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Fun fact: I picked this post title out a full month ago. It had a lot more punch before every Swift lyric on the planet became relevant to this discussion, but it's still my favorite.

Life Unexpected, 2x12, "Teacher Schooled"


Before we start anything: I have yet to find a single suitable post-ep fic, but here are the three WIPs currently keeping my relationship, and thus my sanity, alive. Each one is its own treasure chest of bonus moments. They are varying degrees of perfect, with different strengths and weaknesses, but they are all quite readable and they all do the trick. Nalana in particular carries the #1 authorly rights to this ship.

I) I & Love & You -- Holiday Latte (I love this name!)
Picks up around episode 6/7, with the tutor change, and takes it own crack at building up their relationship (complete with requisite push and pull). Eric has some sort of mysterious family secret. For a while, it was the only story of its kind, and I felt spoiled for choice between the set of scenes that came with the show, or this different but equally valid set.

II) A Beautiful Mess - EvelynMM
Tides they turn and hearts disfigure but that's no concern when we're wounded together / And we tore our dresses and stained our shirts but it's nice today, the wait was worth it.
Not sure where it's going, but we kick things off in the future after they've been apart for a while, and flash back to sometime between episodes 8 and 11. So far, besides being slightly more indulgent on the physical front (not complaining!), it has a somewhat different take on Lux's Trey/Valerie backstory.

III) Crossroads, Encountered -- Nalana
They were out of time. He had thirty seconds to decide, seven to act, and one chance to pull it all together. More than glass laid shattered on the asphalt.
In which Lux is 17 and pregnant, which I admit made me want to bolt, but then that's eclipsed by the severe car accident they're in. By the time you finish being impressed by that twist, you find yourself in the middle of a story told from every perspective under the sun, and you realize the author's note doesn't lie -- there IS more than the initial premise. And then, if you're RS, you realize someone has written you tragic!hospital!fic and baby!fic ALL AT THE SAME TIME.

[edit: I love how all of these keeled over where they were and never finished. SIGH! Just trying to keep your hopes down, Future Readers.]

----
Now that we've got a baseline established, let's get our miserable discussion on. Well, continue it, after discussing sneak peeks, having a feelings explosion (mostly about episode 13, but I mention Eric's last scene once), despairing, and moping. You would not think I'd have that much more to say, but turns out I still have 4200 more words in me. At least a lot of it is quoting?

"A Reactionary Reenactment In Twelve Parts/Three Acts"
This review has been brought to you by a $4 pan of overpriced bakery brownies, 2 liters of Diet Coke, the Finding Neverland soundtrack, and the unflinching, mostly asleep moral support of Kym The Dog.

1. Peaceful Prelude
This episode kicks things off in a way I greatly approve, in Cate & Ryan's bedroom. Not like that. A Medium-style bedroom scene, in which Ryan is attempting to sleep in while Cate, already brushing her teeth, badgers him awake. Affectionate snark ensues.

Cate: Today is Lux's first day back at school, so I thought we could have a family breakfast. You know, as a family.
Ryan: Five more minutes.
Cate: I'm making French toast...
Ryan: That's perfect. The fire alarm will wake me up.

2. Stuff We Don't Care About
There was a terrifying moment where we then cut to people giggling under the covers, and because I only ever think about two categories of characters here, I thought we were in Tasha's apartment. "OH DEAR GOD -- right. Emma is a thing that exists on this show." But not for me! *skip*

Actually, I'm just going to go ahead and get the whole Emma & Sam mess out of the way right now. Emma by refusing to mention her at all, and Sam only long enough to say: boo-hoo, Mommy & Daddy don't love him? Cry me a river of bitch-baby tears. I can't believe that creep is the reason my ship is ruined, just because his attention-starved self was desperate to hold onto the bit of kindness Baze threw his way. Or, maybe he's technically not the reason, but he could have been, and he's 100% of the reason that parents got involved and people got run out of town on threats of police involvement, ensuring Eric never contacted her again.

Thankfully nobody ever heard from Sam or Emma again, either, once they left the picture. I would not have coped. Not even Cate and Ryan staying together would have made up for the atrocity of Lux having to live even part time with that kid, or the indignity of Sam spending more time than her with Baze.

3. Family Breakfast
First things first, I am in love with the rabbit top Lux is wearing and I want one. Clearly confirmation of her as an animal lover. You don't just go around wearing shirts patterned with horses and bunnies because you like the color.

FIND ME THIS SHIRT, INTERNET.

Second: Dear self, when you're tearing your brain apart trying to decide where Eric's from, note the 612 area code. This doesn't really narrow it down a whole lot, but that's central Twin Cities (technically, Minneapolis, though flexible for cell phone purposes). No Duluth/St. Cloud/Rochester adventures over here.

