Month: June 2022

Books

Under One Roof Book Review is full of Terrible communication, Decent Banter, Awkward Endings, and Bachelor References

Pros

  • Good banter
  • Sweet relationship between Helena
  • Friendship between Mara and her friends was
  • Good concept- EPA environmental scientist and Corporate Oil Lawyer
  • Hooked me in
  • References to The Bachelor

Cons

  • Weird prologue returns to the ending
  • Overly clueless MC
  • Plot by communication issues
  • Seriously…their inability to communicate make me want to jump off into the abyss
  • Confusing Demisexuality representation (although the idea of rep is good)

I absolutely loved The Love Hypothesis, so I was pretty excited to read Ali Hazelwood’s new novella, Under One Roof. The book was only $2.99 on the Kindle store, so I figured why not give it a try while I wait for her next book to come out. It wasn’t a bad choice.

This book was a fun read. The dialogue was entertaining and the idea worked fairly well. I think it would have been better if Hazelwood either turned this into an entire book or if she included Liam’s POV as well. The book all takes place from Mara’s perspective, which is fine, but since this was an enemies-to-lover story, I wanted to know what Liam was thinking about Mara and the house situation. I learned about his character primarily through his facial expressions and his stoic demeanor, which isn’t the best way to understand someone.

I liked his character (maybe because I like law and lawyers and his love of video games), and I liked seeing a more reserved/quiet character in a book, but by the end, I still felt like I didn’t know him that well.

The other relationships were pretty well done. Mara’s friends Sadie and Hannah were sweet, and I liked the scenes of three amazing scientist friends talking about their relationships, work, and life stuff. They like to watch Parks and Rec and make brownies together and…Same Sadie. Same.

I enjoyed Mara’s relationship with Helena and the memories that she shares about Helena’s life. Helena felt like a real person, and I could imagine her bold personality as I read. Even though she was dead, she was much more than a plot point. You can tell Helena was a good mother-figure/mentor to her. It feels heartfelt and not too sappy. I enjoyed reading the letter that Mara wrote to her; it felt funny and real.

Mara’s relationship with her mentor, Helena, and her response to Helena’s death is one of the most interesting parts of the book. Helena was a strong-willed and unpredictable woman, and I kind of aspire to be her someday. She cheats at chess, loves Mara like a daughter, sets up her nephew with her by giving her the house, and hates cheesiness and sentimentality I feel like Helena is dropped once Mara and Liam get together, and it is a damn shame. It would have been interesting exploring their grief. Mara’s letter to Helena was one of my favorite parts of the book. I’m going to share some of my favorite parts.

Mara is someone who doesn’t quite believe in an afterlife, or is at the very least unsure about it. She says:

“Truth be told, I stopped pondering eschatological matters in high school after they got me anxious and made me break out in hives”

I feel that, can’t say I don’t ponder these things, but thinking about life after death is anxiety-inducing. There is unpredictability no matter what you believe. I never got hives, though. She also says:

“You probably just sit on a cloud all day being omniscient. Eating Triscuits. Occasionally playing the harp. You lazy bum.”

I don’t get the pervading myth that people play the harp in heaven all the time. Maybe Hazelwood took this idea from Huckleberry Finn. In the beginning of the book, Huck says that going to heaven sounds boring, because people just go around and play the harp all day. I can’t picture omniscient God would make heaven boring–at least Mara’s version sounds kind of fun. I love a good Triscuit and a lazy day. I’m not sure I’d want to know everything though. That sounds overwhelming.

I liked how Helena’s house is her safe harbor, it is a place where she feels comfortable. We never get the ending to that letter she writes.

Mara’s Relationship with Her Parents

I actually liked Mara’s character development. We learn that her parents were people that didn’t want to be parents. We get little details like that her parents saw her as too energetic, and they enrolled her in sports to keep her busy and out of their hair. This is why her relationship with Helena is so important; she acted as a mentor and cared about Mara like a daughter. Apparently Mara only talks to her parents once or twice a year, and she is the one who calls.

Helena also isn’t as close to her family either. I feel like these scenes could be expanded upon more though. I feel like I liked the idea of Mara’s character development, but it didn’t show up as much as I hoped. We never really learn more about Liam’s relationship with his family either, except that he isn’t too close with them.

Other than that, I do have some complaints. This book felt very fanficy, and while that isn’t entirely a bad thing–it feels like it was thrown together or written chapter-by-chapter. The Prologue and last scene mesh together awkwardly.

He likes you, Mara–why don’t you see this?

It bugged me how Mara is completely clueless and has no idea that Liam could possibly be attracted to her. I think Ali Hazelwood likes writing main characters who are oblivious about matters of human attraction and interaction, because Olive was the same way.

But he obviously likes her! The man looks at her awkwardly and then looks away, looks distant when she says she’s moving out, cuddles with her when she’s cold, and feels left out when she’s with another guy. She assumes that he likes his friend Emma and wants to be with her, even after he plainly tells her that he and Emma are just friends and neither is interested in each other. He thinks she’s brilliant and enjoys spending time with her. And there is SO MUCH TENSION between them in these scenes. The man is flustered around her ALL THE TIME. She has feelings for him. How could Mara not consider, even for a minute, that Liam might like her too?

I understand a bit though. I can be oblivious about how people feel, especially if they’re quiet like Liam, but if I had a feelings for someone (like Mara did for Liam during at least half of the book), I would overanalyze every single interaction to find out whether or not he returned my affections. Mara never does this, she just assumes. But Mara is convinced that Liam is dating someone else and just wants to be friends with her.

I’d like to see a confident MC for once. Why wouldn’t he like her? Because he has muscles? She is fit too. Because he is annoyed with her? He doesn’t seem too annoyed when they become friends. I feel like she disliked him first. It could be awkward to admit feelings for your roommate, but still. Get it together. But enough complaining about roommate drama for now, lets talk about the height of romantic drama and tension–The Bachelor.

The Bachelor References

Liam and Mara watch The Bachelor, and I am all here for it. I enjoy watching The Bachelor and The Bachleorette sometimes, and I appreciated their comments on the show. Mara even runs a bachelor franchise blog. I approve. We don’t get real references though, because she talks about season 12, which is JoJo’s season, but they talk use another woman’s name. It is a shame; I wanted to know their thoughts on the real bachelorette. Is there a copyright issue? I’d hope not. It was still pretty fun though. I can relate to rooting for the bachelor/ette to end up with a contestant that they don’t end up with. They also could have talked about all those weird challenges that the producers put them up to; that would be great.

I feel like I would read a whole story of these two reacting to a real season of the bachelor, not because their banter regarding the subject was anything amazing, but I feel like it could be a fun story.

The “Demi Rep”

The book was marketed as “demi rep”, which basically means that one of the main characters is demisexual. According to Web MD, “Demisexual people only feel sexually attracted to someone when they have an emotional bond with that person.” The definition goes on to say,

“Demisexual people do not feel primary attraction — the attraction you feel to someone when you first meet them. They only feel secondary attraction — the type of attraction that happens after knowing someone for a while.”

I originally thought Mara might be demi, but I wasn’t sure. She has problems with guys and finding someone that she is attracted to, as many of us do demi or not, but her relationship with dating seems a bit different than other people’s.

“But even at their best, all my romantic relationships felt like work in a way Sadie and Hannah and Helena never did. In a way actual work never did. And for what? Sex? Jury’s still out on whether I even care about that?”

