Ugly Betty: Don't Ask, Don't Tell
(S01E18) I would have written this review sooner, but I couldn't stop crying like a big baby. Not every storyline was a home run this week, but the most important one was. It could have gotten all "Lifetime Original," but it didn't. This show is many things - funny, moving, campy - but it is never saccharine.
This week we got utterly hilarious Joan Crawford camp and utterly heartbreaking Tony Kushner pathos. We also got some superfluous storylines and directionless characters, but more on that later. It broke my heart to see Marc shut out by his mother, ironically played by the always excellent Patti LuPone, a woman whose entire career rests on the shoulders of theater queens everywhere.
The "Betty posing as Marc's girlfriend" storyline gave us so many great moments - an Amanda/Marc cat fight ("Laugh, clown, laugh."); Marc back at the Suarez's ("So, this is where the tragic happens."); Justin and Marc bonding ("Dreamgirls was a cinematic achievement."); Miss Lady Buttons of Camelot; a Henry mooning over Betty aside; a Patti LuPone guest turn; and, of course, a genuinely touching performance from the uber-talented Michael Urie. I have a feeling that he'll be receiving fan mail from more than one young gay man or woman coming out to less than accepting parents. And, through it all, he remains "fabulous." God bless us, every swishy one.
I was far less impressed with the direction of two other characters this week - Ignacio and Alexis. Thank you, Ugly Betty, for dramatizing the immigration process. It's been real, but let's ditch the ankle bracelet. It's worth a couple of jokes, but that's it. Give Ignacio a real love interest, some buddies, a freaking hobby. Stop saddling him with heart medication and case workers.
And, what is the deal with Alexis? When she was the "mystery woman," we were set up to think she was the big bad. Then, she was softened - a misunderstood transsexual who never felt at home in her own body and was alienated from her family. Last week, she seemed like she was on the same page with Daniel. This week, she was competitive and strange all over again. Maybe, if I were a guy with a really competitive brother, I would get this. As it is, I don't understand Alexis' motivations. Yes, she wants to humiliate her dad, but when it comes to Daniel, her competitiveness reads as juvenile sibling rivalry. Is she supposed to be bad? Misunderstood? Are we supposed to sympathetize with her? She shows up on the scene, and suddenly Daniel's a victim who needs Betty to stroke his tender ego? What the heck is going on? I know that plenty of people have the tendency to regress when they get around their parents, but this is getting a tiny bit ridiculous. Doesn't Alexis have any other kind of goal in life? With all her wealth, she has nothing better to do than torture her father and redecorate the Mode offices? Take a lesson from Betty and Marc. Sometimes the people in your family aren't the ones who love you the most, and if they don't, that's their loss.
Other things going on this week: Wilhelmina got badder; Claire dried out; and the pilgrim buckle came back in.