Third: OK, you know why I can't deal with the Baze/Cate endgame? Because this is the family I want to see in the morning. I love this family. I love Baze, but he'll always get to be her dad. And he works really well as the quasi-divorced parent, which is the first example (besides maybe on "Reba") of successful, separately-habitating co-parenting I have ever enjoyed in fiction. Meanwhile, I adore the dynamic between Lux and Ryan. Particularly when they are sharing conspiratorial Cate-so-crazy looks.

(As Cate lists off the eleventy-two types of breakfast food she has whipped up)
Lux: Maybe just some toast. Not the French kind, the regular...edible...kind.
Ryan: *snickers* It's the pregnancy hormones.
Cate: What?
Ryan: Huh? Oh...just gonna have some of this fake bacon.

I also love how Cate is wearing her Serious Face of Seriousness while pointing out that Trey is out on bail, roaming free, and apparently poses a danger to Lux -- who is munching on her edible non-French toast and completely oblivious as to why this is a problem (teens are so casual about crap. It's great). Ergo, she will chaperoned every waking minute.

Lux, quite pleasantly: Hey, you know what might be easier? If you install a LoJack system in my butt.
RS : *chokes laughing*
Why is this show over? She's my favorite female character across television right now.

4. The (s)Mothering Instinct
Speaking of the Lux/Ryan dynamic, it extends to when she's out of the scene and he's talking about her. I love that he tries to get Cate to back off her overprotective stranglehold and give the kid some space. "Lux isn't dwelling on it. And I don't think reminding her every two seconds is useful. She's really trying to move on, I think you should too." This talk will later come back to bite him in the ass, true, but under normal circumstances he would be right.

5. People Who Work In Glass Classrooms
First, this timeline is baffling. Wasn't the trial RIGHT after Thanksgiving, or did they drag that out? Because there are a good 3-4 weeks between Thanksgiving and winter break, and I don't understand what Eric and Lux were doing for that period, if he apparently didn't start blowing her off until break.

Second: "Remember tonight...for it is the beginning of always."
How hard do you want my brain to work to read symbolism into this? My English major being worth crap, I required Lord Google to inform me this is Dante. Why might this be the quote on the board? Is it meta, about the beginning of forever without new episodes? Is it like Grey's Anatomy, where whatever crops up in the course of a day's work conveniently relates to the characters' state of mind? Is it just the first thing the episode writer remembered from their last English class? Probably. My English major also being a degree on paper in my possession, however, I no longer feel required to practice the art of reading symbolism. Do it for me.

[Edit: Well, didn't this dude just take all the wind out of my sails.]

Third: Self, quit stalling and just say whatever comes to mind already.

Lux: Baze is buying a house in another district. I could change schools, and you wouldn't be my teacher. We could almost be a normal couple.
Eric: *awesome Seriously? face*
Lux: I said almost.

(Heh. Also, it's sweet how short-sighted this plan of hers is. Exactly what sort of good reason was she planning on giving for voluntarily ditching Tasha and everything else that is good and familiar about this place?)

So maybe my immediate reaction was to pour bleach on my brain after hearing, "We could spend the night together." Come on, Lux. I thought we implicitly agreed to one boundary line. A line that you would at least wait a little longer before pushing, say, like when he has gone at least one solid month without trying to flee. My brain is not there yet. I can get my brain there, if we stick to the sidelines and avoid directly thinking about it, but I'd much rather use your age as an excuse to Just Say No.

Still, I have watched it enough times by this point to go along with everything she says. People keep wondering why Eric agrees to come over, but both now and later, I think it's a fairly simple combination of two things: (1) It placates her and gives him more time to figure out what the hell he's going to do, and (2) It is really, really hard to say no to that face. Even my convictions start getting fuzzy and detached.

So pretty

(By the way, thank you for confirming my personal theory that he slept on the floor last time. My full theory is that he tried, and Lux took to this notion with a roll of her eyes and threats to sleep on the floor too unless he grew up and agreed to share the bed, since there was clearly plenty of safe space between them. I also imagine he just waited until she fell asleep and then moved anyway, much to her great annoyance upon waking up.)
-- INTERMISSION --
ACT II

6. Bookstores Should Be Happy Places
Subtitle: HAMMERS and ANVILS of DOOM

Oi, Cate's dialogue was painful. So nice that you were THERE FOR HER. It's so wonderful how you HELP HER. So great to have AN ADULT IN HER LIFE that she can TRUST. No, better yet, that I can trust! Why ever is your eye twitching like that?