This paragraph doesn’t indicate whether Mara is asexual, demisexual, aromantic, demiromantic or anything else. One reading is that Mara is demisexual, but doesn’t know the label to explain herself with. She might never have felt an emotional connection to her dates, so she never experiences sexual attraction and thus feels like she’s left out for not feeling what her friends do. Maybe she felt pressured to have sex with people she didn’t feel connected to because it was what people are supposed to do in relationships. Maybe she thought if she would try it; she would like it. Maybe these relationships felt like work because she kept putting effort into people she didn’t experience attraction to, but she felt like she should be in a relationship, so she kept it going.

Or Mara could have bad experiences with dating and could have been with bad partners. An unhealthy relationship can feel like “work” sometimes. She might not be demi and just struggles to find someone she cares about and wants to date. After all, the male engineers that she works with seem like jerks. Some guys are nice, but just because someone is nice and just because you’re friends with someone of a gender you’re attracted to doesn’t mean you want to date them. But on the other hand, sometimes it is easier, for demisexual people and others, to date someone you’re friends with and have developed a connection with beforehand. Mara also talks about how being with Liam is better than others because it is not awkward. She knows him, she is comfortable.

I also can’t tell if she becomes attracted to Liam before or after they develop an emotional connection and start actually talking to each other. She notices his muscles and how tall he is right away, but I’m not sure if that counts as attraction or not. I mean, who wouldn’t be thrown off by a tall, broad shouldered guy living in your new place. Especially if you’re a pretty short woman and now you’re living with this big guy who also works for a company you disagree with. It’s a lot to take in.

Liam also seems like he could be demisexual. There is a part where Liam says “I don’t like sex.” But this is after he admits that he finds Mara attractive and that he has liked her since he first saw her. I know that the trope of “the guy falls for the girl first” is popular, so I wasn’t surprised by this scene. He was always so awkward around her; it sounded like he was attracted to her based on how he either looked or didn’t look at her. He tells Mara how long he’s liked her.

“How hard it’s been, to. . . **** to keep my hands off you. How much I’ve wanted this, almost since the very beginning.”

So, my question is, did he form an emotional connection with her early on? Maybe after they talked about Helena’s death? The whole “love at first sight” thing doesn’t happen to demisexual people as far as I know, so I am slightly confused here. He didn’t know her before.

It also seems like his friend Emma knows he doesn’t date much. There is a point where Mara asks if Liam has been STD tested and he says he goes to the doctor twice a year or so. . . indicating he doesn’t have sex often.

He could be uninterested in sex and be demi. He could dislike sex but want his partner to be happy. He could also be graysexual, which is a term for someone who almost never experiences sexual attraction. I feel like at least Liam is on the ace/demi spectrum. I also don’t get why neither character calls themselves demisexual.

These things can be complex and one is obliged to use a label, but Hazelwood marketed this book as “demi rep.” Not everyone knows what demisexual means, so if she explained and had one of her characters identify with the term.

It wouldn’t be that hard, either. Liam could say,

“I don’t really feel attracted to people often, but once we started talking about (Helena, our passions, etc.) I couldn’t stop thinking about you. Like, I like you, a lot. I like being with you… (cue romantic speech that doesn’t reference her smelling like sunscreen and doing yoga, because that’s kinda odd). I don’t feel this way for anyone. Emma’s mind was blown a little when she saw how I looked at you. I’ve never acted this way before; I never cared about sex or saw anyone that way; I didn’t know what to do with myself I’ve read about it. I’m demisexual, I only feel sexual attraction to others after you form an emotional connection. At first, you were this rando living into my house. I didn’t know what to do, but I figured I’d try to be friends. I think Helena would have liked that. But once we actually started talking Mara, I was a goner.”

That is just a guess on how it could go. I feel like the rep could have been handled better. I also didn’t like the ending. It seemed like Hazelwood decided to throw all the ending, conversation, and dialogue that needed to be had into the middle of a sex scene. it is also kind of creepy how Liam keeps saying “is this how you wanted it?” to Mara.

Liam basically starts recreating a fantasy that he overhears Mara talking on the phone to her friends about. It is so awkward… The characters barely talk to each other beforehand. There seems to be consent, but it is very confusing.

Overall though, this was a fun novella. I enjoyed reading it for the witty banter alone. If you like Ali Hazelwood’s writing style and humor–and if you are willing to suspend your disbelief–this novella is a solid choice. Just don’t put your expectations too high.

Have you read Under One Roof or The Love Hypothesis? Do you plan to? Let me know down in the comments below 🙂

Shows

This is Us Finale Review: Reflections on what if Kevin was Child-free?

THIS IS US — Season: 2 — Pictured: (l-r) Mackenzie Hancsicsak as Kate, Parker Bates as Kevin, Milo Ventimiglia as Jack, Mandy Moore as Rebecca, Lonnie Chavis as Randall — (Photo by: Maarten de Boer/NBC)


The conclusion of This is Us was on this Tuesday. I have been watching this show since the beginning with my mom. When the show first came out, I was sixteen-years-old. Donald Trump had not yet been sworn into presidency. A worldwide pandemic was unthinkable for most of us.

Back then, my favorite tv-shows were teen dramas. They were filled soap-opera drama and unexpected twists, but despite all the tragedies the characters went through–from their partner cheating on them to a dog eating their father’s heart before the transplant–they all lived in typical suburban happiness afterwards.

People get married, have kids, and get their happy ending. Friends tried to stay close, but they also had their own lives and families. They were supposedly content with this in the end. I can name a few of these shows: Friends, One Tree Hill, How I Met Your Mother, New Girl, and Gossip Girl. I haven’t watched too many shows in my life, but I have noticed they tend to follow a formula.

This is Us is a great show. It is not a perfect show, but it is heartwarming and makes an honest effort at telling the stories of characters with different life experiences and priorities. Of course, it can be overdramatic sometimes. No one gives speeches like Randall, Jack, Rebecca, Kate, and Kevin do, at least not on a weekly basis. Perhaps this was why I was so surprised why the show ended on such a quiet note.

In the last episode, a scene of the triplets are at Rebecca’s funeral is juxtaposed with a flashback of them and Jack and Rebecca on a day when everyone is at home. Randall had a math competition that got cancelled. The family all decides to do something fun; the Pearsons spend the day at the house, and nothing extraordinary happens.

Each of the kids get upset about something that day, and either Jack or Rebecca comforts them. They watch home videos; Jack teaches Randall and Kevin to shave; and the kids play pin the tail on the donkey. Other than Rebecca’s funeral, this episode feels like a typical filler episode of This is Us.

I loved “The Train”— it had the perfect ending. I didn’t mind this episode, but I am a bit disappointed with a few parts. My first thought is that the ending felt rushed. I’m still in denial that it is over, and I wish they’d taken more time to show everyone’s future. Even though I have had this show in my life for six years, I want more. I want to know why Randall wanted to be a senator. And how Kevin and Sophie made their relationship work, or what happened to Kate and Philip.

After all, this series was never about endings. It is about how life keeps going and we have to go with it–making bold moves and decisions about our futures.

Rebecca told her kids to:

Take the risks. Make the big moves. Even if they’re small moves. Forge ahead with your lives in any and every direction that life moves you. I’m asking you to be fearless. Rebecca Pearson

This felt a bit unexpected from her; it gave me whiplash. She loves her kids, and I can imagine that she would want them around as she’s dying. But she does not expect them to “pause” their lives for her. But despite her focus on the future, the final episodes empathize the importance of their family–of the big 3–and those small but beautiful moments together. The writers could have created a conflict between staying close to your family and following your dreams. To me, that feels overdone and boring, but I wouldn’t be surprised.

