Betty season 1, episode 2 recap – “Zen and the Art of Skateboarding”

May 9, 2020
Jonathon Wilson 0
TV Recaps
3

Summary

“Zen and the Art of Skateboarding” has plenty going for it, but it’s spread a little thin with multiple subplots competing for space in a 30-minute episode that can’t serve them all.

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3

Summary

“Zen and the Art of Skateboarding” has plenty going for it, but it’s spread a little thin with multiple subplots competing for space in a 30-minute episode that can’t serve them all.

This recap of Betty season 1, episode 2, “Zen and the Art of Skateboarding”, contains spoilers. You can check out our thoughts on the previous episode by clicking these words.


All the things that work about Betty Episode 2, “Zen and the Art of Skateboarding”, are all the things that it did well in the pilot episode – well-observed local details, intimate, improvisational acting, and so on, and so forth. Where it missteps is in trying to broaden its horizons too much within a lean 30-minute episode, giving a few too many storylines attention without having the space to give them any actual insight.

The big one centers on Janay (Dede Lovelace) and her friend Donald (Caleb Eberhardt), who finds himself embroiled in a #MeToo scandal; another burgeoning subplot involving Camille (Rachelle Vinberg) and hipster videographer Bambi (Edmund Donovan) feels like it might be heading in the same direction too. Continuing on from the pilot, Kirt (Nina Moran) continues to teach Indigo (Ajani Russell) how to skate, though it leads to some hostilities, and Honeybear (Moonbear) finds her eyes alighting on Ash (Katerina Tannenbaum). That’s a lot going on, and “Zen and the Art of Skateboarding” doesn’t feel all that zen as a result.

The devil is still in the details – Honeybear’s at-home fashion and her expressive getup away from her family is an effective contrast and makes a strong point about identity and rebellion. There has always been something subversive about skateboarding culture that extends to its fashion and lingo just as much as its tricks; we see a similar, blunter focus on aesthetics when Indigo is approached and photographed by a scout, despite her rudimentary abilities on a board. Kirt and Janay are both put-out about this, but since they know skating isn’t a meritocracy, they don’t complain for too long about its lop-sidedness going the way of one of their own for once. When it all kicks off later between the boys and girls, Kirt makes a point of convincing Indigo to keep at the sport for its upsides.

This stuff isn’t always neat and tidy, but it mostly works. The out-of-nowhere addition of a #MeToo subplot feels extremely ungainly in the context of a laidback 30-minute comedy, though, and while it undoubtedly feels of a piece with both youth and internet-influencer culture, its current ambiguity – Donald describes a girl as having caught unreciprocated feelings seeking revenge – and lack of focus makes it feel ill-fitting. Obviously not all the details can be given away immediately, but some would be nice, and a scenario that effects Janay so profoundly – Donald himself says that once you’re tainted by this kind of scandal, whether you’re innocent or not scarcely matters – would have felt more impactful had we been more familiar with Janay and her relationship with Donald.

I’m sure there will be more to come from this storyline, and I’m happy for it to be fleshed out and developed, though I question it’s inclusion in Betty Episode 2 – especially as it shares space with an equally aimless Camille/Bambi bonding session. Both of these things would have been better served by a more intimate focus in individual episodes. Still, enough works in “Zen and the Art of Skateboarding” that the lowlights are less of a problem than they might otherwise have been. I suppose you can’t tell a story about skateboarding with a few bumps along the way.


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