Which is a shame, because I have a huge soft spot for the way these two interact. It's interesting, since he's closer to Lux's age, to watch him shift into adult-to-adult mode and the very different parent/educator dynamic. I genuinely appreciate her admiration of him in the time Before. I wish she could maintain her high opinion without it being tainted. 

That said, no matter how much we talk about this, I cannot be fully convinced of this relationship's wrongness. Not at heart. No matter how often I try, no matter how far down this episode beats me (and it beats me pretty far down -- I am like the wind-up doll on the Pristiq commercials, drooping as I run out of steam), I wind up restoring myself with the antidote that is the Astoria trip--daylight portion, or the courthouse exterior. Watch one of those and it erases every shadow of doubt.

P.S. I'm quite put out that, as far as I can tell, Eeyore, You're The Greatest is not an actual book. How am I supposed to create my own fannish merchandise if it doesn't exist? Ugh, show. It's just, it's irresponsible.


^ Fake cover. Fake cover!

I am also taking it as canon that Eric has a niece, because every lie has a kernel of truth. The question now is whether little brother got a super-early start on kids, or if there is a third sibling in the mix. I'm going with third sibling, to match the kernel of truth in the lie about the crazy-busy holidays.

7. One Last Ship Rally
Good for her showing up at his building. Blowing people off by text = uncool, and you deserve to be called on it. I'm unclear as to why this whole shouting match needed to publicly take place in front of a crowded outdoor cafe, but that's really a minor quibble given how great it is.

What I love about this scene, and why none of you can talk sense into me, is because anything and everything I would say in protest comes tumbling out of Lux's mouth. Verbatim. Just -- that is it, exactly.

"You said telling the truth wouldn't change anything! You said that if I got up on that stand and if I told the truth, that everyone who loved me would keep loving me. That it wouldn't change how anyone felt about me, that it wouldn't change how YOU felt." I do so love that she's throwing his specific words in his face.
"Lux, I know. I know what I said. But it did, it changed things." Isn't the point of promising someone that it won't change things that you don't let it change things? What did he think she was going to say on the stand, honestly? It was not even as bad as it could have been.
"This is why I didn't want to say anything! I knew that you'd look at me like I was disgusting, or like I wanted him to..."
(Can I just interject, I love that this is the conclusion she jumps to, even though it's the only wrong one she makes. Mostly because I love how alarmed and quick he is to correct that assumption)
"What? No-no-no, no, no, that's not it at all, okay? Do you understand? Listen, it's not how I'm looking at you, it's how I'm looking at me." And then the self-loathing kicks in. "I am not any better than Trey; I'm doing the same thing that he did!"
"NO, you are nothing like him, you -- no, no, no, you're a good person. Look, you have helped me in ways that no one else ever has. You understand me in ways that I didn't think anyone ever could."
That last sentence is the other time her logic breaks down and slips into teenage mode, because you don't get to talk about "ever" and "no one" when you've barely put a toe into the dating world. Even so.
"What we're doing is wrong. It's always been wrong."
"No."
"Yes." I love that point/counterpoint lilt. "At the trial, after hearing what Trey did--"
"Don't let him keep doing it!” She is so not the only one choking back tears of frustration right now. “He's ruined everything for me. He ruined it back then and he is ruining it again."

And there we go. This may not be the best place to break it out, but: I've been intrigued for a while now by stories about former abuse victims dating an older guy, given the zillion examples of psychological issues supposedly at play when that happens. I don't doubt that it's often true. But there are also a lot of regular women who date older guys and everyone's fine with it. I'd like someone to tell the story of a victim who's really hurt by that assumption more than her actual experience. Someone who's angry about being looked at like they're damaged or broken, when that's not how they see themselves. Who's justifiably upset that their past gets more credit for their decisions than anything, that their independent judgment is somehow invalidated as a result. That's either where I'm coming from, or my brain has gone Method again and blended together with Lux's.

/digression


"It's bad enough that I lost Valerie because of him and now what, what, I'm losing you too?" Maybe my warning flag should be that she's lumping him in with an adult figure who represents stability in her life, and that what she's really looking for is just somebody who won't leave? Eh, well, sorry, just watched "Stand Untaken" clips again and I'm flying high on my buzz. Also, notice how this is the second time in minutes she's tried to walk off in a cloud of hurt, only to have him chase after her.

"No, you want to go, then just go! You want to bail on me, you want to bail on tonight? ("Listen, I am not--") Bail on us?!"
Well, ideally yes, but it's like his brain shuts off when she's upset. "I am not bailing!" And I love this, too, that he can’t stand her thinking he doesn’t care even though they’d both be better if she did.  "I'll be at Tasha's tonight, OK? I'll be there. Just, come here?"