But they refuse to create a dichotomy and make the triplets choose. They make the big moves. Randall moves to Philadelphia and becomes Senator. Kate goes to grad school and runs the music school with Philip. Kevin starts a business, builds the cabin, and marries his childhood sweetheart.

They also spend time together and grow closer. Kevin takes care of Rebecca in the end, and they all help out. When Kate worries that the triples will drift apart after Rebecca’s funeral, her brothers say that they will drift with her.

Disappointing Parts of the Finale

I didn’t mind the episode as a whole, but I do have a few complaints.

1. Tess and Annie Disappear

In the first scene of the future, the one when we learn they’re going to see Rebecca, we see Tess and Randall together. Tess became a Social Worker. But does this come up again? No.

Tess is totally sidelined. She is Randall and Beth’s oldest biological daughter and she has been on the show since the beginning. She isn’t like Kevin’s kids. She has a character and backstory. She also came out as gay. Tess starts dating Alex, who is non-binary, and we don’t learn what happens to them. Tess is barely in the future episodes, and we aren’t told what happens to her. What is she like in the future? Does she move away or stay close to home? No one knows.

We get to know Deja better. We see how she like science and goes on to be a doctor. We see her fall in love with Malik and marry him and have a baby with him.

We don’t know if Tess ends up with anyone or has a partner. In a show that gives so much attention to straight romances, it would have been nice to see her find happiness with a partner in the end.

We also know nothing about Annie. The writers ignore her so much during the show. What does she do with her life? The writers give us nothing. For a show so focused on new life and different generations, they could have put a bit more effort into showing what happens to the youngest generation of Pearsons. I mean they showed us adult Tess only to ignore her. Come on!

I didn’t care as much about Kevin’s kids. They seemed like they were in the background. It would take more time to introduce them, but I wouldn’t mind seeing more of Kate’s son Jack and his wife and child or her daughter Hailey.

2. The Final Episode Ignored Kevin and sidelined Kate

In the finale episode, we don’t hear much from Kevin. The actor who plays Kevin, Justin Hartley, said he was pretty disappointed:

“So, I go up there — I had no dialogue that day, I was basically an extra.”

He is a big part of the big 3, and his arc is barely present. Kevin’s ending in general was rushed. The writers created all this drama about who he would marry. Who is the love of Kevin Pearson’s life? They asked us. Some readers shrugged. Who cares? They said. But I am kind of invested. I’m a sucker for a good love story, and I like to know who ends up with who. The stakes are high. It is unlikely that all fans will satisfied with the ending; but if a couple well-written, fewer people will complain.

The writers presented a few choices: Madison, the mother of his twins. Cassidy, a war veteran and close friend. And Sophie, his on-and off again girlfriend since childhood and his ex-wife. Of course, there were other options. He could have ended up with someone he met in the last two seasons. Or Sophia Bush, who he had more chemistry with in a single episode than he did with anyone. At least, that is what the internet seems to think. I love Sophia Bush (I was a One Tree Hill fan back in the day), but I can’t picture him with her on this show.

Kevin’s love life was one of the least popular aspects of the show. Viewers have complained that the writers spent too much time on his love life.

But I like Kevin, and feel he deserves a good love story as much as Kate and Randall. I didn’t notice any strong chemistry between him and any of the cast. His story with Cassidy was one of my favorites. They were both adults who had been through a ton of crap, but together, they were a little less alone. Them ending up together could have been nice, but I don’t mind that they ended up as good friends. There are far too few men and women on television who are good friends.

I liked the idea of him and Madison together. They have kids; they’re close friends and parents. They could have been cute. But Kevin wasn’t in love with Madison. He loved her as a friend, for sure, but not romantically. I didn’t love her and Elijah, but she was happy with him.

Kevin and Sophie

So, that leaves Sophie. I’m conflicted about these two. I don’t love childhood friends to lovers stories. Not everyone ends up with their childhood sweetheart, especially after you cheat on them and then they marry someone else. I’m not sure what I would do in Sophie’s situation. Is it worth it to give Kevin another chance? She could move on, but they both are in a better place now. Maybe this time it will work. But I do like them together. Sophie is the one who laughs at Kevin’s jokes and he never got over her. My main complaint is that their reunion and storyline was underdeveloped.

This is Us creates so many great love stories, and Kevin always dreamed about one like his parents. I wish they’d taken a season or two to develop their relationship instead of playing will-they-won’t-they for so long.

Final Thoughts

The other couples were pretty good. I wish Miguel got more screen time. The writers rushed his episode. But I enjoyed what we saw of his backstory, and he and Rebecca were one of my favorite parts of the last season. Philip and Kate’s relationship wasn’t well written, either. The writers gave Toby more care then they did Philip. I don’t blame them, in fact, this worked well. Toby was a part of Kate’s life and always will be—Philip is an outsider–at least for the audience.

The show is not about the Big 3’s future. I’m not sure I would say the show is about Rebecca. It is about their family and Jack; he got the most backstory. I mean, we have his brother, his father, the Vietnam storyline. The writers keep including him in all these flashbacks.

But even though Jack and Rebecca are major characters, I still wouldn’t say what this show is all about. the show is about a family, it is about life, and it is about us.

That is what they call the show. Look at how the writers use characters that aren’t even related to the Pearsons to make a statement about people. Look back at the painting scene; Kevin’s painting is all about the connection between death and life. Rebecca’s death is not the end, no one’s is—and the impact we have on the people around us —for better or for worse—is never finished.

Deja’s Ending

The final episode spent so much time on Deja and Randall, because they needed a way to tell us that life keeps growing. Rebecca’s death and the void that she left in the Pearson family is not a total loss. Showing a new Pearson pregnancy is a simple way not to make this show so sad it’s a message like The Lion King, circle of life sort of stuff. This is nice too see after a death, sure. I like Deja, and I’m happy that she is happy with Malik and pregnant with their child.

Kevin and Kate should have had more screen time though. More episodes would have helped for sure. The series had to handle a difficult task. They had to manage and tell the stories of a large cast of characters, and they had to give development to characters outside the Pearsons. The writers insisted that this cannot be merely a family story.

The show sometimes suffered for this approach. Tess’ story, Annie’s, and Kevin and Kates kids took a backseat. I sort of wish they focused more on the generations.

One of my earliest attempts at a novel was the story of a family. It was a fun story about a bunch of crazy siblings, but I enjoyed it a lot. The decision to make a big statement about life as a whole is a difficult one, but somehow, This is Us managed.

Randall Centered

The writers are good at developing characters, especially Randall’s family. Some of my favorite episodes were about Randall’s father, mother, and Beth.

I don’t mind that the show ended with a focus on Randall. The writers did a good job. They also made a decent attempt at showing the lives of those who exist outside of the nuclear family structure. This show reminds me of Friends and how none of the characters have children the traditional way.

This is Us highlights surrogacy and adoption. It shows a couple who almost marry after getting pregnant, but then decide they work better as friends and co-parents. And that’s great. A lot of times, it can be better that way. The show does not quite explore the idea that not everyone wants a romantic relationship though. They pair everyone off in the end into fairly tidy relationships.

Kevin and Zoe

I found it interesting that Kevin longs for marriage and children, not necessarily because the idea of changing diapers appeals to him, but because he wants to be like his father. Kevin wants to be a good man like Jack. In Jack’s case, being a good man was being a husband and father. Jack was good at both, not perfect, but pretty good. He made a huge impact on his kids lives.

