Recap: The Idol (S1, Ep5) — Deeply Miserable Finale Drags Itself to a Tiring Conclusion

When I first started watching The Idol, I felt as though there was hope for it, that it had things to say and interesting ideas to execute. When I finished The Idol, I stared blankly at the screen and felt a vague sense of bitter disappointment, like I had spent two hours of my life on something that could have been worthwhile in the end. But then I spent three more hours of my life on this show, and nope, not worth it.

“Jocelyn Forever” isn’t the full finale we were supposed to get. There were supposed to be six episodes of The Idol, but creator Sam Levinson cut it down to five mid-airing. When this was announced, I had absolutely no idea what to expect, yet I also felt a sneaking suspicion that this was going to make everything feel a lot more rushed from here on. And lo and behold, I was right! Both Jocelyn’s (Lily-Rose Depp) turn to the dark side and her rebellion against Tedros (Abel Tesfaye) are things that could have maybe been done right with six episodes, but almost certainly not with five.

So all it really took for Jocelyn to turn on Tedros was learning that he used her to advance Dyanne (Jennie Ruby Jane) in the music industry, huh? You could argue that it was a culmination of events, but that would imply that the events that led up to this moment were played as turning points in Jocelyn’s character. A lot of “Jocelyn Forever” ultimately amounts to dicking around—wayyyy too much time is devoted to the showcase of Tedros’s little gang of singers, and bits and pieces of the plot we get feel completely inconsequential. The episode as a whole is simultaneously stretched and rushed, which is an impressive, if rarely seen, feat of bad television.

The parts of this episode that actually matter comprise perhaps twenty minutes of it—the important thing is that Jocelyn’s team gets Tedros exposed as a pimp and an abuser, leading to his total destruction, while Jocelyn is credited for “discovering” Tedros’s singers and prepares to take them on tour with her. It feels like it comes out of nowhere—only in this episode do we see the team actually doing something about it. So if this is all it took and they were clearly freaked out by this guy, why didn’t they just…do this from the start?

So while Jocelyn’s team stars in a very (and possibly unintentionally) funny scene where they toast and laugh manically to destroying Tedros once and for all, the man himself worms his way into Jocelyn’s dressing room the day of the tour and finds that she’s completely changed. No longer is Jocelyn easy to manipulate, timid and submissive—she’s thrown away the brush her mother abused her with and replaced it with a shiny new one, a (very obvious) symbol of her growth and newfound power. It must be clear to Tedros that he can’t control her anymore, so he instead chooses to live under her thumb as she goes out on stage to perform.

So yep, that was The Idol. What started as a bloated but decent criticism of the parasitic music industry turned into a showcase for its worst aspects—needless sexualization, a lack of any sort of point or drive, and worst of all, turning into something generic. For as good as it looks, The Idol ends up a boring thriller by the end, and most of its finale drags its feet as it finally gets to Jocelyn’s rather unearned transformation. Could there have been a good series in here about a traumatized and easily manipulated pop star leapfrogging off of those who would take advantage of her? Sure, why not? But with Levinson and Tesfaye at the helm, perhaps this wasn’t the right series to tell that story. Above all else, The Idol is an interesting case of practicing what one preaches against, and while it may not be worth watching, it’s worth thinking about if you’ve already made that mistake.

All episodes of The Idol are now available on Max.

Sam Layton
Sam Layton

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.