Awkward. "Once Upon a Blog" Review: Paradigms of Jenna's Fantasies

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Awkward. S02E11: "Once Upon a Blog"

We've always known that Awkward. was a much smarter show than it appears to be on the surface, but that's been especially apparent in recent episodes. The series has become ridiculously self-aware, starting with the chants of "Team Matty!" or "Team Jake!" in the comments of Jenna's blog in last week's episode and continuing last night, a fun reflection of the fervent fandom this plucky show has generated.

Self-awareness in television is almost guaranteed to be fun, but it's not always smart. Don't get me wrong, there's been no effort on Awkward.'s part to mask that it knows it’s a television show, especially in last night's "Once Upon a Blog," but self-awareness on TV needs to be used with one question in mind: "How does it serve the story?" Several of my favorite shows use self-awareness frequently to good effect, but more often than not they're just a service to the fans. Supernatural winks at the audience so often that its eyes are shut more than they're open, and Community (hence the homage in this article's title) has broken the fourth wall so much that it's already halfway through the fifth. Self-awareness works very well for both of those series, but I'm not sure it's ever worked as well as it did in last night's episode of Awkward., easily one of the best of the series thus far.

"Once Upon a Blog" was an orgy of "What if?" scenarios played out by Jenna. Not only was it a celebration of the show for fans, but it really nailed what the show is all about. After Breaking Bad, Awkward. is probably the most skilled show on TV with regard to making a central character's decisions and the repercussions of those decisions matter more than anything else. And in "Once Upon a Blog," we got to see Jenna's decisions played in a different way. No, they weren't "real" in the show's sense, as they were just words on a blog, spiced up for our entertainment, but they provided an adequate answer to the questions of "Why did Jenna do this?" or "Why didn't Jenna do this?" that have nagged us over the course of the series. Awkward. will be always be about Jenna Hamilton, her decisions, and sharing that experience with her, and "Once Upon a Blog" helped us recognize—through the use of exaggerated, disastrous fantasies—that maybe Jenna has been making the right decisions all along.

Or it's all bullshit, and that makes another point. The past is the past, and it cannot be undone. Jenna has to live with her decisions instead of dwelling on them. And part of living with those decisions is moving on, which is exactly what we think she did in the final moments when she made a choice between Matty or Jake (OMG). This is teenage life. Mistakes will be made, and mistakes will be lived with. It's a work in progress.



NOTES

– One might question of the placement of this episode in the season as the penultimate episode, but I think it's perfect. We're waiting for her to pick Matty or Jake, and in order to do that, she needed to get her head into a space where she can make the right decision. Looking back on things really helped her get there.

– Ummm, can we put Matty and Jake holding hands and coming out as gay as one of the top TV moments of the year? Team Jatty!

– So many hilarious things happened in this episode, I don't know where to start. Hairy Jake in the Twilight spoof? Matty's "sure whatever" shrug when Jake asked if Matty would wait in the car while he banged Jenna? "Dodged a bullet!"? Team Lame?

Ashley Rickards is great, but she failed one acting test: nailing Kristen Stewart's lone expression. In her defense, it's damn near impossible to get K-Stew's stoned/bored/fake-smiling look down pat.

– Showrunner and creator Lauren Iungerich told The Hollywood Reporter that this episode was a nod to Dan Harmon and the writers of Community.



POP QUIZ!

1. What was the biggest moment for you in "Once Upon a Blog"?
... a) Ming and Matty making out
... b) The Twilight spoof
... c) Jenna's awesome new boobs
... d) All of it

2. Who do you think Jenna called at the end?
... a) Matty
... b) Jake
... c) Jonah the guy with the Jew 'fro
... d) Other [please say who]

3. Which fantasy did you like the best?
... a) Jenna and Matty as a couple
... b) Jenna and Jake as a couple
... c) Jenna as a camp-skipper and an invisible girl
... d) Twilight!

4. Blogging: cool or not cool?
... a) It's a good outlet for the youth of today to express their feelings.
... b) NERD ALERT!
... c) It's harmless, it's the modern-day diary
... d) Lame, it's all about Tumblr/Facebook/Twitter/Instagram


The correct (a.k.a. my) answers: D, A (I hope), A, B



THE JAKE VS. MATTY-o-METER

We didn't really learn who Jenna is now leaning toward, because this episode was much more about self reflection. So I'm cheating.



Follow TV.com writer Tim Surette on Twitter: @TimAtTVDotCom