But when I think of Kevin, I can’t help thinking back on Zoe, Beth’s cousin and Kevin’s love interest. Kevin and Zoe had good chemistry and they came together when both were in a somewhat broken place. But they worked together. They communicated; they moved in together.

But they didn’t work out because Zoe didn’t want kids. I have to applaud the writers for showing a woman who didn’t change her mind about wanting kids after adamantly stating she didn’t want them.

Child-Related Storylines on The Big Bang Theory

If we compare this with Friends, where everyone married and had children, and The Big Bang Theory, where Penny had gave birth after adamantly not wanting kids, this is a big step up for respecting women’s choices. I will say that I haven’t watched the entire series of Big Bang Theory, but this sounds awful. Why does she need to change her mind?

The weird thing is that to some of the audience, it doesn’t matter what tv characters want. We have to acknowledge that a lot of TV is full of wish fulfillment; characters do not always follow the rules of character development, realism, or logic. Sometimes the writers keep a couple together or create an ending to please the audience. That is why in Pretty Little Liars, all the characters ended up with their high school sweethearts. And it is why Arthur Conan Doyle brought Sherlock Holmes back from the dead, even though Doyle himself wanted Holmes dead.

Wish-fulfillment isn’t always a bad thing. Stories belong to readers (and viewers) in a sense (to paraphrase John Green), and sometimes the fans have better ideas than the writers.

Fans are a mixed bag—they can bring different perspectives and challenge the norm for better or worse, or they can cling to convention with a death grip. They might beg for stasis and a return to a story’s roots. Fans are like that. A person’s thoughts on children is a rather complex topic in TV and in real life. And but Kevin isn’t a completely autonomous character. His development doesn’t rely only on what he would do or want. Nor is what he wants isn’t always what he needs or what will actually make him happy.

Disclaimer: Not everyone wants children. Not everyone wants to be childfree. Some people are in the middle. I am in the middle at the moment. Those people in the middle might be lukewarm about kids. Some want kids later in life. Some people feel like they should have kids because “it’s what people do.” My reading of Kevin is that he grew up idealizing his family and thinks that he should do it because it is what people do.

Conceiving also isn’t easy for everyone, and not everyone has kids regardless of the strength of their desire for them. There are more childfree people than you’d think, but they are generally unrepresented in TV.

A Compelling Dynamic

With Zoe, the show took a step outside of the nuclear family that the show centers on. So, when I think of Kevin, I can’t help but think of Zoe. They built a relationship and got to know each other as adults. Kevin chose her over kids at first. They had potential to be something great. I can’t help but think about what would have happened if they ended up together. She is a what-if.

I’m not saying it would be perfect. Showing how a couple shouldn’t settle if one partner does not want kids and the other does is a good one to tell. Especially when other shows end up showing one partner to “give in” and agreeing to have kids. You rarely see the reverse.

I’m no expert, but I’m pretty sure that reluctant parents don’t automatically turn into perfect parents. The same is to true with someone who wants kids—it isn’t an easy dream to give up. And it wasn’t a bad storyline. I’m glad it was there as it was. Zoe and Kevin shows how relationships help us grow, even if the person isn’t in our lives forever.

What if he decided that he could be happy with her without children, and that he could still be like his father, a good man, without creating a new generation. What if he realized that fatherhood was something he thought he wanted, but it wasn’t what he needed?

But part of me wonders what Kevin’s life would be like if he chose to live a child-free life with Zoe. I can only imagine what the writers could do if one of the major couples of the show didn’t have kids. Imagine if Zoe and Kevin built their lives together. What if he decided that he could be happy with her without children, and that he could still be like his father, a good man, without creating a new generation. What if he realized that fatherhood was something he thought he wanted, but it wasn’t what he needed?

What a Childfree Kevin could have looked like

If we look at the scenes with Kevin and his kids, they aren’t anything special or memorable. None of his scenes with them are like the scenes we get with Rebecca, Jack, and the Big 3.

I imagine if he was child-free he would still take care of Rebecca when she got older and build his mother’s house. I’d like to think that he would have been there for her just as much, if not more.

Would they have stayed together and settled down in LA? What would Zoe’s career have looked like? Would she stay a photographer? That’s a cool job. I wish we’d learned more about her .

Kevin has been a great uncle to Tess, Annie, and Deja. Maybe we’d get more of a focus on their stories if they went that route. It could also be important for people to see how you can live a full life without kids.

Imagine instead of all this rush to settle down and have a family, he spent the series building something. I loved watching Kevin build his mother’s house and start a business. What else could he have done if the writers stopped all this love life drama and focused on his character development and relationship with someone who had been there with him for years?

Their story could have been great, as flawed and full of ups and downs as Randall and Beth, Jack and Rebecca, and Kate and Philip. The two of them together would put a childfree couple into the center of the Pearson story.

Zoe and This is Us

Zoe is a bit of a foil to Kevin’s family. She grew up with an abusive father, and she is independent. Beth describes her as a “maneater” who goes through different relationships with men. We learn later that this is because of her abuse. But she likes Kevin. She didn’t grow up with Jack and Rebecca, the super parents.

Jack and Rebecca created an amazing family and had a great life together. But not everyone’s lives will look like that. Look at Miguel and Nicky’s stories.

The writers concoct a one-night stand and then bring back his high school ex so that he can get the marriage and babies fantasy that everyone learns is what life should look life. It is what you’re told is what happens; but it doesn’t, always, and often for the better. If Kevin and Zoe stayed together, the show would look very different. But it could be a good thing, a great thing for TV.

Some TV shows examine what it means to have a happy ending or to live the good life. They start with lost characters who don’t understand themselves. End their stories with them a changed person. Often, it ends up one way–with the cast paired in their respective relationships. That happens sometimes, but life isn’t always like that. Sometimes people’s good life is they’re single, in a relationship or marriage, or with children.

My Thoughts

I wrote another article about parenthood a while back. This one is BoJack Horseman Argues Parenthood is a Choice. This topic is one that I consider. I am a woman in my twenties, and as I started my last year of college, I started to think about these things. When I was a student at Grove City College, I remember that marriage and children were part of a lot of people’s futures.

If we look at the US, the stereotype of married with kids in a baby carriage, isn’t the truth for a lot of twenty-somethings and millennials. I had a college professor that would say to us all the time, how people aren’t having kids, how sad it is, etc. Those lectures always made me feel uncomfortable. It is a very binary/hetero view of the world, but it is also useless to bewail. Some people won’t be happy with kids. And it is a terrible idea to tell those people they need to be parents to contribute to society. Those situations can leave kids miserable.

Why does it matter what decisions other people make? I also think that I’ve always felt uncomfortable with people assuming that I would have kids someday. I felt uncomfortable with people assuming that everyone should be a parent–or that life without a marriage and children is the unhappy option

Tying Up Loose Ends

That brings me back to This is Us. So many shows want to end and tie everything up in a bow. He meets the woman of his dreams, they have kids and name the child after their grandparents. Are we scared in a way, of imagining a life where someone is happy without those things?

A feminist reading could be that people don’t think (especially) people should be happy making their own choices, and that they want people to surrender to a higher force, God, or destiny. Yet, they always hope that destiny ends one way– marriage and children. The thing is, you’re not broken if you don’t want or don’t get those things.

