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‘The Idol’ Episode 2 Recap: Everybody Dies

In the first half of The Idol’s second episode, Abel Tesfaye’s Tedros is an elusive figure. If I were a psychologist, I might suggest he was playing hard to get, drawing back from Lily-Rose Depp’s Jocelyn, presenting as unavailable, taking a day to respond to her texts and denying her invitations so as to draw her in before completely overtaking her life. It seems to work, and by the end of “Double Fantasy,” Jocelyn is putty in Tedros’s hand. But for the rest of the audience (or at least, for me—I won’t speak for everyone else), Tesfaye’s absence from the initial scenes bolster the issue plaguing The Idol: a splintered, unbalanced narrative. Half of this show is about a struggling pop star attempting to make a comeback as her team unsuccessfully balances her mental health with her earning potential. The other half is a stylized pornographic film with awkward writing and scenes that may have you skipping over The Weeknd’s tracks on your Spotify playlist for a short while.

“Double Fantasy” begins with an upbeat Jocelyn eager to show her team what she believes is a new-and-improved version of “World Class Sinner/I’m a Freak.” It’s a song she hates, but her team believes will be a hit (side note: they may be right, as the track currently boasts over a million streams on Spotify following its wide release Friday). She gyrates to the music, wearing another outfit engineered to cover the least amount of skin while still legally passing as clothing, her overly sexualized moans playing over the inarguably catchy hook. Her record label representative, Nikki, is unimpressed, and Jocelyn gets a little reminder of where she sits on the totem pole of this operation.

We learn more about Jocelyn’s breakdown, which occurred following her mother’s death last year. Despite constant insistence that she was fine, a week before she was set to play Madison Square Garden, she was found “babbling up on the roof, talking to things in outer fucking space.” Eight months of treatment followed before the comeback plan was put into place, which leads us to where we find Jocelyn now—a week out from her first release in almost a year, once again buckling under the pressure. Apparently, Nikki has never heard of a remix follow-up, because while Jocelyn and Tedros’s new take on “World Class Sinner” might not be commercially viable, it could be a fun addition to throw on the deluxe version of the album. Hey, Taylor Swift released about 20 takes of “Anti-Hero,” why can’t Jocelyn release one, sexed-up remix of this? Alas, for now, it’s a flat-out “no” from her team, and Jocelyn is left to lick her wounds (or in her case, ice them) in the recording studio.

I would like to pause here and reiterate that while I do find this storyline interesting—the back and forth between Jocelyn and her team—the narrative continues to suffer because Jocelyn still exists in a vacuum. I understand teasing out context, slowing getting more into her backstory with each episode, but I still don’t know where to place Jocelyn in this pop-culture matrix created for the show. She was clearly popular at one time, but how popular? From this episode, we learn she was born in a trailer park and was discovered by Hank Azaria’s Chaim at the mall when she was just a kid. So, she’s been in the public eye for a while—but was that ill-fated night at MSG her first time playing the venue? Did she reach superstar fame before her breakdown, or was she still on her ascent? Maybe it’s not important, maybe I’m too surrounded by stan culture and the constant revolving carousel of pop girlies—but I believe her fall from grace would mean more if we knew how high her pedestal previously stood.

But back to the action—because it’s time to film the music video for “World Class Sinner,” and Jocelyn’s already running late, stuck in makeup covering up the cuts on her inner thighs (a detail that, I guess, the audience is to assume was either self-inflicted or the work of Tedros). Immediately, it’s clear Jocelyn is struggling. She’s off beat, forgets to lip sync, and even when she gets it all right, it’s not good enough for her. After a take she declares “the one” falls victim to an out-of-focus camera, Jocelyn finally cracks, revealing her mangled feet from her stilettos and breaking down, calling for her mom who is not there. The scene is proof that any issue the show might have does not fall into the hands of Depp, who really does succeed as Jocelyn. In this moment, I found myself really feeling for her, heartbroken as she whimpered out “Mom,” to a room of people staring back in disbelief.

The team cuts their losses and sends Jocelyn home to recuperate, which is when the second act begins. Tedros (who was seemingly shooting porn while Jocelyn was shooting her video?) comes over with his friends in tow. Izaak seems to be employed to distract Jocelyn’s uptight assistant while Chloe is Tedros’s answer to Squeaky Fromme (though actress Suzanna Son’s skills cannot be denied and I am interested in how she will further come into play). We also learn that Dyanne is managed by Tedros, and she orchestrated Jocelyn’s introduction to the nightclub owner. It seems to all be working in Dyanne’s favor, as Nikki now wants to sign her to the label, and the once back-up dancer emerges as another villain in a story already overflowing with them.

The episode ends with a scene so hard to watch, I would rather not relive it here. Any affinity I felt for the first half of this episode diminished as I watched Tesfaye talk dirty to a blind-folded Jocelyn. I found myself attempting distraction by focusing on other things—trying to determine the physics behind Jocelyn’s choice of top for the evening, or even, at one point, considering my to-do list for the next day. Finally, some relief comes when the scene cuts and the two are in bed post-coitus, which is when Tedros finally sinks his claws in, telling Jocelyn he should move in so they can work on music together. Jocelyn happily obliges, and I have the realization that the one part of the show I enjoyed—the Tedros-less scenes that focus on the dynamics of the music industry and a struggling artist—just burned away like the ash of Jocelyn’s beloved Virginia Slims.

Source: W Magazine

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