I have such affection for Bunheads that I feel guilty when I don’t like an episode. But they can’t all be winners, right? And I’m not a heartless monster for dissing a mostly enjoyable delight? Bear with me here, because Monday’s episode just wasn’t very good. There was a lot I wanted to like about it, but it never came together. What’s frustrating is that on paper it sounded like Bunheads was taking a bunch of strides in the right direction. Unfortunately, it stumbled quite a bit.
Let’s talk about where all the right steps went wrong.
So, hey, Michelle is finally teaching the girls. We knew this would happen, but I loved that Fanny just took off and forced her daughter-in-law into a role she wasn’t sure she wanted. Except... where was the actual teaching? It was an unfortunate tease to have us start the episode with Michelle and the girls at the studio, and then never return to it. I know we’ll see her teach in the coming weeks, but it’s kind of overdue at this point.
As I’ve complained in the past, Bunheads has a hard time integrating its adult plotlines with its teenage-girl plotlines. Part of why I’m so eager to see Michelle start teaching is that we need a way for the two sets of stories to converge. Right now there’s too much bouncing back and forth: This episode in particular suffered from a lack of focus. Or maybe I was just especially bored by what the girls were doing. (Sneaking out at a sleepover? Come on.)
Another step in the right direction: We saw more of Sasha’s home life. If I’m supposed to care about this girl, I need to get a better sense of what she’s going through. But again, what could have been an enlightening look into her family drama ended up being—well, kind of silly. Yes, parents fight, and it’s scary and awful, but they don’t often throw pillows at each other or loudly break glass off-screen. It was just a little too cartoonish, and it made Sasha’s angst feel phony.
I really do want to like these girls, and a lot of the time I do. They’ve each grown on me, to the extent that I actually want to see more of them, even if that means seeing less of Michelle and Fanny. But they need a bit more depth—they need to be that much more grounded in reality. I like that Bunheads is silly and over-the-top, but even at their wackiest, Michelle and Fanny feel like real people to me, because they've also had moments of serious emotional resonance. I’m confident we’ll get to that point with Sasha, Boo, Ginny, and Melanie, but we’re definitely not there yet.
Oh, and more Truly! Always a plus. But I just never really bought the dynamic: It was weird that Michelle would suddenly bug Truly about not having any friends her own age, and then go out of her way to avoid her. Does anyone else think their relationship is too inconsistent? The friendly-hostile thing works with Michelle and Fanny, and I think it could work here, too. I just need a clearer sense of why they’re hot and cold with each other, so it doesn’t feel so arbitrary.
(Also: This is a total non-sequitur, but I have been to the 24-hour cupcake ATM. It is real, and it is delicious. Just felt I had to include that somewhere.)
So, okay, I didn’t like this episode of Bunheads, but all my criticisms come from a place of love. I’m still crushing hard on this show, and I know that it can step up its game. No more one step forward, two steps back—just keep skipping toward greatness. I mean, seriously, a Showgirls reference and a discussion of Fifty Shades of Grey? I love you, Bunheads. Let’s never fight again.
– Did seeing Sasha’s parents pillow fight give you more sympathy for Sasha?
– Is Talia crazy, or are Truly’s clothes really worth freaking out over?
– Which Bunheads character would you most want to share a cupcake with?