Monday, September 24, 2012

"Don't Say Good-Bye" To 'The L.A. Complex', CW!...

It's been a rocky road for the characters of The L.A. Complex but also for CW drama in general. Underrated (literally) and underappreciated, The L.A. Complex has been my new Life Unexpected ever since it debuted earlier this spring. It's the little show that could; that should; that will-- if I have anything to say about it. Though deemed a Hollywood-set soap opera, the dramatic series really focused on the complex and deeply flawed to the point of being damaged young individuals who all live in a motel renovated to be one-room apartments, The Lux. It's like Melrose Place for the disenchanted. This means that of course they sleep together, push each other in the pool, throw huge parties, but thankfully no one's crazy ever bleeds over onto each other, or God forbid, causes someone to attempt to blow up the building. The show is grounded in a cautionary tale type reality of the lost souls that populate Hollywood, attempting to infiltrate the entertainment industry sometimes for the wrong reasons and usually unsuccessfully.

The series took a turn in season two, speeding up its storylines to pack a major punch into thirteen short episodes. This meant that not everything got explored as deeply as I personally would have liked and characters flitted in and out as there wasn't a lot of screen time to devote to each. But I still have to appreciate that things weren't dragged out and the audience wasn't condescended to with repetition or exposition. And through it all, my three favorites were front and center, thriving with new emotional material. Though the final sequence in the second season finale, "Don't Say Good-Bye" could certainly provide a sweet, if still somewhat sad, series end, I of course hope it's only the beginning-- of a new chapter in The L.A. Complex eerily true Hollywood story.

Let's take a look at where we're leaving all of the key characters and the potential new stories for them to explore in a (hopeful!!!) third season:

Connor (Jonathan Patrick Moore) reconnected with his long-lost sister (guest star Tori Anderson), only for her to introduce him to the "Church" of Scienetics and then make a move on him in a non-sisterly way. Because he has been so lost, searching for family and thrills anywhere he can, he embraced her and her weird cult immediately. Oddly, it seems to be helping, perhaps because along with collecting his checks and feeding him gross detox shakes, they are actually digging deep into his mentality and offering their version of therapy. Moore has consistently broken our hearts in brand new ways all season long, and we just want him to be okay. Yet, how can he possibly be? If he is detoxing off his meds, he will no longer be clear-headed or "leveled out." We're already seeing signs of it when he unwraps his arm and admits he used to burn himself to Raquel (Jewel Staite). That should be a huge step of improvement for him, yet it felt much more like he was getting lost in his mania again, allowing his brain chemistry to lead and make some potentially bad decisions. You're only as healthy as you want yourself to be, and he is so open and willing to try anything that he may find principles here that actually help, even if its execution overall is detrimental.

On a side note, though, he and Raquel never talk about anything real-- she still hasn't even told him he was almost a father!-- and we want to see what happens now that she knows there's something much darker going on with him. He has taken so many steps to be there for her the only ways he knows how-- like doing a cameo in her little indie and posing for photos with fans at the Lux to raise more money for her film. It's her turn to step up. Can she be selfless for a minute? Watching her struggle, try, and probably, ultimately, fail would be the fun of season three.

Also, Moore told us he wants to see a storyline where Connor gets a crazy stalker, and while we don't know how they'd squeeze that in with everything else he has going on, we want to see it eventually, too. It would be a "be careful what you wish for" scenario with both success and fame, as well as someone who loves you unconditionally. After all, look what happened with Charlotte. Naturally the "Church" "sided" with him when he broke down and told them what Charlotte did, but when they shipped her off to some kind of Guantanamo situation, he exhibited all signs of wanting to track her down and save her the way he has been trying to be saved. 

