Uh... I don't know if I want to roll my eyes or laugh in astonishment. After the last episode's risky yet intriguing series premiere hook -- the death of a supposed lead role, Hubbel -- the show was destined for some really tangible plot proceedings, some of which played out as one would expect. But for this episode to eerily parallel its predecessor in terms of plot points AND twist seems like a cop-out.
Or maybe because its so damn fresh on my mind. Prior to the episode's ending, I was pleasantly admiring what it had to offer. With Hubbel abruptly cleaved from the situation, Michelle and Fanny are left with no focal point to hypothetically cat-fight over. Fanny begins planning the world's most Western-influenced Buddhist funeral, complete with tarts, a bulging guest list, a sitar player named Robbie, matching napkins and capes, and of course custom meditation chants: "Ah, finally, a chance to use my high school Tibetan," nervously jokes one her friends.
She envelops herself in this flippant affair clearly trying to avoid the fact her son is dead, while Michelle is left to do nothing, confounded at her unlucky circumstances. She, in response, does very little for the first half of the episode, merely watching Fanny wrap herself in the minutiae of planning and trying to avoid Truly, Hubbel's ex-girlfriend who kinda sorta killed him via car accident. Michelle also adorns this numbingly frank demeanor when permitted to speak in the latter half that actually seemed cool and appropriate, like “yep, of course the one time I try to get right with a guy, he up and dies!”
Speaking of a numbingly frank demeanor, the snooty leader of the ballerina quad, hereby named “Snooki” for lack of knowing her actual name, treats the death as any bored teenager would – with a glowing opportunism. She rounds up the other girls from their respective classes under the notion that their “dear dance teacher's heart has been broken” while they then catch some awful-sounding Mark Wahlberg action flick. Boo, the body-conscious and seemingly socially conscious member, immediately becomes the foil, waging war against Snooki's petty and morally bankrupt scheming.
To be honest, this side-story was the least interesting part of the whole thing, but Palladino's billion-word-per-minute flavor of repartee kept the show at a brisk pace, even if characters yapped on about the nuance of a stare. The best writing comes when Michelle finally breaks Fanny down, sending missive after missive of faulty memorial planning onto the flimsy barricade surrounding her emotions. Seeing Fanny actually emote, rather than callously react or judge, has an odd disarming quality to it. Of course she doesn't know how to act; the only person she loved was taken away from her, and left some ungainly chatterbox in his place.
Thankfully the chatterbox quickly made amends, thanks to Snooki's sudden change of heart when seeing her fallen dance instructor sobbing on the couch. The dance she and her fellow ballerini (is ballerina a Latin noun? it is now.) performed for Fanny and her closest friends totally justified the new Disney channel model of multi-faceted actors. To a gruff and earnest Tom Waits tune, they gracefully eulogized Hubbel, and also reminded us about the whole dancing pinpoint of the show. Its honestly great to have a group of young actors who can not only portray roles with a known ease and perform an ancillary art without pop sentiments, but who never seem desperate to show off.
And yeah, the final twist. Michelle and Fanny get back to being super-cool-alcohol-loosened buddies again, and then, while greeting one of Hubbel's friends, she discovers that she gets his entire estate, including the house and the studio. Eh I guess that seems plausible but really? He had enough time in the last episode's 24-hour span to draw up a will and such? Bullshit bro. A lot of proper entertainment blogs have delegated this show into some summer wish fulfillment/easygoing romp, and if not for the smarmy dialogue and the theatre-style acting (mostly due to the abundance of leg warmers), I would wholeheartedly agree.
Bunheads, in its current projection, seems like a show that works the nerves of its characters, letting them fray, sizzle, and cool off before agitating them again with some new conflict, although the conflict seems highly contrived. But whatevs, I enjoy the Sutton Foster/Kelly Bishop dynamic, and those four nameless dancers (seriously, they just stare each other down and spout declarative statements sans names! I need to know their names!) are some of the most competent child actors on television which says a lot. I did enjoy the episode, albeit feeling jipped, and will check out the next episode where Michelle presumably finds out she's pregnant or something.
Oh no... wait... they couldn't do that could they?!? FUTURE HUBBEL SPAWN????