Awkward. Mid-season Finale Review: Hopelessly Devoted to Me

Awkward. S3E10: "Redefining Jenna"

The first half of Awkward.'s extended third season has been an interesting exercise in dealing with the aftermath of a big choice. After two seasons and 23 episodes' worth of indecision with regard to Jenna's relationship with Matty (and her other relationships, like the one with Jake), the Season 3 smartly decided to let Jenna and Matty just be, and to explore what it means for the two of them to be a couple. Many people seem to insist that TV shows built around dramatic romantic tension don't work as well once the couple gets together, but for much of this 10-episode run, Awkward. did a fine-enough job of proving that assumption to be false. In the process, the show slowed down a bit, exchanging its previously rapid pacing and story burn for little stories involving brief Jenna-Matty fights, almost all of which ended with them kissing all of their problems away.


And yet, Awkward. couldn't really help itself. Although the show can't really return to the possibility of Jake being Jenna's romantic partner (at least for the time being), it almost immediately pointed toward a probable romantic encounter with Jenna's creative writing classmate, Collin (Nolan Funk). Like many of the season's other stories, it took some time for Jenna's relationship with Collin to get going, and then it ramped up quite heavily over the last few episodes. But whereas this half-season's slower pace allowed Jenna and Matty's minor issues to simmer, the lack of real characterization for Collin hampered the impact of his prominence in the last few episodes, and that was especially true for this week's mid-season finale, "Redefining Jenna." 

Funk is an appealing actor, but the writers have yet to give him much to do other than espouse and embody one cliche after another. I could almost give Awkward. the benefit of the doubt in this regard, because it feels purposeful that Collin is so underdeveloped; the scenes in creative writing class have emphasized how hard he tries to be dark and mysterious, and even his own girlfriend made fun of him for it a few weeks ago. Nevertheless, whenever Collin and Jenna share a more intimate moment, the show's attempts to mock the character fade away, only to be replaced by smoldering looks, relatively aggressive touching, and generally empty monologues ("You're classic"). If Awkward. wanted us to recognize that Jenna, who's never, ever satisfied with anything, is stupidly valorizing a creative-type tool we all remember from high school, I could get on board with that. But by the end of "Redefining Jenna," I don't get that impression. Jenna is certainly conflicted about her feelings (again), but it feels like we're supposed to find Collin appealing and mostly sympathize with her predicament. 

While the Collin portion of the story makes it difficult for me to reach a sufficient level of sympathy, it's Jenna who's currently the most challenging character to feel for, because frankly, Jenna kind of sucks right now. It's her nature to get lost in her own head and over-analyze things to a frustrating degree, but in that great scene with her and Matty outside Collin's party, I was way more on Matty's side than Jenna's. Jenna hasn't been particularly interested in Matty's problems at home, just like she's never particularly interested in anything that doesn't directly involve her. She's pretty selfish, and it's telling that while Matty could list tangible reasons why reasons he liked her in "That Girl Strikes Again," Jenna couldn't muster up anything beyond hair and abs. This is Jenna's story and the show doesn't typically absolve her from all responsibility, but it feels like she's getting off pretty easy right now. So, by the time Collin lustily convinced her to be selfish and choose herself, all I could do was throw my hands in the air and wish Matty didn't have to put up with this crap. Only time will tell whether that's how I'm supposed to be feeling right now, but no matter where that story goes, Awkward. should either do a better job of making Collin a character, or knowingly embrace his vapid, archetypal nature. 

Despite some frustrating moments in the main story, "Redefining Jenna" gave us some fun moments for the show's supporting characters. It feels like it's been a long time since the whole cast has been so involved in a single episode, and a few of lower-rung stories (Ming's rise to the top of the Mafia, Lissa's guilt over Ricky's death) reached very satisfying conclusions. The increased episode order has permitted the show to give Ming just enough more to do to justify Jessica Lu's bump to series regular, but she's done fun stuff with it. The Mafia story is totally ridiculous, so it was nice that the reveal of the Accountant's identity reached such a ridiculous level—the key, the gold phone, it just worked. And Lissa feeling responsible for Ricky's peanut allergy-related death because they kissed after her Thai dinner walked right up to stupid but didn't run into it, even if I totally believe that we'll see Ricky's resurrection at some point. Tamara and Jake's relationship and Sadie's declining social status have been on the back burner for much of the season, and they were given short story bursts here that were fine. For the show to improve in the second half of Season 3, those three characters need more to do other than "be annoyingly happy" and "be Sadie."