Since I've already brought up Raquel, I have to admit I couldn't care less about her credit card swiping story or new relationship with restaurant boss. Mostly I didn't care because it took time away from her true ambitions, and unless she was suddenly going to get more blinded by cash than she ever did by the spotlight, it was obvious the story was going to be short-lived. Though she exhibited a major moment of growth earlier this season when she walked out of the fake Celebrity Rehab when she realized how exploitational it was being of a kid with severe problems, she's not going to become a completely different person overnight-- if ever. So her new beau getting arrested is probably the last we'll ever see of him. She's not going to come forward and take the blame because it's out of her character but also because the show just did that dueling arrest scenario with Connor and Charlotte over his house fire case.

I have to admit, I had extremely high hopes for that indie film Raquel was making, and I'm not sure the actual thing we saw snippets of held up. I found it more amusing (especially Simon as the mini Wilfred!) than profound. I was torn over just how low rent they were shooting it: there's something to be said for just doing it anyway possible, on your own, but there's something else to be said for sacrificing some of the quality. They didn't need Ellen Page, but using The Lux certainly creates a different character for the woman Raquel is portraying. If she's living in this place at this point in her life, she's a much more tragic figure, even outside of the inoperable cancer. Then again, that's kind of a metaphor for Raquel in its own way, and yet Raquel is pulling herself up and doing what she can to change her situation at all costs. There's something inherently admirable in that.

The final sequence, zooming in on everyone's faces with the completely on-the-nose who will you be and where will you go and what will you do music wouldn't have been complete without a shared look between Connor and Raquel. Out of all of the characters that live at The Lux, they have the farthest to go and the most to lose. I love getting a sense of them being in this together, even if not as romantic partners, at least as friends. I would really love to see them lean on each other more in the future.

Nick (Joe Dinicol) and Sabrina (Georgina Reilly) were a couple I thought could go the distance but that it would take a long, long time for them to get there. So when Sabrina said "I love you"-- and first!-- I knew they were doomed. It's no secret I never really liked Nick as a character-- not until Sabrina came around anyway. She challenged him; she brought out the best in him; she made him more fun to be around. I hate that the show may be losing her. Normally I'd say that there can be time jumps between seasons, and she could end up coming back, but this show doesn't do contrived notions like that, and their good-bye really felt like (perhaps the only) permanent good-bye. Everything she said to him was spot-on and something so many of us (cough, me) struggle with out here. It's so easy to divert focus when something we're working on is harder than we'd like it to be. Nick says he wants to be a comedian, but he really doesn't try. Maybe another dream is to fall in love with a girl and live the rest of his life with her, and maybe he would have been happy following Sabrina to New Orleans in order to fulfill that part of himself, but I doubt she would have been happy, feeling like she was holding him back from at least attempting to pursue this other thing. I can't honestly guess where they'll take Nick in a third season, and honestly, I'm a little afraid I won't like him again.

A character I wasn't sad to lose was Beth (Dayle McLeod), though. The minute Simon (Michael Levinson) was taken away, I had no desire to see her stick around and try to be a regular young adult, even as much as I was glad she gave Cam (Kristopher Turner) a storyline of his own. I was bummed to lose Simon because I really do think there is a wealth of stories in the world of child actors. The Lux is really no place for a kid, but it says a lot of a stage mom who'd put her family up there, forcing her kids to audition at any cost. I know that wasn't Beth or their particular situation; I'm just thinking ahead for potential new people. 

And without Beth, I'd like to see Cam actually devote himself to his work and see success at it. The women will come then. He's a good, earnest guy. He deserves someone who's not crazy, and he can't find that person at USC or at The Lux!

Beth just didn't fit. She didn't want to work in Hollywood. And I get that a lot of young people move to L.A. without wanting to work in Hollywood, but everyone in The Lux has entertainment in their hearts and stars in their eyes, and the longer she stuck around, the more potential she had to show everyone how superficial and superfluous the whole town can be. She had this air of judgement about her, and that has no place among the infinite dreamers!

