David, I’m with you on the pussy-footing football game and the preachy set-up for it. I wouldn’t have thought it possible that I could resent the presence of the hallowed D’Angelo Barksdale on the screen. (Hanna, you called this one when you predicted that Vince wouldn’t be the only actor from The Wire this season.) But this Elden variation on the D’Angelo theme shouldn’t have made it out of the writer’s room. We’ve seen these clueless white people and the sharp-talking black people who enlighten them so many times before, and the more we learn about the tangle of race and class in this country, with all its complications, the less patience I have for the oversimplification.
In The Wire, we were blessed with the Deacon. He helped the cops set up Hamsterdam (the amnesty zone for drug dealers that got them off the corners) without wasting his time mocking and scolding the white folks, and it mattered, too, that the police commander he was working with, Bunny Colvin, was black. If the Deacon showed up in Dillon, he’d raise an eyebrow at Elden and then get those park lights turned on. And in the football game, as you say, David, the writers fed us the feel-good moment in which Eric picks out an up-and-coming middle-schooler to recruit instead of giving us the raw emotion of abandoned or thuggish poor kids encountering their slightly better-off peers. The only thing to be said for this plot line is that Vince seems genuinely torn between his worlds. If that’s a familiar trope, too, at least it’s one that’s tied up with jangly, uncertain adolescence, a mode this show does so well.
On to abortion. I’m not sure yet whether to applaud or complain about the writers’ handling of this—I imagine we’ll get to revisit this one in the coming weeks. Hanna, you’re right that the show has been fabulous about teenage sex. (Matt and Julie’s night camping is another gem.) And I loved the image of Becky perched on the truck under the grey sky, looking down at Luke, her unlikely partner in prospective parenthood. But I’m not sure either the acting or the writing is carrying the day here. The way Becky talks to Luke generally bothers me—it feels clipped and flat, not like the real teenage-speak the show usually spoils us with. Also, forgive me for the literalism, but couldn’t we have seen them at least kiss before the pregnancy tests littered the bathroom? And what have we learned about Luke so far that has set us up for the idea that his discomfort “with making the baby go away” would translate into anything more than talk? If there is riveting drama to come on this one, it will be on the Becky-Tim side of the triangle, I think, which has been developed with much more care.
Habitat for Humanity: new code for recovering from the break-up blues. You’re wrong about statutory rape, though, David: I looked up the law in Texas (here’s a handy state-by-state guide), and the age of consent is 17. Julie is safe with her 23-year-old. As she should be—since when do we want to make it a crime for older teens to have sex with young twentysomethings? Ryan seems blow-dried and, as you say, Hanna, all too familiar. But scary? Nah. If he breaks her heart, it will be a lesson in resilience that she has coming to her—the kind of moment that will help her grow into a mother like Tami someday.