And therein I exploded with squee that at least I got one long hug before all of this was over. If that's the last thing I ever get, at least they went out with something spectacular.

From the embellished transcript document/live airing reaction: "I hope she knows how great a chance there is that there’ll be no tonight and this is it for them, though, because the I Can't Do This expression is already brewing trouble all over his face. I think he does, though. I think he knows this is goodbye." Or at least, that's what I tell myself in order to feel better about how it does end.
-- SECOND INTERMISSION --
ACT III
8. Blowing It All Up
i: And it's coming over you like it's all a big mistake

(see, I found a fun way to use all my leftover "Haunted" lyrics!)

I knew where this was going, I just wanted to deny it until the last possible second. As confession speeches go, this isn't as bad as I feared -- it's sort of sweet how earnest Eric is about its innocent beginning -- but I don't know why the camera bothers cutting over to Math during any part of it, as if the guy is going to have some sort of facial expression in reaction. What I hate, and what I have always hated about this guy (sorry! there is always a character totem pole, and two or three will always lose out) is how he just stares dumbly, all of the time. I'm sure I have seen him express emotions before, but it seems to require a great effort, and apparently nothing that happened tonight could move him. Observe! Snapped at three separate times:


ii: Something's gone terribly wrong

I am normally not a fan of musical transition montages, but I never get tired of watching Lux setting up their date, flush with anticipation and anxiously trying to make everything perfect. Apparently she was not aware of the possibility that he might flake. PATTERNS, LUX.

Also, the #1 reaction I have to her parents showing up is, "Wow, Lux is such a good liar." Despite the twinge of desperation in her voice, she can think on her feet, recovering from her foolish mention of blackmail so fast you wouldn't think it had thrown her at all. I am incapable of lying to my parents for even five seconds, so the fact that she comes up with the perfect cover for everything is cause for admiration of her winging-it skills ("seeing Jones behind Tasha's back" certainly provides a plausible reason for lying to everyone, at least in the heat of the moment). In her shoes, my first instinct would be to lie my head off, too. Until they back you into an inescapable corner...I won't put my hands up and surrender. There will be no white flag above my door. Will bust out entire Dido CD if I have to.

(Side note: I really hope Lux punched Sam in the arm hard enough to bruise as soon as she got outside. It's not like she could get in any more trouble, and think how gratifying it would be.)

iii. Stood there and watched you walk away from everything we had

Eric: I never meant for this to happen, I never meant for it to go this far. So whatever you choose to do, I deserve it."

Does anyone else think he has maybe not through the implications of "police"? Because he serves himself up on a silver platter, and it just doesn't seem like he understands where this could lead. Maybe he's never seen Law & Order: SVU.

Baze in Raging Protective Dad Mode is harder to watch here than it was in court. I mean, it's good -- I like that he is so passionately protective, and I'm always a fan of people being slammed up against walls -- it's just hard to cope with right now. It's also the place it's hardest to stick to my convictions, because by the end of it he's managed to shame me a little bit for liking them. But then Lux strikes back with her ace in the hole, and I take some bitter, petty satisfaction in watching a) the fate of that awful relationship get sealed, and b) Baze's world exploding just like hers is.

One of the few heartbreaking things I do like about this whole explosion is Eric yelling at Lux that they can't fix this. For the first time she's out of options, even if she refuses to see it, and while I still don't like how the rest of it ends, she needed that harsh wakeup call. (Speaking of how it ends... I vented most of my feelings about this already, but it never gets easier to watch her grabbing onto him until Cate pulls her away.)

9. After the Bombs (Lux vs. Cate)
Is Lux's reaction irrational and immature? Very much so. It is classic teenager, deflecting with accusations (it is ALL CATE'S FAULT! OBVIOUSLY!) and a lot of hysterical screeching and violent stomping and slamming. "Temper tantrum" is an appropriate phrase. But you know, it feels good. Venting is the only recourse you have right now, and I get where she's coming from. I feel bad for Cate in the moment, who really is being a fantastic mom and getting a whole lot of unfair judgment and blame in return, but I'm busy being dazzled by a combination of writing and acting for playing this reaction out EXACTLY RIGHT.

And now, let me dig myself into one last hole by responding to this part, focusing on the underlined bits: 

Lux: I don't need protection from him. Stop treating me like a kid, don't you get it? YOU have done more damage to me than he has.
Cate: OK, the fact that you even think that, that you don't see how wrong this whole situation is? It just proves what a child you really are.

