Selfie, Ep 4 “Nugget of Wisdom” Review
I knew it! I knew this was the week they were going to crank up the “shipping” dial. I wish I’d posted my predictions somewhere so you’d have proof of my clairvoyance, but that ship has sailed (hah! see what I did there?) and I’ll just have to make do with a, “No, really, I had a feeling!” But maybe I’m getting ahead of myself a little. Let’s talk about the rest of the show first.
I have to say, upon first watch I was not super into this episode. The narrative frame was starting to look familiar: Henry gives Eliza an assignment to be a real human being, Eliza gives Henry one back to stop being a workaholic robot, lather, rinse, repeat. This time, it means Eliza helping Charmonique get ready for her high school reunion, only to get roped into babysitting her son Kevin when the sitter gets sick from a mall burrito. (“Did you tell her she can vomit here?”) Henry, on the other hand, is challenged to spend an entire weekend not working. Gasp!
Of course, they begin their weekends tending to their individual challenges, but it’s only so long before Henry finds himself talking to the yogurt in his fridge and Eliza posts photos of herself partying with Kevin, which of course sends Henry racing to the scene to intervene.
I mentioned last week that each episode so far has allowed the writers to flex a different set of muscles for the show, starting with each of the two main leads and then the larger ensemble. This week seemed like a rest week on that front. Not a lot of flexing. It was comfortable, it was easy, it was funny. But I didn’t sense a ton of forward motion or new creativity. Yes, this is what a show needs sometimes – to find its rhythm and learn to settle in. I think I was a little disappointed by it at first, but after watching a second time, I found myself enjoying the humor and easy comfort between Henry and Eliza, especially in the babysitting scenes.
I think what it comes down to is that I’m driven by character development. It’s what got me hooked on Mad Men, what I found insanely addicting about Breaking Bad, and even what was fun about Community and New Girl (circa early Season 2). This episode didn’t hit hard on the character development front.
OK, maybe I take that back. There were a couple of hilarious (and telling) flashbacks. Sam Saperstein and Henry working on the company’s breakthrough chewable elephant vitamin while dressed up in hardcore ’90s regalia was awesome. Sam is obviously channeling Milli Vanilli, but is John Cho trying to look like Jay Chou? The hair and style are absolutely dead-on, but I’d be impressed if the show’s writers are this clued in about Asian pop stars. (Because there’s this, and the K-pop dropped by “DJ Pre-K,” aka Kevin.) New levels of respect, I tell you.
Perhaps my beef with the episode is mostly with Charmonique’s story line, which fell a little flat to me. Don’t get me wrong, girlfriend looked good, and I loved her T-Boz wig (AND her and Eliza’s little shimmy to “Scrubs”). But watching her get lectured by a Jodeci styler-turned-priest? Not so fun. I might be a little sensitive, seeing as how I’m of that strange breed of people who goes to church and thinks the way Jesus overturns the exhausting expectations of this world is beautiful, but this whole “mean Christian” trope is getting so tired. Can writers in America please stop pulling the “religious nut” card every time they run out of villain ideas? Time and time again we fall back on this and it doesn’t add to the conversation, people. It’s such a narrative dead end to me. Also, Charmonique’s declaration that “self love” is “real love” is one of those feel-good moments that sounds nice, but in the end rings hollow. Sure, she should love herself, but is that really what this is about? I’m more moved by her love for Kevin, or even the care she’s shown to Eliza throughout the main character’s growing pains.
Really, I think it’s the show trying to find its own thesis. Self love is the whole basis for this #selfie revolution we’re all seeing on Instagram, right? But as the opening credit song states, “I’m looking at me … and hoping to find you.” That’s a theme worth exploring. The idea that we’re relational people and the fact is, even when we’re obsessed with ourselves, it’s because we’re dying to be known by other people. Selfies are sometimes innocuous photos we take when we want to capture a moment and we happen to be, well, by ourselves. But other times they’re a symptom of any number of illnesses in our modern milieu: what-if-I’m-invisible-itis, or misunderstood-iosis. I like to believe Eliza knows this. And that she craves a cure, so much so that she asked Henry for help and takes on his assignments (albeit begrudgingly) each week. Subtly, sneakily, this character motivation has been a quiet engine for the show that they downplay with snide comments and eye-rolls. But it’s Eliza’s redeeming factor and I hope it’ll be brought to the fore in upcoming episodes.
Speaking of eye-rolls, I can’t end this review without talking about why Gillan is so great for this role. Exhibit A: When Charmonique asks if there could possibly be anyone in the world who could watch Kevin for her so she can still attend her high school reunion and find true love, the choreographic (yet still natural) series of lip-bites, tics and eye-shifts that Gillan executes to communicate the thought processes in Eliza’s mind were just breathtaking. Virtuosic facials! Are you guys watching this? Exhibit B: Her rundown of all the things she had planned for the weekend, most of which I couldn’t even catch: “Try to bump into some celebrities, maybe hit a gifting suite. Kick it with … [I have no idea] … Pitbull, binge drink ’til I’m white girl wasted, pop by this pop-up party, get my grind on, swing by In-n-Out, kiss a hamburger, full makeup, no filter, David Guetta.” Wow. Wonder how many takes that took.
Real quick, back to the “shipping.” At the end of the episode, Sam Saperstein mistakenly calls Henry and Eliza a power couple, and mentions to Henry that they would have beautiful children (indeed they would!). Henry waves him off and responds with a quip about how unfortunate red-headed Korean kids would look, but then he follows with little mooney-eyes as he looks at her, and they share a categorical Moment. Are we ready for this, people? I think I can handle this. I think the pacing is going OK. But it makes me nervous about next week. Don’t play with us, writers!
All right, this is the end. I thought I didn’t have much I wanted to say about this episode, yet look at me. I’ve babbled long enough.
Odds and ends:
-More Samm Levine, please! And elevator sing-alongs!
-Henry’s idea of an awesome Friday night is … a big salad. With grilled chicken. And this actually formed the basis for a wonderful little set of jokes. Like when Freddie ridicules Henry and Joan deadpans, “The grilled chicken could be fun.” Also later, when Henry tells Eliza on the phone, “I promise you I am full of salad, and I’m about to get … turnt.” So good.
-Henry talks to his yogurt: “You there! Sneaky Greek bastard. Expired. You’ll hang for your crime!”
-Keith L. Williams did a great job as young Kevin, layin’ it down on the ones and twos. Cute kid.
-Kevin’s cry sounds like Eddie Murphy. I LOVED that! I can’t even tell you why. Somehow this show hits on just my kind of humor: dorky, physical, and pop culture junkie-y.
-Reasons I am not hip: My friend had to inform me that Eliza’s Instagram rival, Fit Brit, was played by Amber Rose (once married to Wiz Khalifa). Then I had to go Google “Amber Rose.” (In my defense, I am familiar with Wiz Khalifa.)
See you guys next week!
UPDATE: I always hold off on scouring the Interwebs for reviews and news about Selfie because it’s so hard to write your own thoughts when they’ve been crowded by everyone else’s. But! It means I find gems that I really want to post after the fact (mostly through Twitter). Mainly two this week, both from the show’s creator, Emily Kapnek. 1) A hot moment between Eliza and Henry from the next episode of Selfie (!!!) and 2) her son being pissed that his stuffed lion was used on the show. Adorbs!