Thursday, June 6, 2013

Felicity: Hot Objects (1.3)

When we talk about first times, it's usually associated with what society deems to be major turning points. Like sex for the first time, or our first kiss, or first house. But then there are the smaller turning points, the ones that don't get talked about as much, but are equally as intimidating and scary as their more popularized counterparts. Felicity talks a lot about those 'firsts' this week, the mix of fear and excitement as she prepares for her first college party, or the way she's realizing that she could now actually embark on a real relationship with somebody. I've talked a lot already about how low-key this show is, but J.J. Abrams is doing such a spectacular job of exploring those small, usually unspoken emotions that it bears repeating over and over again just how rewarding it is to see them at all. Most of real life is small, and it's rare to see a TV show reflect that so well.

It's also interesting to see how complex the relationships on this show have already become. Felicity is still head over heels when it comes to Ben, but is suddenly aware that Julie's weird distancing thing and constant flirting with him is strange and difficult to comprehend. Julie's overstepping a line of sorts, and Felicity is just too darn nice to actually confront it right now. Ben, too, is treating Felicity unfairly -- constantly putting across that there's an actual connection between them, before embarking on yet another 'mixed signal' vibe with Julie. None of these people are exactly cruel, but it's a genuine representation of those first weeks of college -- where you don't know what you're doing, and whether you should follow your heart and act in the moment, or think about what will actually be important long-term.

Folding into that is the idea of Felicity being unable to plan her future. She carefully imagines the activity that'll go down at the coming party, how she'll hang out with Ben in the middle of the crowd, before asking if he'd like to split off and join her in her room down the hall, where they'd talk all night long and grow even closer. Only it ends up spectacularly backfiring, an embarrassing tape recorded for Sally being played accidentally at the party, and another Ben/Julie moment occurring right in front of her eyes. Things get back on track somewhat in the end, Ben ending up sleeping in her room when he's locked out of his dorm, but the recurring theme of things never working out how you intended is a strong one, capped by another engaging Janeane Garofalo voiceover bringing the hour to a close.

As an episode, Hot Objects bounces all over the shop when it comes to its cast of characters. Ben's backstory is fleshed out during a drama class, his fragile history with his dad explaining why he's so emotionally stunted with many of the people around him. Then there's Felicity's messy experiences with a professor she's always admired, something a little formulaic for college-set shows (Buffy had a similar deal involving a mean prof tossing her out of class on her first day), but it co-aligned nicely with the major theme of the episode. Noel's adventures with a group of Russian mobster types (I'm assuming they were Russian, right?) felt disjointed, but was fun in spots. We also finally met Tangi Miller's Elena, who appeared in the credits last week and introduced herself to Felicity just as her friendship with Julie seemed to be headed down the tubes. Good timing.

A lot of stuff happens this week, but it's still being performed and presented in this very melodic and charming way. Felicity's rhythms as a series are slow and introspective, but it doesn't mean plot is sacrificed as a result. It's an odd tone, absolutely, but one that is entirely working. A-

Guest stars
Harold Gould (Dr. William Garibay); David Proval (Mr. Kinney); Marissa Ribisi (Astrid); Boris Krutonov (Yuri); Ivana Milavich (Sensa); Jillian Bach (Alice)
Writer J.J. Abrams Director Brad Silberling

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