Note: In these few weeks, I can’t talk about this without thinking about the recent Roe ruling. Not everyone one needs to be a parent, wants to be one, or should be. Not everyone has the resources: financially and . Even with resources like child support centers or even a helpful family, it isn’t all fixed after giving birth, or after the child is enough to outgrow diapers.

So, that is why I wonder what would have happened if Kevin could have ended up without kids. I mean, he grew up in a world where he couldn’t imagine any other life.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. be nice to see life in all its forms. Say, this is a family with three daughters. This is a couple who fell in love, had kids, divorced, but still cares for each other. And this is someone who is child-free and found happiness. This is Us.

Books

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo Book Review

One of the first things I wanted to do when I got home from college was read something again. I looked at the popular Instagram books; and, because I enjoyed The Love Hypothesis, I decided to listen to the audible audiobook of The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo. This book was written by Taylor Jenkins Reid. Three different people read this one: Alma Cuervo, Robin Miles, and Julia Whelan. I haven’t listened to an audiobook in full in a while, but I enjoyed listening to the narrators. Evelyn’s voice was strong. It fit her personality well. We also get the voice of the reporters who do stories on Evelyn.

So, what is this story even about? I would call it a fictional biography. The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo tells the story of a life, and her life no means a simple one.

I’m going to be honest with you, when I picked this book up, I expected pure escapism. I expected to hear the tales of a wealthy, glamorous, larger-than-life actress. I imagined I’d enter a world like Gossip Girl. The picture in my head wasn’t entirely inaccurate, but it was also reductive. It was unexpectedly sad, though I wouldn’t say it was tragic. Well, it is a little tragic.

Note: I didn’t any research before reading, and I found out later that Reid is cishet and white (like myself). Some of the criticism online makes sense when you realize she’s writing outside her experience. I can’t say whether she portrayed a bisexual Cuban woman accurately, but Reid appears to have done some research.

Summary

We begin with Monique Grant, a reporter for Vivant magazine, who is selected to write a cover story on actress Evelyn Hugo. It sounds like the opportunity of a lifetime. Evelyn refuses to give an interview to almost anyone, and for some reason, she wants Monique to listen to her life story.

Monique has a story of her own. She is a thirty-five-year old reporter who has been working for Vivant, a drama magazine for quite some time. She is always writing fluff pieces and rarely gets to write anything real. I am starting out in my career, but I understand Monique. I’d like to be a writer, but I’m not sure what I want to write yet. I’d like to write something meaningful outside of this blog, but I’m not sure what yet. Monique wrote a piece about assisted suicide that she felt passionate about, but otherwise, her job just hasn’t given her the opportunity. Journalism sounds exciting, finding a story and telling it, but not all stories are going to interest you.

Celebrity gossip is something that would bore me, and I’d imagine years in the field would grow tiring. It is all so. . . fake. But I do find myself reading articles about famous people. But I have to remind myself that even if I read every article and make the right google searches, I still won’t know everything. I cannot figure out everything about a celebrity’s life.

We won’t ever find out know the intimate details of their relationships or their deepest imperfections. Even if they go on trial or host podcasts about their personal lives, we aren’t actually there. The audience feels like they are a part of their lives. They call it a parasocial relationship I believe. I am certainly guilty of feeling like I know a youtuber or famous person.

Monique falls into this a bit, she decides to watch all of Evelyn Hugo’s movies, and she falls a bit in love with her. After reading this book, I am not sure I’m in love with Evelyn, but she certainly fascinates me.

We learn soon that Evelyn wants Monique to publish a whole book about her after Evelyn dies. That’s quite the task.

I like how Reid doesn’t just push Monique to the background. She pushes against Evelyn at times, and she is inspired by her. Monique is half-black and half-white. We learn that her father died when she was a young. Her husband, David, recently moved out of her home. She keeps ignoring his calls. Talking to Hugo makes her bolder, stronger. She makes her realize that she has to fight for what she wants.
They share similarities, the two of them. Evelyn was born Evelyn Elena Herrera. She is Cuban, but she has changed her name to get parts. She dyed her hair blonde.

I was surprised, and saddened to learn that Evelyn’s first marriage was out of desperation rather than love. She was a teenager. The men she interacts with early on are pedophiles. There is no other way to say it. There was one scene where a boy at a grocery shop grooms her and gives her candy for time with him. She is convinced as a child that she should use her body to move ahead in her career and get what she wants. These scenes aren’t explicit, but they’re pretty awful to hear about. Her father also abused her as well. Those are parts of her life that she doesn’t talk about as much. She doesn’t really deal with them or have an opportunity to heal.

She ends up in an abusive second marriage with her husband, Don, as well. Don was different at first. She married him when she was 19, she loved him and he liked for who she was or at least what she was trying to be. She views sex as a transaction until she meets Don. Then it is making love. They started dating for publicity and he was the one guy she liked.

He started hitting her after the marriage. His family was famous and he wanted to be successful like them. He kind of reminds me of toxic masculinity. The writer, Reid, is a feminist, so I imagine she wrote this way on purpose. He struggled to play the tough guy and action heroes early in his career and faced criticism. So, he decided to be super tough at home. He wanted Evelyn to settle down and have children and hurt her when she said no.

I found Don to be a disappointment, and after he leaves, we dive into the pop culture world. Evelyn is always meeting celebrities to grow her image. She gets a role in Father and Daughter.

The world of celebrities is just like you’d expect. Their lives are glamorous and luxurious and fake and petty. The relationships between these people were so petty that I felt sad. Women are expected to compete with each other for roles. She goes out to meals with other women, but they do not become close. Her relationship with Ruby was a difficult one. They were so fake to each other, but they also understood each other. I wish that they’d have become good friends.

She does make one true friend, her producer at Sunset Studios, a man named Harry who says that she is “too young” and “not his type,” and Evelyn and Harry both know that means he is gay.

Celia St. James

Evelyn meets someone new after this. She finally gets to play Jo in Little Women, and she is thrilled. But she is intimidated by her co-star, Celia St. James, who plays Beth. She worries Celia will steal the show from her. They end up getting milkshakes together. Evelyn knows the game. When someone wants to meet her in a public place, they want to take photos of them together. She has no problem using people.

I liked Celia immediately. She always plays the good girl role in movies, like Beth in Little Women. She acts naïve at first, but she is way smarter than she lets on.

Celia is an idealist. She played Beth in Little Women and won an Oscar. Method actress- she became her character. She admires Evelyn’s way of rising to the top and wants to learn from her. She admires how Evelyn manipulates the system to rise to the top. She admires how she is cunning and quick. Celia is pretty quick herself. If I were to place these two in Hogwarts Houses, Evelyn would be a Slytherin. She even sports the green dress. Celia is a Gryffindor. She is an idealist. She hopes for a better, more accepting world. She has deep principles. She generally wants to get to know Evelyn.

Evelyn and Celia fall in love. It turns out that she was the love of Evelyn’s life. We actually learn this pretty early in the story. Their love story is genuine and real, sensual and beautiful. I enjoyed the scenes where they are just talking, getting to know each other. Evelyn opens up to another person like she hasn’t before. Their masks fall with each other. Their romance begins in the 1960s, and almost no one in the industry is “out.”

They disagree on what to do, on how to be together. Evelyn tries more marriages, most of them to hide her relationship with Celia. Their relationships is rocky and difficult.

We learn that Evelyn is bisexual. Celia is a lesbian.

“I’m bisexual. Don’t ignore half of me so you can fit me into a box.”

