Twisted Season 1 Finale Review: Just Say No to Jo
What do you do with a show like Twisted? It has a phenomenal—honestly, phenomenal cast. Great production values. Cozy-ass setting. Fantastic, witty dialogue. It’s admirably conscientious about representation, and one of those rare teen shows that both acknowledges and supports gay romantic storylines. But unfortunately the writers’ room is determined to kill all suspense, which is strange considering suspense is possibly the most crucial element in a weekly mystery-thriller.
As I mentioned in my review of Twisted's winter premiere, the series excised a lot of what was unique about it when it revealed that charismatic Danny had never been a child murderer. Gone was a lot of the edgy tension that had set Twisted apart from a thousand other teen dramas. Danny was no longer an enigma, he was a wronged hero... and kind of unbelievably noble? Still, the show could have coasted by on its love triangle and soapier elements; there was enough of a fanbase for Lacey, Danny, and Jo as characters that the writers could have teased their various relationships indefinitely. But no, now they’ve gone and undermined THAT tension, too. Danny told Jo she was “always the one,” to which I say:
Maddie Hasson is a good actress doing a fine job, but Jo as written is well-nigh unendurable. Jo shrilly defended Danny at every turn when she thought he was a sociopathic murderer, but after she learned for a FACT he had not killed his aunt AND witnessed him killing Vikram in self defense, at THAT point she turned on him and told him he was a pre-meditated murderer and as bad as his father? Way to blow a season's worth of character-building AND make your proxy look extremely petty, show.
Adding to my frustration with Jo is that no matter many times Lacey tried to renew their friendship, Jo started sucking her teeth over the friendship they COULD have had, if Lacey had not grown as a person between ages of 11 and 16. While Jo can forgive Danny for just about anything, Jo's anger toward Lacey is as bottomless as her sweater drawer. And let's be real, Jo has the most comfortable situation on this show, even if she devotes all her time to pitying herself for getting her ass involved with other people’s problems. I’m sure whoever broke this season’s arc thought Jo would be the lovable, loyal underdog we’d all be rooting for in the face of the stereotypical "pretty-girl bitch" Lacey, but if that's the case, Lacey Porter was woefully miscast, because Kylie Bunbury has made the character so damned likable.
Bunbury has delivered a consistently nuanced, sympathetic, and endearing portrait of Lacey that’s turned a “popular mean girl” stereotype into something vulnerable, unique, and very human. Lacey and Danny have insane chemistry, and despite the fact Danny and Jo have lied to her at every turn, she’s been more loyal to Danny than even Jo has been. For Danny to consistently shun, cold-shoulder, and ultimately desert Lacey in favor of the increasingly petulant Jo not only felt disconnected to what we were seeing onscreen, but sort of hilarious. I mean, the premise is that these three are Ultimate Best Friends, except neither Danny nor Jo ever talks to Lacey, apparently? Lacey is a compelling character and watching her be left out in every episode since the winter premiere felt like a contradiction of the relationship-building she and Danny had done. If there is one lesson this show wants you to walk away with, it’s that lying to protect people WILL ONLY HURT THEM.
As for Danny: Let me say upfront, Avan Jogia is a classic romantic lead in the style of Clark Gable and Brad Pitt. He’s got that swagger. But Danny's gone from being a suave vessel for Jogia’s charm to becoming an indefensible loony who's too neurotically hung up on his own moral purity to ever, ever stop complaining. It's really saying something that both Jo and Lacey, his diehard childhood forever-friends, got completely fed up with him this season for categorically refusing to chill.
Sure, when he was (unfairly) treated as a sociopath, Danny’s angst was understandable. But after he was cleared for murder, pushed his dad off a cliff purely in SELF DEFENSE, and gotten a cool $10 million in the bargain, Danny’s tetchiness seemed almost on the verge of OCD. Like, Danny, you killed your dad but honestly it wasn’t your fault. You can finish out high school without spending 24 hours a day, 365 days of the year being secretly moody/angry that people don’t know why you’re moody. Danny’s refusal to enjoy life because he was a “murderer” for not letting his dad kill both himself and Jo was a major weak point in the motivations for the season. Human beings have way more of a sense of self-preservation than that.
Not to mention the fact that if Danny loved Lacey the way that, to all appearances, he did in the first half of the season, he would've immediately told her all the intricacies of his night at Post Church. He was, at the very least, very good friends with her. But the writers thought it would be more interesting to make Danny purposefully evasive with Lacey, and then wasteful with a $10 million fortune. His thoughtless flippancy with money and other people’s feelings, coupled with his penchant for relaxed-fit formal wear, turned him into a Halloween costume Tommy Wiseau via The Room.
