“Surprise!” – Awkward.

Screen Shot 2013-10-28 at 9.09.31 PMA surprisingly decent return from MTV’s Awkward., and one which certainly surprised us. During the first half of the season – which wound up for the show’s mid-season break back in early June – we weren’t always its biggest fans. We had a lot of problems with it. Most of them were Jenna. Others were predictability, a lack of the show’s intrinsic humor, too much focus on Tamara as a creator of new words and not enough focus on her as a character (with the writers focusing a little too much on Matty and Jenna), and too much of the Asian Mafia.

This first episode back rectified a lot of those issues, though whether the fixes are temporary or permanent remains to be seen. We’ve seen reprieves before, but they’ve always been brief. Whether or not the writers can maintain this uptick in quality is something we’ll have to figure out as the season progresses. But, for now, we’re hopeful.

The episode showed some of its old humor, focusing as much on the laughs – Lacey trying to keep Jenna’s surprise birthday party a surprise, and the ever-horrible biting wit of our favorite teacher of all time, Mr Hart – as on Jenna’s status as an adulterer. The approach to the Mafia made a huge difference to the return of Awkward.’s humor. Initially a comedic element, the Mafia had, in the last half-season, devolved into a source of unnecessary mystery and intrigue, removing a lot of the laughs that came naturally from it. Under Ming’s rule, however, the Mafia has returned to its former light-hearted status. Any potential for discord was quashed early on, as Fred Wu’s initial discomfort with how power mad Ming has become disappeared in the face of his love for her. This should still bring some conflict as the season continues, however. We’re not sure how long he will last as her dress up doll.

The ‘Tamara issue’ (though it was never really confined to her) was also rectified with this returning episode. The aforementioned forays into the world of the Asian Mafia, as well as Tamara’s reluctance to keep secrets for Jenna, showed a renewed willingness to occasionally allow the narrative to stray away from the main character. Which is healthy. And stopped us from getting too bored of Jenna’s life.

As for predictability, that hasn’t become any less of a problem. From the moment Lacey announced that she was holding a surprise party for her daughter, we could envisage the final moments with indescribable clarity. And yet we weren’t really disappointed to be right. Far from wanting to be surprised ourselves, we were just pleased to see that Jenna and Collin was out in the open. We were tiring of Matty. He’s a cutie, and we’ll always love him, but the storylines were getting a little played out. Collin’s a better fit for Jenna, and we’re excited for something new.

What comes next should be interesting. Promos for this half of the season show a drastically different Jenna. Watching that transformation will make a nice change from the same old Jenna. Hopefully the writers can maintain this early resurgence of energy. – K

Quoteworthy: “Grow some balls. No one gets anywhere in life taking crap.” – Mr Hart, with a foreshadowing of things to come?

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