The wobbly second season of Finding Carter couldn’t have chosen a better time to find its sea legs starting with “Wake Up Call,” then solidifying its newfound stability with “Stay With Me,” which marks the season’s halfway point. The first quarter of the season was dominated by Lori, then the second half was dominated by Crash, and with Crash now out of the picture—at least for now—there are another six episodes to refocus on Carter and the Wilson family rather than its irksome interlopers. I’ve been praying Finding Carter would scramble back to a good position, but somehow I didn’t expect it to be this much of a scramble, with Crash going from being a focal point of the season to missing in action within the span of a single episode. All’s well that ends well, but the way “Stay With Me” is executed, Crash’s exit feels more like a false ending than an actual goodbye or even as a course corrective.
The jalopy full of cocaine that looked so disastrous in “Wake Up Call” turns out to be not so terribly disastrous because the story gets where it’s going so quickly, there’s not enough time to hate it. The plot point reminds me a lot of the equally ill-conceived Tyra and Landry murder cover-up in season two of Friday Night Lights, a rare example of a bum note for a typically pitch-perfect show. Finding Carter is nowhere near on the level of FNL at its peak, but like that show, Carter does an impressive job of depicting adolescent life in an unflinching, but also non-judgmental way. The teenage alcohol and drug use that would come with some sort of responsible editorializing on another show is presented without alarm, which is a refreshing change of pace. Given the show’s deft hand with teenagers and drugs, Crash’s shady, drug-running uncle and the hooptie full of blow is as needlessly extreme a plot development as Max’s accidental shooting was in season one.
Every storyline Crash has contact with goes down the drain in a hurry, so while there was an uncomfortable abruptness about his sudden exit, it’ll undoubtedly result in a better, leaner version of the show. Crash’s quick departure also means another opportunity for Kathryn Prescott to act the living hell out of a scene, and she really sold Carter’s heartbreak upon finding out Crash had split in the middle of the night. It’s too bad shows like Finding Carter don’t have a shot at serious consideration during the awards cycle, because Prescott performs better against a tri-folded piece of paper than many actresses do when they have an energetic performer to bounce off of.
The tracks the writers have been laying in the other character arcs are starting to lead somewhere awesome in pretty much every case. Even David and Elizabeth’s marital woes are starting to feel consequential now that Elizabeth has asked for a divorce and has basically start dating Kyle openly. Finding Carter, like most youth-focused shows with multi-generational characters, struggles to make David and Elizabeth’s failing relationship feel like an integral part of a show about teenagers. Their conflict has been hard to invest in precisely because it didn’t seem like the writers had the guts to really break David and Elizabeth up. They could still reunite, which seems likely, but even pushing them to the point of divorce demonstrates the show’s willingness to follow its characters’ emotions wherever they may roam.
Taylor, for example, started out the season in a weird place with Max in the hospital, but since breaking up with Max, the character is starting to resemble her season-one self. Taylor’s most intriguing quality early on was her yearning to experience life after having lived with Elizabeth at her most paranoid. It’s not as visible anymore, but Taylor still has some hostility toward Carter for enjoying the carefree, hard-partying lifestyle she was always kept away from. So while it may seem like Taylor’s behavior is all over the place, really she’s getting back to herself, dipping into Ofe’s stash of “study buddies” and hooking up with him despite a lacking emotional attachment because that’s what “normal teenagers” do. The push-and-pull routine with Max isn’t keeping my attention, but Ofe’s presence is making for an interesting love triangle despite my disparate interest in its three sides. Ofe’s explanation for why he had to pull back from Taylor was sad, sweet, and perfect.
Finding Carter worked really hard at putting Crash in the driver’s seat, only to eject him out of the blue, so I’ll be surprised if he hasn’t blown back into the picture by the end of the season. But Carter needs some time away from him, and the audience could use some too.
- I’m impressed with how the show has developed Grant’s anxiety issues. It’s not a sexy storyline, but the execution is sensitive, and I’m glad the show hasn’t lost track of Grant as a character.
- However, there is one person who has really gotten lost in the season two shuffle, and that’s Gabe, who as far as I know is still trying to get into the guidance counselor’s pants. Gabe seems superfluous now, which is an unfortunate side effect of all the complex relationships in season one, with Gabe interested in Carter, then maybe in Taylor. But with no connection to either of the ladies, there’s not much for Gabe to do.