Sunday, February 5, 2023

REVIEW: 'Dear Edward' - The Grief Group Assembles for the First Time to Discuss Their Tragic Losses in 'Food'

AppleTV+'s Dear Edward - Episode 1.02 "Food"

Lacey struggles to do anything right for Edward. Later, she meets more people affected by the crash at the first Grief Group therapy session.

"Food" was written by Jason Katims and directed by Allison Liddi-Brown

With his family, he was Eddie. Without his family, he is Edward. That's the first decision he makes when he finally hears the world around him again. Edward is the sole survivor of the tragic plane crash. He emerged with only some severe cuts and bruises. He's entrusted to Lacey and John as his new guardians. The premiere was building up to that tragic moment where it became clear Edward was the only passenger to survive. "Food" opens with a funeral and Edward arriving at his new home. The story skips over some details to land in the new place for its premise. The show now becomes about a group of loved ones in a support group helping each other grapple with their grief over those who died. It's a convenient way to once again bring these characters together who would otherwise never meet. The plane served as that connective tissue for the passengers. The grief group does the exact same thing for their loved ones. It's meant to be a safe space to talk and explore all the emotions felt over this loss. Dee Dee immediately establishes herself as a hugger. It's cathartic at several moments as well. It's a celebration of the bonds that have quickly formed when they all do a collective hug at the close of the episode. It's even sweet when Dee Dee hugs Linda after she unloads all of her issues. It's then awkward when Linda realizes that Dee Dee isn't one of the grief counselors. In fact, the grievers strike more genuine connections with each other than the actual person trying to lead this space. That may provide him with professional boundaries. It's not the most warm or exciting position within this story. It's meant to be all about the individual stories and how people are struggling. This group provides them with the resources to actually address their problems. Sure, it's not what Kojo was expecting. He needs help with the logistics for keeping his niece in the only apartment she has ever known and securing a passport to take her back to Ghana. Fortunately, Adriana knows how to help him thanks to her work in the late congresswoman's office. Moreover, she helps get Becks talking again. That's a huge gift she provides. People rely on each other. It's the only way they can make it through their respective days. They need this more than they may even realize. However, there's still plenty of time spent on their individual lives. They aren't all willing to share their stories and problems right away. It's helpful for Lacey and Kojo because they are suddenly parents. They have never had that responsibility before. But now, their young family members are counting on them. They have to step up and be willing to do whatever it takes to keep them healthy. Lacey had a certain idea of what parenthood would be. She ultimately has to throw the book out the window and adapt to the current situation. That's what is best for Edward.

Despite all of this work to build genuine and surprising relationships, it's a rather cloying plot mechanism for Edward to continue seeing and interacting with Jordan. Maxwell Jenkins' continued presence in the opening credits may suggest this is a trope meant to stick around too. It's meant to reveal just how codependent the brothers were. All of that was successfully conveyed previously though. They did everything together. That was annoying to Jordan as he sought out more independence. Edward had a panic attack upon learning his brother wanted to enroll in public school. However, his family did everything they could to make him comfortable even with changes outside his control. They adapted everything to him because he was special. He once again receives that moniker. Everyone uses his survival as proof in the existence of God or some higher power. Everyone wants to engage with the story. Very few people want to interact with the actual person. Part of that is Edward only ever feeling safe with his brother. Jordan provided that safety to him. That connection is suddenly gone. For a long time, Edward wants to deny that reality. He imagines Jordan surviving right alongside him. He is pulled out of the wreckage too. He endures the strange new environment living with Lacey and John. He faces the flashing lights of the cameras and the questions from reporters. It's not healthy for Edward to rely on his brother this way. He passes out the moment he is forced to confront the truth. Lacey explains it as him being dehydrated. That's another extension of his health struggles with eating. Right now, he simply needs to consume calories. That fixes the immediate problem. Edward still needs to be called stupid in order to sleep at night. He reaches out to next-door neighbor Shay for that connection. It's strange. He expects her to provide that for him. She ultimately does. He's finding ways to adapt his old life into his current circumstances. His family provided him with the skills to do so. It's jarring because it all happened in an instant. One moment, he had his family. And then, they were all gone. Others can relate to that struggle. Lacey is more than the woman whose nephew survived. She lost her sister too. Other members of the grief group are learning how to move on with their lives. For Adriana, that means thinking about what happens with her grandmother's congressional seat. For Dee Dee, she learns that her husband was keeping many secrets from her. This is set up as ongoing drama. Dee Dee certainly has bigger reactions to every small detail. That's jarring as well because it doesn't line up with the tone elsewhere. It's still effective because the show is actively exploring grief and the many ways it affects people differently.