And his reactions to people reaching out to him started feeling like one long, eternally repeating fever dream. EVERY SINGLE ONE OF his interactions with other characters went as follows:
1. Danny acts really weird
2. Friend/parent asks about it
3. Danny gets super evasive
4. Friend/parent tells him he’s being evasive
5. Danny screams, “YOU DON’T UNDERSTAND!”
6. Friend/parent is like, "Uh, yeah, because you aren’t telling me anything!"
7. Danny is like, “It’s for your own good!”
8. Friend/parent is like, “ZZZZzzzzzzz.”
SO MANY go-nowhere exhanges. If you cut out every time a character said “I need to talk to you,” you’d cut approximately two hours out of this series. And the ensuing conversations just underlined information we already had. If a season of television is a chili burrito, Twisted had so many potatoes in this half-season, by which I mean filler. Anyway, with Danny clouding his charm with insufferable angsty fits and Jo being super “eff you” about everything for no reason and Lacey problematically barred from main storylines, viewers were left to admire Charlie and enjoy Rico and Andie.
I will never stop praising Ashton Moio. He’s a natural, he's hilarious, he's too big for his role. It’s hard to take your eyes off him when he’s onscreen. But he was sucked down into a B-story vortex when a girlfriend with no ties to the main action of the series showed up. Their love story was sweet and naturalistic, but it felt like a disservice to both actors that they were stranded on No-Stakes B-Story Island all season long.
At least there was newcomer Charlie, right? Talk about fantastic casting: Jack Falahee is incredible bro! He managed to be compelling and creepy-yet-intriguing in the grand style of Christian Slater in Heathers, despite having to spout 90 percent exposition at all times.
Poor Charlie had to spend the last two episodes in an Expository Fugue to help the climax crystallize, undermining the goodwill he’d built with the audience. His backstory became ludicrously improbable: Like, he got arrested and thrown in juvie so he could spend time with Danny, and then fortuitously BECAME DANNY'S ROOMMATE?! What are the odds, writers? What are the odds? (THE ODDS ARE ZERO DUH COME ON NOW.)
I’ll admit that the adoption plotline is so audaciously dark (the first baby died?!?!?! But it wasn’t her baby?!?!!?) and convoluted (thank goodness they decided to sledgehammer that desk) that it’s almost intriguing. Still, it’s also sort of a gothic trope to have a character Become Evil because he or she was given up for adoption, and the whiff of incest was one boundary I frankly didn’t need Twisted to push.
In terms of other newcomers, Jack and Whitney are fair-enough new characters, (Whitney! Another fantastic casting! Brianne Howey is smart and edgy, and you want to believe her even when you know you shouldn’t!) but the father and daughter also had their characters’ tension lopped off at the knees during this finale. "A Tale of Two Confessions" made it clear not only that they’re cartoonish, mustache-twirling baddies but also that they're somehow in cahoots with Charlie? Sure. You know what, if Charlie can randomly end up as Danny’s bunkmate in juvie, I guess in this world anything convenient to annoying the Desai family can happen.
Charlie’s relation to Jo, Whitney’s chaos, and the Desai family fortune could have been compelling threads, but with Twisted making it clear that Danny is all about Jo, I don’t know if I can sit through that bad romance. Jo is just so completely undeserving of all the under-developed romantic interest being thrown her way, and so inconsistent with how she reacts to it (“Danny Staaaaahp” girl WHAT?! U LOVED HIM ALL UR LIFE), that I’m starting to grind my teeth whenever she walks onscreen. And she walks onscreen a lot! Meanwhile Lacey, who's easily the most compelling female character on the show, is getting exiled to B-story Island with Whitney? The promise of three best friends solving a murder has turned into three best friends constantly worried about Jo Masterson and her family. And frankly, that’s not enough stakes for me.
... Danny being into Jo: a WTF moment?
... Danny being married to his pain: tedious?
... Lacey: relegated too much to sidelines?
... Do you miss Rico? Why can’t he and Andie do cool stuff as well?
... Does Jo as an audience proxy make you want to stop watching?
... Is the adoption storyline so soapy that it’s genius, or what?
... Do you wish Whitney had been left ambiguous a little bit longer?
... Did that post-production gunshot after the credits make you feel unspeakable rage?
... Will you watch a second season of Twisted if it gets renewed?
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