It seems like Awkward. is trying some interesting things and looking to push Jenna into a space where her constant waffling is going to get her real trouble. I'm all for that, and honestly, I'm also all for the show convincing me that she temporarily sucks; she's a high school student, I can buy it. But I hope the second portion of Awkward. Season 3 makes its intentions clearer, and redefines its character activity accordingly. 



BLACK FRIDAY PRICE CUTS


– There's no way that Lissa's Thai dinner actually could have killed Ricky, right?

– Another weird casualty of the half-season: Not a whole lot for Lacey to do, particularly in these last few episodes. She and Val shared that silly scene with Jenna, but that's about it. Need more of her.

– Bouncy castles are awesome.

– Tamara couldn't turn back on her explanation of how people confused Tessa for Rehab Julie, so she just went with it. Becoming the second Julie of The Julies fame was one of her best outrageous explanations of the season.


What did you think of the finale? Do you feel sympathy for Jenna?

Comments (28)
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WTF have the writers done to Jenna? she just turned into Bella Swan right before my eyes.
She has always been a "typical" teen with existencial crisis but has never been an asshole..

And all of a sudden she's a whinymasochistassole.... seriously, BARF!
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I don't necessarily dislike Jenna, I'm just not very happy with her at the moment. And I don't dislike Collin, either. I don't think his "be selfish" speech was to get Jenna to kiss him. I saw it as him trying to comfort her. Jenna didn't have to kiss him. She could've just left. I don't like that Collin is getting the blame. In all honesty, he was the one that did the right thing. As soon as he knew he was developing feelings for someone else he instantly broke things off with Angelic. Because that could've hurt her more. And it would've been smarter for Jenna to do the same instead of just going and kissing him.

I love Matty to death. But he doesn't deserve any of this. Being cheated on. Matty and Jenna don't go well together. They both need someone that better fits them. Which is why I look at Collin for Jenna. I think he would understand her better. And Matty just deserves better, period.

And for Tamera and Jake: I found them kind of annoying at first. But honestly, I'm just happy that they're both FINALLY happy. 'Cause in season one and two they both went through a lot. I'd rather see them annoying and in love then how they were in seasons one and two.

And I can't wait to see what else happens with Ming and the Asian Mafia!
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FIrst off, good review. You pretty much summed up everything. Jenna's undecidedness is redundant, overbearing and hard to sympathize with. Colin is just a walking cliche, bland and lacking any real depth. The matty-jenna fight, kiss and makeup routine is old. Yet, we're still watching. Like you said, the smaller storyline keep the show intact. Asian Mafia is so ludicrous but so so funny. (I'm going to miss the former boss!!! She was hilarious).

Honestly though, I want Jake and Tamara to end. It's so unreal. It makes me dislike both characters. Also, NO NICE SADIE. I'm glad her character is developing, but "you're welcome" and witty bitchiness is Awkward. We need it. The writers have to find a way to make her vulnerable without losing her trademark ways.

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Heh, so I watched it, and yeah, she still sucks. I usually fast forward the Jenna's Vapid Whiny Inner Monologue parts, but I suffered through them to make sure I knew what I was talking about here. The best part, really:

"'Choose me.' It was a new concept." - Heh. Wut? Wut?!

Anyway, it may be that 16 is a better time to be selfish than, say, 24 (I'm 24, so it's all I got so far), but shitty friends in high school don't get much better later, imo. By that time, you should know the difference between and the consequences of being a decent person or a suck person. Last year, I used to say that if anyone wondered why men are assholes: Jenna Hamilton. I alsoused to say Cassie from TSC, but it's gone now. Heh...it's gone.

And I was gonna add Tamara to that list, but Jake had a sudden case of the Balls this week. They're kind of annoying together, but I still like them, and I'm glad they worked things out quickly and magically.

I didn't like Matty overall, but he tried this year. I don't remember one thing he did that bothered me. It might be because I could compare him to the walking Hair and Cheekbones gimmick who played a similar gimmick in Glee. One a side note, it was weird that Professor Anthony Michael Hall never had anything to say about his papers.

It was lame that Sadie didn't say anything to Matty before the mid-season ended. I hope she gets some good use out of it in the spring, because she really needs to bounce back.

