Two episodes were provided prior to broadcast.
Piggybacking on the premiere of the fifth and final season of Awkward, MTV’s Faking It continues the effervescent descent into high school idiosyncrasies for which the network’s teenage-aimed sitcoms have become known. The impressive thing about the first two episodes of the last half of the sophomore season of Faking It (which is obviously not the way MTV has broken up and scheduled the show) is that it has slowly begun to surpass its sister series as the incisive parody of high school minutiae that Awkward was in its hay day.
Picking up two weeks after last year’s finale, the season 2B premiere dumps its coterie of amusing characters into a new, scary version of Hester High. The show’s crushingly liberal nexus of plots and characters is undergoing a bit of a face lift, thanks to a few cascading events from earlier episodes that reign in a new, stern principal at the school. Not only a humorous twist on Hester’s forward-thinking agenda, but a necessary strangle on the characters, who have nearly all used the high school’s laissez-faire attitude to their advantage and must now figure out how to navigate a world without Advanced Knitting and vegetable garden-less football fields.
But, of course, where the show still shines most is in the presentation of the struggling friendship of Karma (Katie Stevens) and Amy (Rita Volk). Still vying for a return to normalcy after her one-night-stand with Liam (Gregg Sulkin), Volk’s passive attempts at reconciliation for fear of a bigger spat perfectly represent the turbulent fears of royally pissing off someone you love, but she never for a second feels weak or feeble. Stevens is great as the flower child turned scorned lover Karma, presenting a facade of normalcy to everyone around her with a scary edge in her voice that betrays her true emotions.
Of course, this is a sitcom, so a lot of the big issues are either swept under the rug for the time being, or outright tied up by the end of the first two episodes. Faking It has really given stories time to move and breathe in the past, though, so I’m allowing the writers the benefit of the doubt in giving viewers temporary reprieves from outright friendship ending fights (which would bring down the series anyway), knowing full well a storm of drama is brewing for the last half of season two’s stretch.
The show’s side characters get a good bit to do in the premiere as well, with Shane (Michael J. Willett) and Lauren (Bailey De Young) both embracing their stereotypical archetypes with bear hugs and playing them so well they kind of begin to subvert them. Young’s queen-bee-with-a-secret Lauren has a bit less to do than Willett in the first two episodes, but she still makes for a humorous, dynamic mean girl villain that isn’t exactly a villain anymore.
Its Willett’s Shane that’s perhaps grown the most since his endearing, but cardboard-thin GBF status in the first season. He’s finally getting stories that don’t need his sexuality to be present front-and-center, and his eternal clash with Lauren – especially in the fight for class president – is sure to provide the series with an abundance of juicy moments moving forward. But, of course, he’s still available for perfect scene-ending bon mots and the always-chuckle-worthy bleeped cursing.
Actually, there’s a big leaning on certain four-letter words in season 2B that begin to grow less shocking the more they’re used. There’s two camps that cursing in sitcoms can go: the Parks and Recreation route where it happens a handful of times in the series’ entire run, and becomes instantly classic, or it’s Veep. While sometimes it can be funny to hear teenagers bleeped like sailors, it’s also a feeble crutch to make weaker jokes land stronger, and causes the whole scene the joke was implanted in to feel stale in the end.
But even with its scant problems, Faking It still feels fresh and continues to avoid any sort of sophomore slump in the second half of season two. The show is just too self-confident and downright delightful to watch, able to switch from light-and-airy to teary-eyed conversations in a snap and provide fulfilling arcs for nearly all of its cast (unfortunately, Liam’s internship at the worst named fictional company of all time “Skwerkel” already feels protracted). Most notable is the impressive restructuring and improvements the writers has made from its high-concept premise into a structurally sound and emotionally relevant comedy/drama. Faking It faked it for a while, much like its faux-lesbian lead duo. Thankfully now, especially in the face of Awkward‘s steady decline into the ether, it’s made it.
Faking It is still a humorous nexus of forward-thinking, silver-tongued teenagers, but the second half of season two also cements the show as something else: a damn good ensemble sitcom.