Recap: The Idol (S1, Ep2) — Series’ Second Episode Remains a Stale, Uncomfortable Mess
After last week's episode of The Idol, I had no idea what to expect when I turned on the second one. I didn't expect it to get better, but some shows just have bad pilots, right? The Idol has the ability in "Double Fantasy" to really establish a series norm, so it was just a question of what that norm may be. It could be a chance to double down, or maybe it would give The Idol an opportunity to reinvent itself.
In "Double Fantasy," both my favorite and least favorite aspects from The Idol's pilot are amplified here to an almost unprecedented degree. The critiques of the entertainment industry are more interesting here and use their time much better, but there is also a significant increase of Tedros (Abel Tesfaye) on screen, and with that comes a lot of flatly delivered dialogue, weird sex, and childishly edgy scene ideas. (Verbatim from my notes: "This guy just sits around in his club tasing strippers all day I guess.")
"Double Fantasy" is cleaved neatly into two halves. The first focuses on the main character Jocelyn (Lily-Rose Depp), struggling to film the music video for her new song—it's one long, arduous process of small things going wrong, whether it be with the equipment or the actors, and Depp plays the entire thing very well. She very believably unravels as the stress and annoyance of the situation builds and builds, and while there are some moments of expositing ("I miss my mom," Jocelyn murmurs to herself after she has to do yet another take, the video being the first one she's done since the death of her mother) it's still entertaining throughout.
Then comes the episode's second half, one weird, long scene that's stuffed full of Tedros just acting like a little freak and the most awkward, poorly written sex scene you're likely to see all year. (Unless The Idol has worse in store for us, which I shudder to think about.) Tesfaye's performance here has already been mocked plenty on social media, mostly for some rather uncomfortably lewd lines that I won't repeat for your sake as well as mine. But to say that the scene is overlong would be an understatement. Lengthy sex scenes usually serve to further the transformation of a character or a relationship, but we don't see much here that we haven't seen already—there's not a new context, there's just more of it. Tedros still has this largely uninteresting hold over Jocelyn, and we're forced to sit there and have this shoved in our face for far too long.
And despite being almost an hour long, that's almost everything important that happens in "Double Fantasy." There are a couple revelations, both involving Jocelyn's friend and backup dancer Dyanne (Jennie Ruby Jane) and how she may usurp her spot and is secretly working for Tedros. Keeping in mind that he has a little more influence than meets the eye is kind of interesting, I guess.
But all this episode does is make me wish Tesfaye wasn't involved. The back half feels entirely separate from the first—the revelations about Jocelyn's mother aren't important to it, and it just feels like another excuse for Tesfaye to do whatever he feels like doing. It comes off as self-indulgent and more than a little obnoxious, which is frankly on par with a lot of my feelings on writer/director Sam Levinson's work.
Of course, because it's a Levinson product, it still looks excellent. But that's not really a substitute for a good story. With the second episode of The Idol, the series provides more effective and better paced criticism of the industry it resides in, but at the same time, it gives into the worst impulses of its writers and becomes stale, uncomfortable, and a bit of an edgy mess.
This episode of The Idol is now available on Max.
Sam Layton is a Chicago suburb native that's trying his best to make a career out of his (probably unhealthy) habit of watching too much television. When he's not working as the Third Coast Review's current sole TV reviewer, he's making his way through college or, shockingly, watching too much television.