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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

The Carrie Diaries: “The Great Unknown”

Illustration for article titled The Carrie Diaries: “The Great Unknown”
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If last week pointed to The Carrie Diaries’ growing confidence in chasing more interesting narrative threads, tonight’s episode proved there’s still significant work to do before all the disparate threads feel like a symbiotic, cohesive whole. Although the show introduced its “four stories” Sex And The City narrative style early in the series' run, the deployment of that style has been inconsistent at best, and it wasn’t until “The Great Unknown” that it felt like a detriment to me, an unfocused, unwanted distraction from the emotional goals of the episode.

Let’s talk about that “four stories” style, because it’s where the storytelling style seems to be settling for good, and I’m not fully convinced it really works here, at least not as well as it worked in SATC. This doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with Carrie’s voiceover connecting the stories (though that isn’t perfect) but with how easy it is for the show to fall back on the voiceover as a connective crutch without having to narratively tie the disparate stories together in any real, meaningful way. This week, Mouse gets a comedic story about her academic obsession, Tom gets a semi-comedic, semi-serious story about finally giving in to temptation regarding women, and Walt gets a thoughtful story about being hesitant having sex. Other than a vague sense of fear driving every story, there’s really nothing to connect them to each other, or to what Carrie is going through, and it makes the whole endeavor feel far slighter than it probably deserves.

That’s not to say there aren’t profound little moments happening amongst the trivial. Walt’s confused sexuality returns after a bit of an absence, revealing itself in the midst of what turns out to be a very interesting relationship story between him and Donna. It turns out Donna—so one-dimensional and amusingly horrible in her interactions with Carrie—is actually pretty fun to be around when she’s relaxed, and her friendship with Walt brings out all her best qualities. Walt gives her the respect, companionship, and fun she’s missed in other relationships but with one big difference: He’s just not into sleeping with her. Donna’s matter-of-fact realization that he’s likely gay and immediate acceptance of his confusion is great for both characters. It’s also important for Walt’s coming out story, a story that at times feels like it’s only glacially inching along but is likely moving at just the right pace for it to remain realistic.

As for Carrie, well, for the first time, hers was the story that mostly didn’t work for me. Her relationship with Sebastian went from longing gazes last week to full-on boyfriend and girlfriend tonight, complete with their own couple name (Kyddshaw, and please let’s not make this a thing). But as soon as things get good, Carrie immediately freaks out, worrying that she’s in too deep. It’s presented almost as comedy—or at least completely out of the blue—and quickly devolves into a weirdly serious endeavor, and throughout, the tone feels all wrong. At least show Carrie and Sebastian in a relationship for longer than five minutes before commencing the crazy freak out!

But all Carrie’s problems get solved, just like we knew they would, when Dorrit runs away and Sebastian gallantly goes after her, even when Carrie fairly rudely tells him to go away, proving his good-guy status and dedication to Carrie. Sebastian still has barely a personality—a fact I will keep mentioning until he gets one—but he and Carrie are cute enough to make this story barely skate by, at least in the short term. It's not enough to sustain for more than one episode, so the show needs to figure out where it stands with this relationship (and Sebastian's character) and quick.

The biggest narrative development of the episode, though, is Tom’s conversation with Larissa about Carrie’s destiny and how it makes him reconsider her Interview internship. This felt like the inevitable place for this story to end up, but it is a bit disappointing that it happened so quickly. Still, after seeing what an entire episode of high school stories might be like going forward, a bit of a detour in New York every week might be just want the show needs to figure out its balance issues, not to mention giving Carrie something to worry about that doesn’t revolve around Sebastian Kydd.


Stray observations:

  • This week, in Dorrit Has Issues and Maybe Needs Therapy: Dorrit is obsessed with Sid and Nancy? And thinks their story is romantic? And thinks Sid stabbing Nancy was simply because he loved her so much? Dorrit, please watch different movies.
  • The best part of the episode was the final high school scene when everyone was giggling over the rumor about Walt’s penis size. It felt so natural and so high school, in a way the rest of the episode definitely did not.
  • I guess Mr. Bradshaw is okay with Carrie dating Sebastian now? All right, then.
  • Mouse is obsessed with academics. We get it. (Although her interactions with West were admittedly amusing, I’m just ready for more from Mouse than academic trials.)