Tuesday, November 22, 2011

'Hart of Dixie' Delivers Another Triangle...

It took a little longer than I would have liked, but Hart of Dixie finally loosened up its supporting characters to a place it seemed to promise from the get-go. In a town full of colorful characters and even more wacky and wonderful traditions, there seems to be an endless well to tap in terms of story lines, banter, and heated relationships based on history. Yet since Zoe (Rachel Bilson) has been at the center from the star, we haven't gotten much of that. Thankfully, though, these next batch of episodes seem to be righting that wrong. After spending a third of the season buttoned-up, and not just because of his dress shirts, Scott Porter's George Tucker let his hair down a bit, embraced his prankster, carefree man-child self, and showed a side to his bromance with Wade Kinsella (Wilson Bethel) we had been waiting for. And what made it even better was that the uptight Lemon Breeland (Jaime King) was along for the ride, too. King has such a perky, upbeat personality that it's more than about time she got to shine in that way-- and about time we were given a reason to actually like Lemon!

In last night's "Homecoming & Coming Home" episode, Leila Gerstein gave us yet another triangle of colorful characters in high school BFFs George, Wade, and Lemon, but instead of it being your typical love-triangle-turned-acquaintances when two finally did pair off, leaving the other out in the cold, it was the platonic "Three Musketeers" kind. It was completely unexpected (well, unless you had been reading my interviews with Gerstein and these fine actors), simply because of the drastically different personalities they present now. But hands down, it was the most interesting threesome the show has set up so far, complete with cute code nicknames for each other.

Getting insight into these characters' histories is something that I feel we should have had from day one, considering they all grew up in this small town together, and it's such a small town that everyone knows everything about everyone else. As the show itself said, "It's like Friday Night Lights but without all the depressing parts!" That line, by the way, seemed to be the review the network was hoping to get. Anyway, the nature of the town is evidenced, if by nothing else than, by the three elderly gossiping ladies that often punctuate tracking shots of the town square. Zoe is a newcomer, so it makes sense that her scenes with these people aren't heavy with such history, but put them together for even a few minutes, and the relationships should be deep and fun. And finally they are.

Hart of Dixie, to me, is at its best when it reveals little tidbits like Wade and George's football chum past and then puts them together-- even if just professionally, when Wade needed to hire a lawyer for a divorce last week-- to see how their past informs who they are (to each other) now. In "Homecoming & Coming Home," George wanted to bring Lemon into his prank plans with Wade because she was the queen of the pranks in high school (who would've guessed!?), but also because he worried that she was twenty times happier in high school than now. She is so closed off and prim and picture proper these days, it's hard to tell what's really bubbling up under the surface of her saccharine smile. But usually anytime something is bubbling up, it's not a good something. But as much as George was worried about Lemon, I think he was worried about himself, too. There is no denying that he puts on airs with Lemon, too. Whether its because he's simply following her lead or because he believes a "grown up" businessman such as himself "should" act that way, or if he really is just tense and unsure of how to hold onto some of his youthful recklessness remains to be seen. But you can tell there's a part of him that doesn't want to completely give up on that side of himself-- nor should he have to. With Zoe, he is able to exhibit a part of it, but that is reckless in a whole other way because it can be misconstrued as flirting. With his ole buddy Wade, he can just blow off some steam. Never before have I been so happy to see two grown guys indulging their inner man-children!

I'm not exactly sure what it is about Hart of Dixie that seems to scream for more of these "quirky characters" moments. Maybe it's because I have been conditioned, through the likes of previous small town dramadies like Gilmore Girls, to believe every towns person is just a walking reality show waiting to happen. Regardless, Hart of Dixie set itself up from day one as being a "heightened reality" drama; it wants to show off over-the-top scenes and scenarios, but the majority of the time it's characters were playing so straight that the few who did have larger than life personalities (like Shelley, the Rammer Jammer waitress, or even Lavon at times) seemed like punchlines. I kept waiting for the others to show their "true" sides. Every time George would flash his perfectly pearly white smile, I thought it was too good to be true. He definitely seemed to fit better in New York than Bluebell, and it seemed like only a matter of time before he realized that and took off again.

But then again, I, like Zoe, was new to Bluebell then, though, and perhaps seeing it through an outsider's eyes explained so much of why certain characters weren't letting their complete guards down. It certainly takes me a long time to warm up to new people and let them into anything "real." The south may be welcoming right off the bat, but that doesn't mean the players are all quick to lay all their cards on the table for a stranger.
Now that we're all growing accustomed to the way of life (and learning to love it, even if slowly for some), the oddities and eccentricities are coming out more and more in others who feel as comfortable with us.

I know this show is really a vehicle for Bilson, but honestly, I think it is best when she is used sparingly. At least until she gives in and embraces Bluebell in its fullest and finest anyway. Bluebell, and all who come along with it, is the real star here. Now I'm no longer "just" Team Wade but Team Wade/George/Lemon as a little gang. What crazy hijinks will they get into next? And how can those two cute boys convince Lemon to embrace her free spirit more often!?

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