STAR decides to kick off this week looking like Zero-Dark-Thirty. Jahil is brought into a shady back alley, by what you can only assume are grizzled terrorists only to be saved by a phone call. Who could that call be from? A new character? A crime boss? The old lady from the strip club? No, let’s go with the star QB/Star’s boyfriend’s mom, someone who hasn’t served more than a blimp of a moment on this show previously. How did she know Jahil was moments away from death, or who to call, or (insert any other question)? Well somehow she just knew, and Arlene wants something in return. She wants Star out the group. Jahil protests, but the episode is set. Jahil will pretend to be mean to Star instead of just telling her what’s going on like a sitcom from the 90’s.
Usually with something completely contrived like this I would be out from the getgo. But I have to say, they do it fairly well. First of all, after the rough opening, the tone settles and finds itself in a nice groove. Not only that, but they start to move away from random, sudden plotlines and deus ex moments and instead ground everything plotwise in character. Alex is talented, but nervous and shy. Simone is talented, but trying to ground herself in church and rehab. And Star is talented but so, so egocentric.
When Jahill takes Star off lead, she has a ridiculous flashback to her mom commanding her to the best singer and for some reason we’re supposed to sympathize with that. But we don’t because Star kind of sucks. The episode though, doesn’t suck. It does a great job of grounding all of Star’s issues in her own ego. Instead of respecting the fact that Alex is talented and wrote the song, she finds every way to be bitter about it and let it get under her skin. We should also talk about how people who actually have to fight and succeed don’t act like this. It’s people who either never have to fight, or people who rarely succeed who act like the world is against them. Star’s definitely succeeded recently, so you can only assume that the music side of things have come far too easy, a complaint with the show I’ve had for a long time.
Simone tries to help Star manage her ego and anger, but she’s unreceptive, as someone with an ego and anger often is. At this point the conceit of the episode has completely fallen off, and that’s a good thing. We now have the three girls and we’re navigating their problems and solutions. It’s what Star should always shoot for. Even though Simone can’t succeed with Star, she is succeeding in her life. She seems much happier, much sober…er, and with a clearer outlook on life. Alex is having a tougher time. We would assume that the daughter of Roland Crane with the strength to try to make it out on her own would be this powerfully prideful girl, but she’s not. She’s sweet, and likable and is trying to do things as earnestly as she can. She doesn’t have the ego to agree with Jahil when he makes her lead. She has the caution to questioningly accept it. She doesn’t have the confidence to know that she’ll impress at her boyfriends cookout. She’s too worried about what his family will think of her.
Star only seeks to make Alex’s insecurity even worse. Star’s ego dictates her actions until all of a sudden she decides to crash the BBQ. There are a few truly bizarre scenes in this episode, and this is one of them. As soon as the grandma at the BBQ gets a look at Star she flips out, threatening to punch her and declares that, “White people are bad luck!” All this just a little after Star’s boyfriend asked her to be his “street bitch.” It’s hard to say what this show is saying about race – if anything. But what is known is that even if there isn’t a point to be made, race is constantly talked about on this show. From the Asian man Cotton sleeps with to the fact that Simone is mixed, but looks Latina, it’s all discussed and plays something of a role on the show. Anyways, Star crashes the BBQ supposedly to tell Alex that she’ll do a good job as lead, but the scene later we see Star reneging on this. It’s a twisted confidence game she’s playing with Alex.
When it’s time for the big performance the original conceit comes back into play. I thought I would hate it, but I didn’t. The first half of the Act III is so good, it almost makes up for the horrendously bizarre second half. Arlene constantly glares at Star, clearly pissed that Jahil hasn’t gotten rid of her yet, and Star and her dumb quarterback boyfriend are both so self-involved that when Jahil individually tells them to stop seeing each other, they both independently come to the conclusion that Jahil wants to have sex with Star. Even if that’s true, it’s still so far from the truth of the situation that it’s hilarious. The group still known as ASS (Alex/Simone/Star) is introduced by Real Housewife Porscha Williams to which Simone cements herself as the first person in the history of the world to say, “OH MY GOD IT’S PORSCHA WILLIAMS!”
The performance starts out well enough, Alex does a great job, but then Star goes into one of her fantasies and everything gets messed up. First of all, Star depicts the song as having an Asian theme, which I don’t know where she got that from (it’s not bad – it just doesn’t fit!), and also completely steals the lead from Alex (this is bad!). Alex is naturally furious but her blowup shouldn’t be taken lightly. It’s kind of a mastercraft of screenwriting here, because if you look at her episode arc, this should be the culmination of her ACT III. She speaks directly from her heart, doesn’t sugarcoat anything or hold back, and angrily addresses Jahil. Meanwhile Star dips out of there and Arlene essentially tells Jahil, “You got one more chance.” It’s disappointing to hear that because I wanted there to be immediate consequences. That’s part of what made all of this so exciting. Oh well, maybe there will be immediate consequences within the group for Star’s actions.
And now we have come to the worst second half of an Act III I’ve ever seen. In one of the most confusing scenes of all time, Jahil hears the Spanish girl he saved singing in the shower and then in very clear English saying, “He’ll love this!” The look on Jahil’s face can only be described as horror, and I honestly don’t get it. Are they trying to imply that the girl he saved from sex slavery was somehow setting him up the whole time?
And somehow it gets crazier still. Because as soon as Alex and Simone admonish Star for her actions, and you think to yourself, “Yes, yes yes! This is it! This is when they finally tell Star off for being an egotistical lunatic!” the crazy happens. People are huddled around the TV in the salon, Miss Carlotta is crying and everyone is freaking out. Because one of the salon girls has been murdered by a cop. And just like that, this whole great episode is thrown out the window. I’m not against talking about cops shooting unarmed black people. I’m against deus ex machinas lifting characters off the hook. Because of this sudden news, Star is going to be forgiven and life will go on for ASS, even though it really shouldn’t. This needs to be a show more about the group than about deeply unfortunate moments in life.
RIP to the character from the salon, and RIP to my hopes and dreams for this show.
Season 1, Episode 6 (S01E06)
Star airs Wednesdays at 9PM on Fox
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Arman is a Seattle-based writer who often lives in LA and wants to be in New York. He has worked on Billy on The Street and Black-ish. He also loves sandwiches.
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Arman Mohazzabfar | Contributor