TV Review: Awkward. (5×11-5×12) “The Graduates” and “Holding On and Letting Go”

tumblr_nxo92rmzCQ1s9w508o1_500Graduation day on Awkward. begins at the senior breakfast, where Val immediately chucks Sadie out as part of her punishment. This is the last straw for Sadie, who starts throwing food everywhere and railing against Val and the entire student body. Matty feels responsible, as it was his flask that got Sadie booted in the first place. Jenna explains the situation to Val, assuming that Val will allow Sadie to walk, like the naive person she’s always been. Val then bans Matty from walking.

Matty isn’t too bummed–after all, he was drinking at prom, and this is the price he has to pay. What a crazy mature sentiment, Matty! If Matty isn’t walking, then Jenna’s not walking. She throws her dreams of the perfect graduation in the garbage, instead rallying her fellow students: if Sadie doesn’t walk, none of them should walk. At first people hesitate, thinking of her bitchiness, but then they appreciate her for her honesty. They stand up and nearly pull a “Donna Martin Graduates,” only they admit to drinking rather than bolstering their support. Val allows Matty to walk, but due to Sadie’s fit that morning, she is still banned.

Matty won’t walk without Sadie, a stance that now infuriates Jenna–how dare he choose Sadie over her! Matty heads off Jenna’s rage early on, explaining that he never would have gone after Jenna if not for Sadie.

Over at Sadie’s house, Ally introduces Jenna’s arrival: “Lil’ Bitch is here for your moody brat convention.” That’s it, that’s the best part of the episode. In the face of Sadie’s vitriol, Jenna thanks her for forcing her to stand up for herself and making her a stronger person. I’m surprised and impressed that Jenna is thanking her for just about anything other than Matty–for someone who hasn’t passed the Bechdel Test in awhile, this was big. Sadie appears to be ignore her, and kicks her out.

Graduation: Tamara introduces the class gift, turning accidentally labeling their bench “The Ass of 2015” into a great speech about the importance of making mistakes and learning. Sadie rolls up with Lissa, Ally, and those two hipsters whose names I will never learn. She’s broadcasting her valedictorian speech with the help of the hipsters’ motorized plane thing. Her speech is pretty good, if a little abrasive–it’s all about how in college, they can tell their own stories and how life isn’t fair, so you have to rely on yourself. “Be the hero of your own goddamn story…You’re welcome,” she says, providing the perfect punctuation to her speech.

Val doesn’t care about Sadie’s appearance, as long as she doesn’t screw up her special day. “I now pronounce this graduation a weduation,” she says, stripping off the robes to reveal a ridiculous wedding dress. She introduces Lacey as the minister and Jenna as her maid of honor. Jenna’s having difficulty focusing, as Matty just told her he actually has to leave for Berkeley’s soccer camp in a day in a half. Looks like their summer has been cut short!

Graduation night brings us to a setting that looks a lot like the last scene in Grease–i.e., a carnival. Jenna is committed to having an entire relationship with Matty in one night, packing as much crap in as possible so that they don’t have to talk about their impending geographical separation. Matty insists on the conversation, so they make some realizations: while neither wants to break up, the odds that their breaks will line up and allow them to be in the same place at the same time is slim. Things were easier before they knew that they loved each other.

Meanwhile, Tamara is trying to cling onto the last dregs of high school life by hoarding every bit of memorabilia she can. She and Jake go to the hipsters’ rave under the bleachers, where they tell Jake his money is no good with them. They wouldn’t feel right, considering the peak time in Jake’s life is ending. To top off Jake’s night, someone vomits on his jacket, forcing him to throw it away. The shedding of his jacket prompts Tamara to get rid of her high school crap. They hug it out.

Lissa pulled a Parent Trap on Sadie and Sergio, telling each of them that they said they were hurting and wanted to tell each other something. They bicker and get mad at first, but make up in the end.

Jenna, devastated at the idea of not being with Matty, breaks up with him to make it easier on both of them later on. Both crying, the two kiss and separate. In the morning, Val visits Jenna with one last actually decent piece of advice: to trust her heart. She sprints over to Matty’s, saying that she has no idea how, but she wants to make it work. She goes along with him to Berkeley, having a fun adventure before they can’t see each other for awhile. Jenna closes the episode with one last monologue: “We jumped through too many hoops to let a little thing like distance come between us. We wouldn’t let it! Deep down, we knew that love would conquer all. Of course, that’s not quite what happened…” Dun dun dunnnn. And now, to wait until 2016 for the final half season of Awkward.!

For all I’ve complained about Awkward. for the past two years, I have to say that they did a really good job with the last few episodes of season 5A. They handled the relationship between Sadie and Jenna well; I truly appreciated that Jenna thanked her for making her a stronger person, rather than just thanking her for Matty. The high school milestones were well represented and gave the characters something to concentrate on, rather than the same recycled problems. I’m actually very curious to see how they handle the first summer back from college next year.

Episode Rating: 9/10

Bri is a 25-year-old born and raised in the swamps of Jersey. Just kidding, she lives at least twenty minutes from those swamps. She’s a publishing professional that moonlights as a writer. She enjoys going to concerts (anything from Rooney to Springsteen to NKOTBSB), roadtripping, and complaining that she truly belongs in the 1950’s, the 1920′s, or the 1980′s depending on her mood. She definitely owns more books than she should and reads every chance she gets. If you stop hearing from her, it’s because the book piles have fallen over and smothered her to death in the night. You can contact her at bri@theyoungfolks.com. Twitter: @bri_lockhart