'Awkward's Back, But Can Jenna Hold Onto That High School High?
Jenna Hamilton notes it early in the episode: "A lot's changed since sophomore year." And that's true, to an extent. A lot of things haven't changed much about Awkward since its first season: Tamara still speaks in manic acronyms, Sadie still rolls by making inappropriate suicide jokes, and the show's still audacious, poking fun at teenage archetypes most commonly found in '80s teen movies and/or Glee. And, of course, Jenna and Matty still instinctually lean towards pining for one another, even as they promise themselves (and us) that they won't follow through with their feelings.
Other things, though, have changed a lot since that first year. Jenna is more confident, her self-awareness carrying notably more swagger than it did when it was just another paranoid mark of her insecurities; Jake's got a guitar and is constantly seconds from a "so this is 'Wonderwall'"; more people are paralyzed by thoughts of the future than they are by that teenage feeling that the present might be permanent.
And Awkward is still at its best when it lives in these places, less tied up by love triangles and will-they-won't-theys than by the bigger questions of what it means to figure out how to be as you just keep on growing up — how it feels when you fight it, and how it feels when you just give in and let it happen.
Really, Awkward shines when it reminds me of Tavi Gevinson quotes. Like this one, speaking of Gevinson's own senior year:
Forever is the state, exclusive to those between the ages of 13 and 17, in which one feels both eternally invincible and permanently trapped. When my parents were young, Forever was expressed through promise rings, names carved into trees, and photographs you could hold in your hands. In the years since, Forever has inspired many phrases and ideas popular among adolescents: Best Friends Forever, Together Forever, Forever Young. In more recent years, Forever, with its cousins Always and Infinity, has dominated young adult literature, differentiated the internet from the more fleeting IRL, and, one could argue, explained the popularity of the galaxy print. Nothing lasts forever, of course, but Nothing doesn’t resonate with a teenager the way Forever does, because, for better or worse, it’s hard to imagine ever not feeling this way, being this person, having this life.
[...] Because I feel like I hold more memories of who I have been than an understanding of who I am now, I say with certainty that my own personal Forever is over. And I’m terrified.
This episode of Awkward held onto a lot of those memories. We're forced to question what will happen between Matty and Jenna, Jenna's college future, and the future of the show's friendships and romances. Still, that concept of "forever" held strong, even when Awkward's manic acronyms threatened to take over. Because what does a show about the high school experience do as it nears the end of high school?
It tries to make the best of the time it has left. This first episode back was a good step. So let's see what they do with the rest of that forever.