Finally, it's great (though a little racist) that little MingFei runs the Asian Mafia (because all Asians of all nationalities always work together in one cohesive unit), but you'd think her first use of her unlimited cosmic power would be to get poor Fred Wu whom she loves out of exile--er, Idaho. Ming wei bei ta le, IMO, who's with me?
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I'm not feeling the Matty character from the start and I understand that Jenna basically this season has not done anything good and unpredictable. She just have to sleep and make out with Matty. I kinda like Jenna and Jake last season but seems like that's not gonna happen anymore.
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I hadn't even noticed that Colin's underdeveloped, in fact, I do find the character quite appealing, but I don't sympathise with Jenna's predicament at all. I like that Awkward is daring enough to have Jenna be selfish and a little unlikable as a lead, and I do like her as a character, insecurities and all, but you're right in saying that she is too often absolved of her guilt. There's never really being any big ramifications for her actions so maybe that's something Awkward could try. I think the reason I'm so incredibly forgiving of both Jenna and Colin though is the fact that, like Jenna, I can see Matty being a fun guy to be with for a little while, but for a long-term relationship he would be absolutely tedious and boring.

I've disliked Ming's storyline from the beginning so I hope it changes when the show ones back. I love Tamara, but her relationship with Jake has reached a holding pattern if this ep was anything to go by, so the writers will have to make up some interesting stuff for them. And yes to more in depth story lines for Sadie. I thought her being poor was actually leading somewhere but it hasn't really done anything at all.
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ugh dammit Jenna, you're ruining the show this season. AND IT'S YOUR SHOW! this season seriously lacked the quirky spark the first two had, I was hoping they'd make up for it in the back half of the show, but the midseason trailer for fall just makes it look like it'll get even worse. screw you MTV, you're making this awesome show into another cliche teen drama, this is almost as bad as a teen pregnancy storyline. how can they expect us to watch a show about her when she's going to be worse than Sadie in season 1?
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Honestly I am digging this season a lot. So dark! And as great as Matty is... was I the only one who kind of sympathized with Jenna a little bit when Matty told her that in fact he HAD been embarrassed by her? Yes, it's not for the popularity reasons that she thought it was for, but he was mad about it! Very interesting dynamics unfolding all around.
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It is totally realistic that Lissa's Thai dinner killed Ricky. My ex-wife had a peanut allergy that wasn't even as bad as a lot of people have and that definitely would have caused her to stop breathing without an antihistamine.

Jenna's story is exactly where it needs to be. She spend an unrealistically long time on the first two dudes. This is high school/ She cannot remain with Matty any longer or its just silly stupid unrealistic. Taste, logic and attraction have nothing to do with it, it's just hormones and teenage relationship lengths.
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Another love triangle? Seriously, I thought we were done with that? I kind of hoped we'd be done with that. Also, the shrill storyline involving three of the most annoying characters (Tamara, Sadie, Lissa) made me press the "mute" button through the whole sections. Agree about Jenna.
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The car scene between Jenna and Matty was the only part of the episode that really worked for us.

In our review, we take everything else to task for simply being too obvious and predictable. Collin is a cypher: he's nothing more than "something better" than Matty and it makes Jenna look vapid and stupidly impulsive to risk losing everything to be with a two-dimensional cardboard cut-out like him.

Very frustrating...
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Amazing scene in the car and amazing work from all the actors, I feel the slow-pace of the first half really enphazised those feelings bursting out.
The underdevelopment of Collin's character is just the natural consequence of the writers not handling him as a real character at all (not for now at least), that storyline is not about him and Jenna and their supposedly great love/attraction/whatever, it is all about Jenna outgrowing and disappointing her friends.
I get why people hate her and that's how it should be (I kind of hate her too at the moment), but Tv characters are often so unnaturally nice it's almost ridiculous and Jenna just feels so real right now!!! C'mon we all make mistakes and I think she's just a little bit too mature to be in a boring (for her) high school relationship but still too immature to know what's best for herself and how to treasure the important people in her life so... I blame the phase she's going through and I praise the writers for their on-going brilliant job with this show!
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I think everything the show is doing with Jenna and Collin is intentional.... based off the preview for the second half of the season we are suppose to eventually hate Jenna and dislike Collin... and feel for Matty and his place in this situation. I think this season is focusing on a part of Jenna's character that is easily brushed aside in previous season, because things tend to work out in the end. But Jenna is selfish, self-serving, and lacks empathy for others.