Monique mistakenly thinks that Evelyn is only attracted to women, but Evelyn calls her out. She falls in love with Don Adler and experiences attraction to men. The book touches on gay rights issues. During the Stonewall riots, they are unable to protest because doing so would distract people from the real issues. They all donate to help during the AIDS crisis, and Evelyn donates to LGBTQ+ causes her entire life.

I loved how Evelyn maintains that Celia is the love of her life. They have a soulmate energy. At one point in the book, she marries Harry, her producer, and she marries a man named John. John and Harry are in love and Celia and Evelyn are in love. They are each other’s bards. But they all develop into a family who deeply care about each other. The world that Evelyn lives in feels so fake. There are no scenes of acting, and Evelyn says that she really became an actress to prove herself. Celia is a good actress. She is a method actor, she becomes her character and seems to like the art of acting more than Evelyn.

I feel like Evelyn spent so much time trying to make it in the world that she didn’t really get to know others or herself as much as she could have. For instance, she feels out of touch with her Cuban identity. She stops speaking Spanish and dyes her hair. She does become close to a Cuban maid named Louisa, and they form a years-long bond.

Evelyn is confident in her abilities, but she still ties much of her talent to her looks and struggles a bit to see herself as a good actress.

“What good did I have other than to be beautiful.”

My favorite scenes are probably the ones between Evelyn, Celia, Harry, and John. It is the one time when she is part of a family. They are an unconventional family, and there is something beautiful about it. Harry and Evelyn end up having a baby together because they both want a child.

I wasn’t expecting a child in this story, but it works. Their daughter, Connor, is a great addition. Their relationship is entirely platonic, and it is beautiful. I loved the scenes of them together raising Connor and taking her to the park. Harry went through so much.

“But if you have to go, then go. Go if it hurts. Go if it’s time. Just go knowing you were loved, that I will never forget you, that you will live in everything Connor and I do. Go knowing I love you purely, Harry, that you were an amazing father. Go knowing I told you all my secrets. Because you were my best friend.”

You already know how many husbands she will have, so it is a bit tiring waiting until the last one comes.

I feel like the ending was a little rushed. There aren’t many scenes with her and Connor, and her daughter goes from a wild teenager to a Stanford graduate pretty quickly. I get that Blair Waldorf characters exist in real life, but it seemed like all it took was a single conversation, dinner promise, and decent father figure to set things right. I appreciate the beauty of motherhood and every scene they had together, but that plot felt incredibly rushed. I get that Evelyn would want to make her daughter look good for the story, but her plot (and her daughter dying) felt a bit cliché.

I honestly was fascinated by the idea of Evelyn’s biography. The story focused one on moments in time that Evelyn remembered and less on the everyday trials of an actress. I wish we’d seen more acting scenes, but I liked the format a lot. I liked seeing Monique’s reactions to Evelyn. I liked her subplot with David. I’m not sure about her subplot with her father though. I feel like this story didn’t need another twist.

But Evelyn was a good character. She was witty and honest; immoral and a rare example of morality in Hollywood; and she wasn’t good or necessarily bad. I found myself sympathizing with her, even after the plot twist. I liked almost all of the characters, and I disliked the men I wasn’t supposed to like. I do think she could have been written better, all the characters could have been. My biggest problem is the lack of nuance and the author’s refusal to leave the reader with any lasting questions. A reviewer on Goodreads said it better than me. On June 14th, 2020, a book reviewer and blog youtuber named Chan commented:

“she doesn’t want the reader to form their own opinions, she’s rather just hold your hand to the “point.”

I didn’t finish this book with many questions. I finished it in awe. I was captivated the entire time that I was reading. I didn’t want to stop until I knew how Evelyn’s story ended. But when I finished, I didn’t have any meaningful questions. My only one was maybe, what happens to Monique?

“she doesn’t want the reader to form their own opinions, she’s rather just hold your hand to the “point.”

I feel like some of the romantic lines were a bit dramatic, and so were Evelyn’s pieces of advice. I might have had a different experience if I read the book instead of listened to it. I didn’t remember any of the specific lines very well, but I still feel like it was good.

There was one thing I did find rather profound. Evelyn notes how she always went after what she wanted; she chased after happiness and grabbed it. Meanwhile, other people seemed to fall into happiness in life. She wonders which is better. I feel like my life has been a mix of both. I have ended up in situations and places that I didn’t choose. I was fortunate enough to know the right people at the right time. But I also go after what I want when I see it. I’m also pretty passive sometimes. I want something, but I hesitate, like Evelyn warns against. I feel like it depends on the circumstance, but I do feel like Evelyn spent so much of her life (after becoming rich and famous) trying to prove herself. In a way, it was worth it for her. She didn’t get a perfect happy ending, but she ended up with the love of her life and many joys.

I do admire how Reid takes a stance with her writing. The sexism and terrible men are called out and Evelyn wouldn’t need seven husbands if she could marry the woman she loves instead. Meanwhile, Hollywood seems to excuse anything other than being LGBTQ+. Adultery, swinging, abuse, and pretty much anything else is accepted, used for clicks, and brushed under the rug. She isn’t afraid to call out the Reagan administration and show how hard it was for LGBTQ+ people during that time. Evelyn herself reflects on what it is like to feel like a part of the LGBTQ+ community, and how she feels connected even though she is closeted and does not attend the protests.

Another thing I want to mention. Celia’s code. Celia is a sort of moral center for Evelyn, even though Evelyn fails to meet that code several times. Celia wants Evelyn to be honest with her, to remain loyal to her, and she just wants to be with the woman she loves. Evelyn’s Vegas marriage, for instance, hurt Celia. It makes you want the world to be like Celia sees it. All of Hollywood just feels so fake. It makes me never want to be famous. I wouldn’t trade lives with Evelyn Hugo for anything.

Have you read The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo? Let me know what you think down in the comments below!

Shows

Stranger Things Season Four is Awesome! Episode 1 Review

I watched the first episode of Stranger Things Season 4, and I am so happy. The feels are intense, everyone. My heart warmed, I felt cold, I wanted to cry. The first episode was awesome. All of my favorite characters are back and (sometimes) better than ever, and I am all here for it.

I watched the first episode of Stranger Things Season 4, and I am so happy. The feels are intense, everyone. My heart warmed, I felt cold, I wanted to cry. The first episode was awesome. All of my favorite characters are back and (sometimes) better than ever, and I am all here for it. We also get to see new characters like Chrissy and Eddie and a return of old, irritating ones like Dr. Brenner. It is great. The first episode drew me back into this world that I haven’t seen in the past year.

All of my feelings inspired me to write a blog post giving my reaction, a detailed analysis, and a few of my predictions for future episodes. The show is pretty good at storytelling, and the characters are just likable people. So, why not.

As of today, I have only watched the first three seasons of the show and this episode. I have been watching Stranger Things since the release; I adore this show and all of the characters, and I am super excited for what comes next.

Let’s Get Into the Review

One of the first shots is of the spokes of a bicycle. A paper boy drives down the street on a green, spring day. Classic Stranger Things aesthetic. I am hype already.

The next shots are of a hot tea kettle and a crossword puzzle–sounds like a wonderful morning. Wow, he is timing the crossword puzzle; this is impressive. Oh this is Brenner, I know him by the tie and the hair. I have the creeps already. Oh! We’re back in the lab. I am looking forward to learning more about the other kids with powers. I see number 10! I wonder if this is a flashback, he looks younger than El.

