In “F-I– First S-E– Second F– First Day,” we see the series’ best qualities showcased: its quick wit and hyper-relevant references to pop culture; its willingness to address the unglamorous issue of funding for special needs departments in schools; not to mention its capability to teach fundamentals of ethics–e.g., keeping your promises–and having the courage to set boundaries. It’s all packed into the 30-minute second episode of Speechless’ second season, which may go even further and deeper into “revolutionary sitcom” territory than before.
When the episode begins, the kids are returning for their second semester at Lafayette, the school they joined in the first season. Yet, Maya discovers from a special education department head that the school isn’t delivering to its special needs students what they truly need–unlike JJ, who has the benefits of a full-time aide in Kenneth. In strong-mom-Maya form, she insists that they be treated fairly, but also realizes that her son may have to lose some benefits for others to rightfully gain theirs. It’s a quick dip into ethics 101, and a situation that for many parent viewers with special needs kids, is as relatable as it is realistic.
Dylan, meanwhile, is adjusting to her new school, and it feels weird to her to have been there as long as she has. She pleads to her dad for the family to not switch schools again and pulls a promise out of him. Like in any narrative, when a promise lands somewhere mid-episode, there’s going to be a confrontation of that promise and whether it’s kept. Thankfully, when Maya proposes another move to a school with more resources (as it turns out, making things fair and equal at the school isn’t as easy as she thought), Jimmy stands up on behalf of his daughter, demanding that they have stability, and proving his integrity. It’s a needed relief and a sweet moment that shows again how sitcoms have the ability to teach right from wrong in everyday scenarios.
The show’s delving into the “boundaries” conversation is astute, as well; since JJ doesn’t get to have boundaries due to the nature of his disability (to Kenneth, he says, “You can, I can’t”), it’s only natural that JJ is hoping to see Kenneth’s “emotional penis” and get to know him better (although his revelation of screen name “HotTubHercules on Yahoo! Personals” weirds JJ out a little bit.
There’s nothing quite like Speechless on TV, perhaps a defining show of the 21st century, that goes into the topics so infrequently addressed not only in media, but within government, policy, and culture. Let’s see how much more our characters can grow and evolve in the season to come (emotional penises may be exposed).
Season 2, Episode 2 (S02E02)
Speechless airs Wednesday 830 PM on ABC
Emily Nuncio Schick | Contributor