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Kathryn Prescott, Caleb Ruminer

When a television show is in a downward spiral as swift and dramatic as the one Finding Carter has entered in its second season, it can take a while for the decline to become noticeable. Righting a wayward serialized drama requires a considerable effort and the process is frequently bumpy, but it’s absolutely doable between reversals, retcons, and abrupt character deaths. The season was off to a wobbly start, but it looked like the show could slough off its more troubling elements any minute. Not until “Pretty When You Cry” did it become undeniably evident that Finding Carter has fully committed to this weird, unfocused, dissatisfying direction. That’s a shame.

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There’s a hollowness to Finding Carter’s second season. It doesn’t have the emotional throughline the first season had, and there’s really nothing substantial to grab onto. The writers apparently think otherwise, which is why Carter’s romantic reunion with Crash comes this quickly in the season. I don’t follow any Finding Carter Tumblrs, and I’m willing to accept the explanation that I’m just the old weirdo who’s out of the zeitgeist. But seriously, what am I missing with Crash and Carter? Is this a relationship fans of the show are clamoring for? Carter and Crash were maneuvered back together so hastily and with such force, it was clearly done with the understanding that the audience wanted their hiatus to end as quickly as possible.

What I want to end as quickly as possible is Crash’s presence as a character in this show. As objectionable as I found the character in season one, I’m even less enamored of Crash in season two. At least last season Crash injected some interesting dynamics into Carter’s relationship with Elizabeth. Elizabeth became a helicopter mom after Carter’s kidnapping, which is a completely valid reaction to such a traumatic event. But Elizabeth’s attempts to protect Carter from a potentially disastrous relationship with Crash created a wedge in the mother-daughter relationship. Carter was already wrestling to maintain her identity after being told nothing about her life was as it seemed, so with Elizabeth encroaching into every aspect of Carter’s life, meddling in her lovelife was something she couldn’t abide.

The only relationship Crash’s presence has impacted in season two is that of Taylor and Max, the relationship I remain unable to make heads or tails of. Taylor is furious at Max for making amends with the guy who nearly took him away from her, but when she’s concerned Max is getting cozy with Bird, she takes revenge with Ofe. Y’know, the Ofe she learned is a drug dealer earlier in the episode. The heart wants what it wants. Aside from catalyzing that inscrutable teenage behavior, Crash serves no purpose as a character, especially in his present, declawed state. The only way to redeem the character in such a short span of time was apparently to lobotomize him. Bad boy Crash had a personality, but Crash 2.0 is an empty pin-up boy.

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And yet, Crash is the only person Carter has to turn to after yet another disastrous reunion with Lori, which is a bone-dry well at this point. Lori works much better as a mysterious specter than as an actual flesh-and-blood character, and the more we find out about Lori, the less useful she becomes to the show. There’s been entirely too much Lori between the reveal of her affair with David and the continued attempts at contact. There are entirely too many contrivances used to get Carter and Lori into the same room, and “Pretty” features the worst ploy yet. An ex-boyfriend of Lori’s reappears and convinces Carter to testify as an “expert witness” to prove Lori isn’t mentally fit to stand trial for her crimes. Isn’t that the sort of thing that involves a parent? On what planet would Carter be allowed to stroll into a room with Lori for any reason? And for the purpose of serving as an expert on Lori’s mental fitness? Carter isn’t an expert, she’s a victim of a clearly unstable woman.

Now that Lori’s instability is more of a statement than a question, she’s no longer that interesting a character. Milena Govich’s performance has been hard to fault prior to now, but the completely unhinged version of Lori is all the way in Lifetime movie territory, which is not the tone an MTV original drama wants to strike. The regular characters of Finding Carter are fascinating and layered, but they’re all weighed down by dull, mirthless recurring characters like Crash and Lori. In Carter’s case, she’s being weighed down by both Crash and Lori. Kathryn Prescott is an amazing actress, but even her performance hasn’t been enough to redeem what are deeply flawed storylines and a lack of direction.

Stray observations:

  • David continues getting closer to his TA, in a story I can’t convince myself to care about.
  • What if this isn’t a story about Carter at all? What if this show is secretly about the process by which Grant becomes a serial murderer? Because Grant is definitely going to become a serial murderer.

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