Examples I can think of from previous season are Matty not introducing her to his drunk brother. She completely disregarded the situation and concluded that Matty just didn't want her to meet his brother, why? Because she was only thinking out herself in the situation, not Matty or his brother. OR the posting of her blog for the world to see. She didn't even take into consideration the ramifications it would have for the people featured in it. She only cared about how she thought it would help her.

Jenna's not a bad person, but she is a teenager and a kind of self-involved one for the most part. I think this season is trying to highlight how those traits can hinder her and hopeful the show plans on helping her grow up a little (she is just 16, after all).
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From the preview of what's to come in the second half of the season, they are making Jenna horrible on purpose and from where they are going, I can't wait to see it!!
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I haven't seen this week's episode yet, so I haven't read the review yet, but I just stopped by to say JENNA ALWAYS SUCKS.

I'll catch up in a bit, though.
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Actually the only problem with this show (and TV shows in general) is that Jenna is only 16.. and it´s quite normal that she is confused, interested in different boys, has low self-esteem etc...but writers make her look much more older..with lot of sex, possible pregnancy, love etc - so I have feeling like she is 19 or something and in that case I feel she acts really immature..but actually she is supposed to be only 16 so she acts like normal girl at her age act.. (well..honestly..I hope they aren´t such sluts but still..)
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"...Jenna kind of sucks right now."

"So, by the time Collin lustily convinced her to be selfish and choose herself, all I could do was throw my hands in the air and wish Matty didn't have to put up with this crap."

Totally agree!

Ming's rise to head of the mafia was the best part of this season. Jessica Lu plays it so well.
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Wow, Jenna just dethroned Joffrey on my account. What a bitch!

I'm not exactly complaining however, because bitches make good shows.
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I'm kind of just watching it to see what happens, but don't really enjoy the show like I did before.
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It's all on purpose. Some of us might be able to relate to Jenna in that HS indecisiveness or teen self-exploration kind of way, but we are definitely not supposed to have any sympathy for her, unlike previous seasons. She's horrible and selfish right now and it only stands to reason that she will get worse in the back half of the season. Same applies to Collin's vague personality -- he's supposed to be dark and mysterious and shallow because that's about as deep as Jenna apparently gets with anyone, Matty included. And his "be selfish" speech was more about convincing her to do what HE wanted (his selfishness), classic guy stuff. In terms of character exploration, I find it all pretty realistic and am enjoying where they are taking us. Of course, I hate what Jenna's doing to Matty like everyone else, but I'm loving the show and looking forward to where it's going to go next.
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Very over Jenna, Matty definitely deserves better. I'm glad he called her out for not checking in with him about his home situation, sure he didn't bring it up but as his girlfriend she should at least try to talk to him about it. I have always been team Matty but now I don't him to be with Jenna as she is annoying the hell out of me. Colin seems like he'll hook up with Jenna and then ditch her and that is the last thing I want to happen because she'll probably go crying back to Matty and I have a feeling he'd take her back.

To me this season so far has been pretty average, my favourite part has been Ming and Asian the mafia, I loved "I was just snapping". The Tamara & Jake relationship is only so so and can be really annoying. I like when they show Sadie's softer side but I still love her when she's a bitch lol. So for the second half of the season I'd like less annoying Jenna please.
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I didn't care for Jenna all season. Her face acting is way over the top whenever she's 'thinking' about something again, she annoys the hell out of me. Collin is hot, period. I really liked Sadie's friendship with Matty though, she finally thawed when they were talking over the phone and you could actually feel Sadie's true self beyond the 'you're welcome'-bitchiness. Hope they do something with that.
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Yeah, there should be more Matty/ Sadie stuff.
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Jenna is becoming a very unlikable character because of her rapid partner changing and her lack of ability to stick to one person for more than a season. She cant decide on anything and frankly shes becoming to fickle. I also find her story about boyfriends to be rather boring. it seems like all she does all day is complain on her blog about who she wants to go out with.
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The stuff with Jenna's kind of annoying me now, she's so fickle, and I hated Collin's "be selfish" speech. If she wants to be with him rather than Matty fine, but don't hurt Matty because of your selfishness and disregard for his feelings. In all honesty I find Ming's asian mafia story more interesting and entertaining than everything going on with Jenna.
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