*flings hand up* Right here! And I am older than Eric -- which, I assure you, was a scary realization -- so either I get more credit or I am going to hell/jail myself (Voice: Trust me, it's the latter). I mean, I guess I get the situation in general/from an objective perspective. To use other examples: Pretty Little Liars, whose executive producer has actually been quoted with the phrase "a romance portrayed as soulmates from the pilot"? Shut it down. The wrongbad part of my brain that deals with Glee? Fun for my brain, but super wrong. Every novel I have read along these lines? Understood as *guilty* pleasure. Even Friends, where they inverted the genders with Frank and Alice: still ready to shut it down, and they had babies. But not this. Not based on the perception they have fed me here, and if they wanted it any other way, there should have been a lot more scenes like the lake and a lot fewer that involved her schoolwork or stolen handholds. Also fewer insight interviews like the ones I linked to on Finale Day.

10. Cate/Ryan Denouement
One of the parts I always overlook, given the scenes that bookend it, is this little moment full of ship squee where Cate is foiled by her own babyproofed bathroom cabinet until she shatters the mirror and Ryan has to wrap his arms around her to calm her down, followed by regretful apologies for the bad advice about leaving Lux alone. Ryan doesn't get to do a lot in reaction to the whole teacher-taking-advantage situation, which is a pity, but he sure works with what he's got.


Plus it softens my heart to hear, "If I do what I think I have to do, she is going to hate me even more than she already does." At least there was a little hesitation, and under the circumstances, she went with the least damaging way to put a stop to it.

11. We Gonna Run (You Out Of) This Town Tonight
(Voice: Hah, hah! Stop, your category titles are killing me!
RS: /sarcasm?
Voice: Oh, no slash.)

OK, if you're Eric, do you really come to the door because Baze asks you to? Especially without hearing anyone else's voice? Do you come down, at night, to see the guy who recently had to be dragged off you and threatened to beat you senseless? Maybe it's a show of cooperative good will, but still. I'd be wary.

Otherwise, absolutely nothing about this scene surprises me until:
"I want you guys to know...that I love her. I know, what I did, there's no excuse -- but I do love her."

Small comfort for poor Broken In The Head RS, but this line caused her to collapse in relief during the live airing. Thank you. That's all I need to know.

And then it just keeps going! In for a penny, in for a pound, right? "I know that I can't say goodbye, but...this is her Christmas present. You guys don't have to give it to her now -- I mean, or ever -- but it's to teach her what I should have taught her in the first place: find her way without me."

While those last five words echo horribly around the hollowed-out place where I used to have a beating heart, I LOVE that he said all this. Validation! There are also a whole lot of silent words happening between Baze and Cate, none of which I can read, so someone should explain this to me. I find it particularly interesting that Cate just stares Eric down and walks away (aww), but Baze reluctantly takes the gift. What goes through their heads right there? I imagine it has everything to do with Lux, but the finer points are lost on me. Translate.

12. Final Heartbreak
Unfortunately, at this point I lose the power of speech and am reduced to spurts of thought like:

* Tears (hers)
* So happy they let her have it right away
* More tears (mine)
* So pretty
* Absolutely beautiful ending
* Despite agony


I've been down this road before
I walk out the door, leave you on the floor


So the best thing I can give to you
Is for me to go, leave you alone
'Cause you got growin' up to do

HOWEVER, TRIUMPH: Remember when I threw myself down a well of despair when I first heard the closing song? Why, look what happens when we investigate the rest of those lyrics:

Someday I'll return when it's time
For payment in kind
The church bells will chime

You'll stand before me surrounded by lights
Dressed in white
You throw flowers in the air this night


SUBVERSIVE RS BELIEVES IN SUBLIMINAL MESSAGES. I mean, come on. What did you expect me to do with that?
~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Conclusion: Finale, what finale? No, I am pretty sure the series ends right here, where I can still tolerate everything that happens.

(OK, fine, 2x13 is coming, and should be a lot shorter to boot. But I haven't seen it since the first airing and I'm reluctant to subject myself to that torture. It's weird, actually, how at peace I am with 2x12 at this point. It turns out I find it a fitting, appropriately soul-punching conclusion, where if my ship was going to break - and even I know it had to - this note of emotional resonance was the best possible way to bow out.)

Comments

( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
muzzy_olorea
Jan. 29th, 2011 05:53 pm (UTC)
If it's any consolation then Sam was being set up as a potential love interest for Lux and if the series had gotten its back-9 order it would probably have gone there (even if the actor who plays him was off doing a Pilot for Spielberg or something). At least you didn't have to sit through that!
rainbowstevie
Jan. 30th, 2011 12:55 am (UTC)
*shudder* Yeah, I'm starting to become pretty pleased they ended when they did.
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )

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