Now that was some decent character development. After fumbling through some paper-thin plots last week in search of something that would stick for the peripheral characters, this episode was full of wonderful moments that feel like the real building blocks of an ensemble. The Carrie Diaries is still working on its balance, but this episode went a long way to demonstrating just how the show will develop going forward.
It’s obvious the show wants to split time each week between the city and Carrie’s home life, and doing a Halloween-themed episode is the perfect excuse for this, as Carrie jets off to the city with Larissa (with Walt in tow), excited about her monumental first big SoHo party. The party itself is honestly kind of a snooze to watch—though Carrie and Walt deem it fabulous—but the meat of the story here is what happens to both of them once they get there.
Because she is such a well-developed, solid character so early on, it is kind of difficult to give Carrie conflict that doesn’t feel overly external or contrived. She gets some interesting shading here, though, when Larissa mixes too many illicit substances (two ecstasy pills, acid, and champagne, to be precise) and then needs Carrie to keep her from doing a Superwoman dive off the roof. While Carrie is taking care of Larissa—yet secretly dying to get back to the carefree party—her central conflict is rather nicely delineated: She sees New York as her escape, her island of freedom where everyone gets to be independent and only has to rely on themselves, unlike home where she feels like she always has to take care of everyone. Larissa’s acid-fueled haze lets her “too cool” guard down just long enough for her to inform Carrie that being perpetually unattached and guarded is ultimately an exhausting, futile endeavor. It’s a nice way to get Carrie to recognize her New York dream might not be the end all and be all of existence, and also give Larissa more depth. There’s something sad and lonely hiding underneath all that practiced fabulousness.
The most important story of the party, though, is Walt and his tentative first steps of the coming out process. It’s been pretty obvious since the pilot that Walt is at the beginning of discovering his true sexuality, even if he doesn’t quite understand it yet. His breakup with Maggie felt like the first step, but tonight proved this journey is definitely going to be of the non-linear variety. Walt’s troubles begin when Bennett, a very cute (and gay) writer for Interview magazine strikes up a conversation with him at the party, leading to them spending most of the night together and eventually sharing a kiss. Walt—who is high on ecstasy himself, it must be noted—reacts negatively, asserting that he isn’t gay and calling Bennett a fag. It’s tough to hear, especially when delivered with the sheer panic and confusion that’s written all over Walt’s face. While he’s wandering the streets after the incident, he witnesses (and breaks up) a potential gay bashing. All of this leads to him running back to Maggie’s arms and into her bed, in what’s obviously a desperate attempt to try to prove to himself he isn’t this scary unknown thing—this gay thing—but something easy to understand, easy to be.
I won’t say the story was told with absolute subtlety—the gay bashing moment was at least two steps too heavy handed—but the story itself is definitely the most compelling thing happening on the show right now. What’s interesting is how, because of the time period, the series can tell what might be a familiar story a different way. There’s certainly plenty of remaining prejudice in modern society, but it doesn’t compare to where we were even 20 years ago, and where Walt finds himself as a teenager compared to where a teen would find themselves today. It’s a bit of a narrow target to hit, and the show is not 100 percent there yet, but the little moments like Walt’s reaction post-kiss are so there. Also: Poor Maggie.
As for things back at home, they took on a bit of a different vibe this week with Mouse and Maggie teaming up to go to Sebastian’s party. One thing I’m enjoying greatly is the show’s willingness to mix up character combinations so quickly, testing chemistry between all members of the cast. One pairing that seems to be a goldmine is Mouse and Sebastian, who team up at Sebastian’s party and come out the other side as a really fun, unlikely pair of friends. They spend most of the night bonding over parental issues, as Mouse’s are too strict and Sebastian’s far too lax. It’s a nice little bit of relationship building, and it works to fill in the edges of the world a bit more. It’s also a really stealthy way to keep Sebastian alive as a love interest and keep his character developing and central to the action even when he and Carrie don’t interact much at all.
The only thing that really struggled tonight was Dorrit and Mr. Bradshaw and their one step forward, one step back father/daughter dance. Both are actually pretty solid characters on their own, but so far, all of their interactions seem to hit the same beat over and over again: Dorrit is generally rebellious and unsatisfied, Mr. Bradshaw doesn’t know what to do, Carrie gives him advice, and Dorrit comes around. Lather, rinse, repeat. It’s not the best dynamic to hit over and over again, simply because it isn’t interesting enough for a repeat performance. The story’s main flaw, though, was how poorly it was integrated into the rest of the episode, almost stopping all of the momentum every time it came onscreen. However, it did have a few great moments, like Mr. Bradshaw confiscating all of Dorrit’s Halloween destruction materials and Dorrit being petrified of Poltergeist. I get it, Dorrit. That movie is scary.
Overall, this episode was much improved from last week and showed some really strong character development for a few supporting characters, as well as developing a few periphery relationships. All are great signs for what is shaping up to be a really refreshing and fun show.
- Welcome to regular coverage for The Carrie Diaries! Now please keep reading, so it can stay, and I can continue to do silly things every week, like…
- Spot That Fun '80s Thing: Tabletop Pac Man! Poltergeist! Prince Charles and Princess Di as a love story!
- If this writing thing doesn’t work out for Carrie (shhh… let me have my fantasies) she should go into police work, what with her pre-busting Dorrit and chasing off rapists. She’s a natural!
- The clothes feel like they are slowly getting less stereotypically 80s with every episode. Except for the extras; they’re still rocking the scrunchies and neon.
- Maggie and the cop is not working, although I did enjoy her straight-out blackmailing him to keep the party going. Still, that storyline could go away, and it would not be missed.
- “They’re going to be able to tell I have pot in my bloodstream, and now I’ll never be able to run for Senate!” Mouse is still kind of the best.