Similarly, when Abby (Cassie Steele) bought a ticket to Germany, I couldn't help but think "good riddance." Her character was one of my favorites when the series first started because she was so driven, but she actually had the talent to back it up. But then she just started to become kind of a buffoon. She'd get incredibly lucky with a gig, even after mouthing off or flubbing her lines, only to go and ruin it for herself by being unprofessional in another way. It was just so frustrating to watch, and I started to see her as just another lost girl who wanted to come to this town to be an overnight sensation, not to actually put in the hard work and prove herself and earn stardom.

Abby's romantic relationships are equally frustrating. She just has this ability to fall into bed with everyone and anyone without a (seeming) second thought. Now, this may be because the show moves so fast, we don't get to see all of the reasons feelings may form. But on a personal note, it just makes us hard to connect with her. It seems to be that quintessential "whatever" mentality where consequences are never considered, and it represents an overall personality trait and unwillingness to actually extend a thought that makes us not want to root for her. Yet, she attracts some guys that are seemingly too good to be true, and inevitably she ruins that, too. 

I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop with this Air Force guy, and when it didn't, I realized that Abby is always the other shoe. I have no doubt that if the show comes back for season three, she'll end up screwing up her marriage by simply showing up in Germany and screwing things up for him at work. Even if the show doesn't end up coming back, that's what I'm going to imagine happened. Right now I don't think she deserves a happy ending. She has too much growing up to do first. She hasn't earned a happy ending.

Kal (Andra Fuller), on the other hand, does. Kal has come a long way-- certainly the furthest of any other character on the show, even though you could argue that he and Connor had just as far to climb. Neither one of them like themselves, and I don't think either of them is there yet in terms of turning that way of thinking around, but they're both making strides. I wanted nothing more than Kal to be able to tell his father he was gay-- and to say it that way, rather than the way he said it to the mental patient early in the season. To me, that would have marked the perfect next baby step on his road to recovery. Instead, though, he surprised me by taking a much bigger step in writing, and then posting, his letter online. To me, that never would have happened if the show was sure it was getting a third season. Kal's story was one that was never sped up or handled with anything but care. Having him publicly come out felt almost like a push for a new season by saying "See? You have to see how this turns out, right!?"

That is not to say I did not love watching him take the step-- I just think it was a sheer guttural, emotional reaction from someone stuck in grief. I think he may come to regret it, and that, too, will provide ample opportunity for more fascinating internal struggles for Kal. Fuller excels at those. He wears everything on his face in the best of ways. When Rook (William Stewart) admitted he has always known Kal well enough to know he was gay (a moment I was psyched to see the show spend time on because I had been wondering for awhile just how much he knew, even if Kal tried to keep it from him), Fuller's reaction was priceless. I want to see more of that. And admittedly, as much as I like Chris (Jarod Joseph), I want to see Kal lash out at him and ultimately push him away again because he realizes he may not be ready to become the gay icon that the media will now try to force him to be.

What has always fascinated me about Kal's story is how it was never done in the typical Hollywood way. The L.A. Complex allowed us to get to know the man away from the bright lights and international fame. We are told he has it-- that he's pretty much the Jay-Z of this world-- but whenever we see him, he's just a regular dude with a big house and an even bigger chip on his shoulder. Coming out is something he had to get himself comfortable to do, but coming out as a celebrity opens a whole new can of worms. I don't really want to see the entire hip-hop community embrace him because I want to see how that tests him as a man and a musician. Will he start rap battling those who call him out for something he can't control, or will he shrink back into himself and claim he was hacked? 

The beauty of a show like The L.A. Complex is that it always leaves you wanting more. Its characters are so rich it's impossible not to get involved in their lives, not to feel for them, not to want to know every little intricate thing about them-- even the things the show deems irrelevant and therefore skips over in order to showcase other characters. It's admirable to see an ensemble show tackling so many important issues-- relationship or non; after all, each audience member will personally attach to a different character, and diplomatically, there is something for everyone here. 

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