Brenner is doing the brain scan again and drawing shapes. Brenner draws a cow that looks like a dog. He introduces a little humor here. It is kind of a sweet moment; it almost makes me sympathize with Brenner. Almost.

10 doesn’t look okay. Neither do the other kids. What happened here? This kid can’t be El. It can’t be her, can it? I can’t tell. This scene was hard to watch.

The title is the “Hellfire Club,”–which sounds dark already. El starts writing a letter. I like the background music.

El’s Letter to Mike

“Dear Mike. Today is Day 185–feels more like ten years. Joyce says time is funny like that. Emotions can make it speed up or slow down. We are all time travelers if you think about it.”

I feel like the writers are nodding to us. It feels like we have been waiting forever for the next season of Stranger Things. I’m not sure if I’d say it feels like ten years, but it has been a long time. Especially after the pandemic. Time seemed like it was going so slow then, but now I can’t believe how much time has passed. I agree with El here. I feel like time goes slower when I am bored or unhappy.

When I was in school, the school year always felt so slow before summer vacation. In college, the times when I was having fun with friends and enjoying classes, time went so quickly. The semesters felt very short. I like being busy, but I wish that time would slow down a little.

I am not sure I ever felt like a time traveler. People cannot go back in time in real life as far as I know. Although sometimes when I am with friends or family; life resumes to a sort of normal. It feels like I’m going back in time or going back to a comfortable place. People have changed and so have I, but the comfort remains. Maybe that is what El means.

Joyce is in Sales

In the next scene, we learn Joyce works in sales. She works at home. I feel like this is a nod to how so many people have worked from home during the pandemic. Working independently has its perks–Joyce says she likes the freedom. But it can be stressful for sure–especially talking to people on the phone all day. I feel like you are not as free as you think when you are answering calls. You might think you have a free moment when you get another call from a customer.

My dad works in a field where he calls people often, and it can be stressful a times. My friend, P. A. Wilson, works in customer service, and she has told me some funny stories about the calls she receives. I feel like it wouldn’t be too bad if you only had to answer calls during a window of time. With sales jobs, sometimes it is like that, but sometimes you have to be on call lot. I am guessing that Joyce does not have set hours, so she probably has to deal with calls at all times of the day. Poor Joyce.

Does Will Like Mike?

I like listening to El reading her letter in her head. She sounds slightly awkward, but she has improved quite a bit. She has become better at expressing herself in writing and verbally, and she is thinking about other people’s perspectives, but she misses some of the social cues that her peers have already picked up.

She notes that Will is painting and that he seems different. He will not show El his painting. It might be because he likes a girl. She thinks that he likes someone. El had a crush on Mike, so she recognizes how someone acts when they have a crush. Could Will like a boy? Maybe he has a crush on Mike. This is a possibility, especially since he’s hiding his feelings from El.

Will Jonathan and Nancy Stay Together?

Jonathan is smoking weed with his friends. I laughed at El’s narration. I can picture Jonathan as a stoner based on his general demeanor, so I am not entirely surprised. I guess the writers are trying to show all the high school groups. This scene is funny, but it has me worried for Jonathan. He seems nervous about the future, and he attempting to numb those feelings.

I can’t blame him for feeling anxious. I remember my senior year of high school was stressful–applying for colleges and hoping that I could get into the places I wanted to attend. Deciding on a college was stressful too. Life is kind of like that now, I’m applying for jobs and hoping for a response. It is a lot, especially when finances are involved.

I remember in the last season Jonathan was worried about whether or not he could pay for college. That is very understandable. I am a bit worried for him. He might not be my favorite character, but he seemed to be doing well in the last season. He had that job with the paper as a high schooler. We will see.

I like how El says her grammar is “getting good now also.” The phrase sounds awkward, but she is trying her best. After all El has been through, it is nice to see her living a fairly normal life.

El Faces a Bully and School Life

Will seems nervous walking through the halls. Oh poor El. It looks like her and Will are outsiders. She’s excited for Spring Break mostly because she gets to see Mike. . . awww. El is so sweet. I bet she misses him a lot and vice versa. These two are sweet.

Hellfire is the replacement for DnD club. Okay. I’m not sure I like this change.

Omg. Susie is helping Dustin change his grades. I am glad these two are still together. But no!

Next, I get to see Steve and Robin. I love these two and how we dive into a normal conversation between them. No warning, no awkwardness, just friends making fun of each other. Robin has a crush on a girl named Vickie. I love this. Steve is rambling about his dating experiences. Apparently he is working at the video store. And Robin is putting on makeup to impress a girl she likes. Watching Steve tell her to go for her crush is so sweet. Robin says asking out a girl isn’t as easy as it is for Steve. I can only imagine, especially in the 1980s.

“People who like boobies, Robin.”

Lol. I love how they bond over both liking girls.

Dustin and Mike are arguing about who has the best gf. Love this.

Lucas plays basketball and it looks like there is some tension between him and Max.

The football guy is giving a speech.

“We need something to believe in” and that is basketball? Oh, they’re talking about the kids they lost. This is sad to watch. This school has lost a lot of kids to the Upside Down.

The Hellfire Club vs the Basketball Team

Oh man, there is drama with Lucas. He wants to be popular. Honestly, I cannot blame him. The popular kids seem nice, and not being unpopular sounds nice. He likes playing basketball and seems to get along with these guys, so of course he wants to hang out with the team after the game. Lucas has been through a lot.

He is being reasonable here. He can hang out with the basketball team and go to the championship game and still be friends with Mike, Dustin, Will, and Max. I have never liked how on these shows they make it seem like you have to choose. DnD does not need to be on the same night. Switching time seems like a no-brainer.

The answer to any question that sounds amazing. . . Joyce is good at sales. I love how she’s worried about her son’s college acceptance letters.

El Presents Her Diorama and Drama Ensues

Okay, so the way this girl, Angela apparently, says “disabilities” makes me uncomfortable. She sounds patronizing. She reminds me of one of those people who look down and make fun of people with disabilities, but then say they’re “inspiring” for going through life and accomplishing things. When Jane goes up to speak, Angela looks so judgmental already. I have a feeling this isn’t going to go well. A girl plays footsie with Will in the middle of a presentation, he looks so awkward. Poor Will.

Oh El. This girl is awful. “Clarity on the rules of the assignment” that is total BS. I get that a diorama isn’t a typical school project, but can you just not? Her teacher approved the project ,and El isn’t doing a bad job speaking in front of a bunch of her high schoolers. Public speaking terrified me when I was her age, and I struggled with it in college too. I got better over time though. She’s doing fine. And she cares more about Hopper and put more effort into that diorama than you did with your PowerPoint, Angela. Ugh.

Max visits the School Therapist

I like the music that plays in the hallway. Looks like Max is struggling. She is trying to be honest with the school therapist. Her home life is slightly better without her father, but she still processing a a lot. Her therapist is asking questions, and it isn’t easy for her to just open up.

Max has a hard life. Her stepfather was abusive from what we’ve seen, and the Upside Down and her brother’s death made life a lot messier. It is harder for her to connect with her friends, especially since they seem pretty unscathed. They are able to move on easily, but they also haven’t gone through loss the way she has. I can only imagine what she is going through. I am glad that the writers decided to acknowledge that she went through is not easy; it messes with her mental health in pretty much every area of life.

I like how Lucas is trying. He wants to help her find something that she cares about like he does with basketball. Lucas knows something is up. Max isn’t herself. She broke up with him, oh. She thinks he’s trying to get back together. I feel like no matter what he says, Max isn’t up to talk to him.

