Alex Saxon, Anna Jacoby-Heron, Caleb Ruminer, Kathryn Prescott

With one significant alteration to its plot, “Wrecking Ball” could have gotten an A and reached the upper echelon of television storytelling. Imagine that during the shootout between Elizabeth, Kyle, and Crash’s evil kinfolk, Elizabeth is dead to rights, pinned down by Uncle Shay, who emerges from behind her. Then, just as he’s about to take his shot, he’s felled by a single bullet from an unknown shooter. A high-angle shot reveals Lori behind a sniper rifle, which she quickly disassembles and slings over her shoulder before escaping with a nearby zip line. That would be great television. I mean, yes, it would be ridiculous and over-the-top and would completely boot me out of a fictional world I’ve otherwise bought into. But at least it would be kind of fun.

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“Wrecking Ball” works so poorly because it’s ridiculous and over-the-top, and it makes me feel like I’m watching a completely different show than the Finding Carter I fell for. And it’s also not fun. It’s boring. Its biggest events don’t feel eventful. And a whole lot of stuff happens in the episode, but so little of it is meaningful or makes a significant emotional impact. It is bereft of both light and heat. It’s also the episode that has made me give up on Finding Carter. This is not a show I’ll be watching when it picks up after its hiatus. There’s just too much great content out there to stick with a show that can’t shoot straight.

Speaking of shooting straight, I need this show to never do an action sequence again. Never, ever, ever. The final confrontation with Shay’s crew at the used car lot was one of the least visually comprehensible sequences I’ve seen on television in quite some time. I had very little idea of where anyone was in space or who was doing what. None of it made sense as visual storytelling. Granted, this is not the kind of scene Finding Carter usually trades in, or has the production budget to do much more elaborately. It’s the sort of thing I’d excuse if Finding Carter was nailing it on all the other fronts, but when it isn’t, in an episode where this is the moment of consequence, I have to deduct some points for the technically clumsiness.

Now for the purportedly hard part: So long Kyle, we barely knew ye. Seriously, we had no idea who you were and you were exclusively defined through your relationships with other characters. It’s hard to imagine a character death carrying less impact than Kyle’s, with the possible exception of the manager of the frozen yogurt shop Carter used to work at. Youth-focused shows always struggle to integrate their adult characters into the action, and Finding Carter has done about as fine a job of this as a show like it can do. But “Wrecking Ball” overestimates the importance of the adult storylines. In theory, Kyle’s sudden death, not long after Elizabeth’s abrupt decision to reconcile with David, will create ripples in Elizabeth and David’s relationship just as they are trying to patch things up. But there’s an unavoidable, impenetrable ceiling that prevents me from investing in David and Elizabeth beyond a certain level, and Kyle’s death is miles above that. The only character who will really feel the impact is Gabe, who the show hasn’t known what to do with for over a season.

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Of course, the other major development of “Wrecking Ball” is Carter and Max’s admission to Taylor that they slept together after the trip to visit Lori in the psychiatric facility. That should be a major bombshell, given how dramatically it was treated in “Rumour Has It,” but lands with all the impact of a silent fart. The reason for this is the same reason why Kyle’s death feels so inconsequential. Finding Carter is, as ridiculous as this is about to sound, too Carter-centric. Carter is the main character, of course, so I don’t mean that I want less of the focus to be on her or that I want other characters to be elevated to Carter’s prominence. But the show goes beyond making the Carter the focal point. It tells the stories in a way that makes them weirdly skewed toward Carter’s happiness based on the fact that she’s dealing with a lot of baggage following the kidnapping.

Basically anytime something happens that negatively impacts Carter, people wind up apologizing to her for it, regardless of what her role in it was or what their original rationale was for their own behavior. When there’s never a lasting consequence to Carter, a move like having Carter and Max sleep together doesn’t ultimately mean anything. That, unfortunately, describes the show on the whole these days.

Stray observations:

  • Hillary texted David all sorts of crazy netspeak after he dumped her. Kids!
  • Grant: Still a person. When he started talking about the mildly alcoholic dessert he was going to eat at the restaurant, I realized there should be some exceptions to the rule for underage drinking. Grant should be able to drink.

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