipped to handle people with different stories or the need to explore elsewhere to come to some semblance of peace. Of course, this is also an animated comedy that has to be absurd all the time. As such, this depth can only go so far. But this is still a solid return to this world and its characters.