The Recap: Lars is invited to a potluck with the Cool Kids; with coaxing from Sadie and Steven, he agrees to show off his newly revealed love of baking. While Sadie gets on well at the party, Lars never shows–and it’s not clear if sinister influences are behind it.
It’s hard not to feel like this is where we should’ve been with Lars two seasons ago. He’s still debilitated by insecurities when clearly just being himself would be enough to make friends with the (actually very cool) Cool Kids–all very standard teenage storyline stuff. But he’s come as far as being willing to be warm in private, and when he gets in his own way this time around (unlike, say, “Joking Victim”) he’s the only one who gets hurt. It’s still frustrating to watch, but the frustration leans toward being for him instead of at him.
While this episode proves that “The New Lars” wasn’t a fluke in finally figuring out the character, it’s still not entirely satisfying, since the final character beat is sacrificed for the sake of once more foreshadowing the new Gem threat. Odds are high that Lars simply saw Sadie being accepted in his place and figured there was no place for him, but the preceding acts built up enough hope that it’s disappointing not to be able to see Lars and Steven talk it out (though there is another Lars episode coming up very early in season 5, so it might at last be time to stop beating this very dead horse).
Lars’s plot line might be left hanging, but it’s balanced out by the focus on Sadie. Her struggles have been more quiet and internalized than his, but no less impactful on her life. Her feelings of low self-worth are heartbreaking in contrast to how warm and welcoming the Cool Kids are; even if Lars really is becoming a better person, Sadie definitely needs a wider circle of friends, and it’s heartening to see her contributing to the communal jam session after her previous anxiety about her voice. She’s come lightyears from the person who was willing to kidnap her crush in hopes of making him like her, all of it delivered here in quiet, almost wistful line reads.
“Quiet” is the overall watchword for the episode. The work of the always-stellar boarders shines through in the small touches here: the Star Wars inspired art from 10-year-old Lars that’s still hanging on the wall, the ube recipe hinting at Lars’s Filipino heritage, Vidalia’s paintings of baby Steven on the wall at Sour Cream’s house. It’s an episode to sink down in and allow your eye to wander, with the most exciting centerpiece being the very Liu-esque (and very adorable) baking montage.
The contrast helps make the final overhead shot of the streetlight feel more ominous, a fact admittedly helped by the promo they cut together for this Bomb. But even if we hadn’t already been tipped off to the whole mysterious disappearances thing (or indeed if the Crewniverse’s hard work at building tension on a reliably nightly schedule weren’t undermined by the latest marketing scheme—no, I won’t stop being salty about it), it still works in pure visual language. The episode ends with much colder, more washed-out colors than we’d seen up to that point. While before the backgrounds were awash with detail, the streets of Beach City appear indistinct in the dark. And once again, there are those silhouettes.
This episode marks a somewhat failed experiment (subject to change, depending on how things wrap around following the conclusion of the latest plot event) in combining the Beach City character episodes with the Gem plot ones. The ending is successfully ominous, and the fact that it becomes an unexpected Sadie episode winds up working well, but it’s hard to shake four seasons of training that the character studies are always allowed their own breathing room apart from the mission stuff.
Again, much of this season’s methodology has been about shaking up creative matchups, formulas, and character expectations, but this one ends up a little bit stranded in the middle of the road. It’s not a disaster by any means–there’s far too many successful individual elements to ever say that–but something about it doesn’t quite gel together, especially when the best character episodes rely on introspective denouements like Sadie’s mini-monologue.
Next time we wrap up with a double episode that also counts as the season four finale. We might not even have to wait through another hiatus before season five gets started! A novel concept indeed. Hope to see you there!
Vrai is a queer author and pop culture blogger; they’re their own self-sufficient salt mine. You can read more essays and find out about their fiction at Fashionable Tinfoil Accessories, listen to them podcasting on Soundcloud, support their work via Patreon or PayPal, or remind them of the existence of Tweets.
Want more stories like this? Become a subscriber and support the site!
—The Mary Sue has a strict comment policy that forbids, but is not limited to, personal insults toward anyone, hate speech, and trolling.—
Have a tip we should know? firstname.lastname@example.org