Now, back to the Hellfire

The leader of the Hellfire Club is pure chaos. He is kind of charming. I am not sure if he is controlling or sympathetic or both.

“You want to postpone the Cult of Vecna.”

Um, it is a club. I would run, personally. I have no interest in joining any cults, thank you. Maybe Mike and Justin should not do this club, but I like that Mike and Dustin are in a new club with new friends. It is good to branch out and meet new people outside of your circle; I feel like we’ve been dropped into their new lives, and it feels natural. I’m happy for them.

Next, Murray, the weird dude, calls Joyce. Murray does Karate. That is so awesome. And he is pouring vodka. So many of the things he is doing I do not need to see. Watching Murray undress for a bath as he undresses the doll is so awkward. . .for the audience. Joyce doesn’t see this.

Jonathan and Nancy Appreciate Each Other’s Differences

Jonathan does not look okay. “Who the hell works over spring break, man?” His friend asks. I held a few seasonal jobs throughout high school and college. I worked during the summer and winter breaks and rarely worked during spring break, mostly because it was so short and I usually had homework and papers to work one over break anyway. Not that those always got done, but still. There isn’t much time to work over spring break.

I like how they switch back and forth between Nancy and Jonathan talking with other people about their relationship. It would be more accurate to say other people are questioning them. I like how they understand each other and appreciate each other’s passions even though they are in different places in life.

DnD Recruitment

The boys are asking everyone about DnD. I feel like Nancy would be awesome at hellfire.

“You’re just jealous that you have another older male friend”

I love Dustin and Steve. And watching Max mess with Dustin. I love this scene too.

“My mom says that game promotes Satanism and animal cruelty”

“That’s just media propaganda.”

“60 minutes begs to differ.”

Oh they’re recruiting middle schoolers. Let’s go.

The Kids Are Not Alright

Here’s Chrissy. She sees spiders come out of a clock. But they’re imaginary. Wow! Is she connected to the Upside Down or the Russian project to recreate the upside down? I hope so. That’d be dope. Poor Chrissy. She’s going to the DnD leader for drugs, and he is trying to be sweet. She’s so lost and scared.

This guy, Eddie is his name, is so charming and nice. The best drug dealer I’ve seen on TV. Chrissy is cute and sweet. She is pretty quiet, and a little shy or maybe just scared of the monsters. She laughs at him though, when he reminisces about the middle school talent show. She scared of the things she sees, but she trusts Eddie. Okay, I low-key ship this.

Quotes:

“You’re not what I thought what you’d be like”

Chrissy

“You’re not what I thought what you’d be like”

And she wants something stronger. Oh man, she’s going through a lot of deep shit.

Aww, El. That would be tough. This is her first time in school ever; she has to adjust and learn academically and socially. Oh good, her teacher realizes Angela is being a bully. Will being there for her is aww; he’s a good brother.

Why is this man still shirtless? I like Joyce’s gloves, they have cows on them. I know this isn’t entirely relevant, but they’re cute. The doll has a serial-killer letters and looks like it is from Hopper.

The Big Game TM (Hellfire and Basketball)

Why is Steve taking his date to a high school football game? Fair enough I guess. I have a feeling these two are not a match. I’m not jealous. . . well, maybe a little.

Tammy Thompson omg!! I love the look Steve and Robin give each other. Her performance was so cringe. I love Steve Harrington so much. He’s got great hair. And it looks like the girl next to Robin is her crush. She has short red hair. She is cute.

Aww, she seemed so hopeful when Robin mentioned that she used to have a crush on Tammy. But Robin switches her words immediately. I can’t blame her, but it is a bit sad to see. If her old crush was a guy, she wouldn’t have to worry about what someone would think about it.

But aww, it seems like this girl might like Robin too. I ship these two already.

It looks like Steve’s date isn’t going to work out. He needs a girl who can recognize off-key performances. Or maybe she is just being nice? Still, I get the feeling this date will be their last.

Okay, Erica wearing the American flag is so random, but it is so iconic. I love this so much. I like the juxtaposition between the Hellfire Club’s game and the basketball game; both groups experience the same amount of tension and uncertainty. Erica is hilarious. I wish I had her confidence in middle schooler, this girl isn’t messing around.

Dustin’s “Never tell me the odds” lines up so well with “just get me the ball.”

I like the camera angle on Lucas’ foot swerving and watching Erica roll the dice. I remember going to high school football games with my college band and watching basketball games. When the game is close, and it feels like everyone is in this together. It is a unique feeling. I like feeling connected to everyone like that.

Max is listening to the game on her radio, aww. She’s cleaning up after her mom, looks like her mom was drinking. Poor Max. I don’t remember her having a dog, he looks like a sweet dog.

The Final Ten Minutes

*I paused the scene and missed out on a big part. I watched it later that day and. . .oh man.*

Chrissy going into the D&D leader’s house looks so ominous. I am not sure I trust him or not. Okay, he’s being sweet. Giving her drugs, but he is sweet. I like this guy more than I thought I would. He strums his guitar and calls it beautiful; why is this adorable?

Chrissy looks so scared, on edge. I wonder if she has always been this quiet or if it is just the situation. It could be cool to have a shy cheerleader character. D&D guy is Eddie. Oh her mother has a monster face. Watching her sewing freaked me out. I wish I could sew better. Chrissy! No way should she open the door. When Eddie says gotcha it got me.

“Peaceful bliss just moments away.”

Eddie

Why is this guy so sweet and strange? Her Dad’s closed mouth is so scary. This dinner feast looks familiar, like the scene with Billy at dinner in season 3. Oh, this is all in her mind. It seems so real. I’m confused and scared for her. Geez. This monster is so dark. I have goosebumps. He looks like he is from Pirates of the Caribbean a little bit. He’s got those scars and that gushy face.

“It is time for your suffering to end.”

Monster-Thing

Oh, but not like this. No. No. Her jaw breaking makes me cringe. She is so dead. The screen goes to credits. Dang. I did not expect them to kill a character in the first episode. You’re killing me, Stranger Things. Chrissy was cool.

Final Thoughts and Theories

Well, we’re going on a trip here. But to quote Melanie Martinez’s Carnival, “You’ve already bought a ticket and there’s no turning back now.”

I am going to keep watching this show, because I adore these characters. I hope the writers don’t hurt them too much. I’ll see. I have a feeling that we won’t see Hopper anytime soon. I hope that all the kids will reunite soon, but Spring Break might not be for another episode or so.

I’m not sure how the kids will react to hearing about Chrissy’s death. They’ll definitely hear about it from Eddie, but will they suspect that it is from the Upside Down or Russia? I’m not sure. I wonder what will happen with Jonathan and Nancy. I don’t ship them that much, so I don’t care if they break up. Yep, I said that. I am looking forward to seeing the group reunite again.

I’m guessing that the writers will keep them fairly separate, and then group up in the end. I liked seeing Will and El bond in this episode. It would be nice to have another Jonathan and Will scene, or another scene with Will, Jonathan, and El and Joyce. I like Joyce’s relationship with El so far, even though she is mostly on the phone for work.

Have you seen Stranger Things? What did you think of the first episode of the new season?

I had a lot of fun writing this analysis, and I am thinking of writing more. Let me know if this was something you liked–and if so, if you’d be interested in seeing more reactions to other shows, books, or poems.

Thanks all!

Ashley