This Katy Keene review contains spoilers.
Katy Keene Episode 12
“I think she is going through something.”
Okay everybody, gather around it’s history lesson time. Back in the Before Times of 2009, a woman known as the Hipster Grifter — in actuality a 22-year-old who was rising through NYC’s social circles while having arrest warrants out for her for allegedly passing bad checks, retail theft and other activities — became a media sensation. It was a fascinating story until it wasn’t anymore, and the world moved on.
But the producers of Katy Keene remembered, as there is a clear parallel between the Grifter and the series’ own Pepper Smith. All season long Pepper’s constant scams and lies have been laser focused towards making the Pepper Plant, a Warholian enclave for artists, musicians, and designers, happen. Sure, such a locale is a little more than a nostalgic bohemian lark given the state of circa-2020 New York City (and we’re talking pre-Covid 19 here) but Pepper was going to make it work. No matter how many toes were stomped in the process.
Unfortunately for Pep, many of those steamrolled footsies belonged to her friends, including Josie and Jorge, both of whom were directly impacted by her actions. And here, in this penultimate episode of the season, everything blows up in Pepper’s face.
And it is the most captivating this show has ever been. Writer Evelyn Yves wisely makes Pepper the main focus of this episode, weaving the other characters in and out as needed while her desperation mounts. Cooked books, her true parentage (and name), a $200,000 clutch stolen from Lacy’s, and Alex’s threatening to involve the police unless he gets the money Pepper owes him all play into the proceedings.
The only time that Pepper isn’t on screen it is to show how her backwards schemes have negatively impacted those who are supposed to be her best friends — Katy could potentially lose her job over the vanished purse, Jorge is forced to give laptops in the backroom of Molly’s Crisis in order to raise back rent so that his parents don’t lose their building.
With all of this going on, Josie, herself negatively impacted by Pepper’s actions, is the only one looking to truly her her side of the story. She confronts her, declaring “if you are in trouble just tell me.” But her pleas are ignored, as Pepper turns inward trying to just survive until the Plant opens so that she can show everything she has worked for.
Before this can happen though, there is an intervention at Katy’s apartment. Pepper protests and makes excuses. Worst of all she lashes out at Josie, her biggest defender. Before leaving she just asks they all attend the Pepper Plant opening so that her friends can see her creation.
But Katy follows her into the hallway to personally confront her, and Pepper, for a second, drops the charade and verbally pierces her friend’s fairytale life.(Katy’s naivety is a running theme tonight, with Guy clearly stealing her designs and initially not fighting back). “The only way a person like me can make it in this world is to become somebody. So I became the somebody you wanted to be friends with,” she states. Pepper also mentions that her high society contacts and what she could do for her friends were “part of her allure,” leaving Katy wounded by the truth bomb thrown her way.
And then it is time for the grand opening of the Pepper Plant, and its a huge success. Unrealistically, Josie, Jorge and even Katy all show up with painted smiles. But it turns out that Pepper wasn’t talking shit after all. There is a stage set up for Josie and the Pussycats, a performance space/video screen for Ginger broadcasting her performance of Kiss of the Spider Woman, and for Katy, there is a corner workspace where she can work and sell her original dresses. Her friends are invigorated by what Pepper has done here.
Even Alex has solved his problems with Pepper by becoming a minority stockholder. Katy, who is rightfully still irked about the stolen purse leaves to confront Guy about stealing her designs. The Pussycats begin a raucous cover of Cyndi Lauper’s “She Bop” while Pepper smiles. Her dreams have finally come true.
And then the police rush in and arrest her. Roll credits.
I have to admit that I honestly was a bit surprised by the cops busting up the opening, as Katy Keene is too neat of a show to keep any real conflict going. Here Pepper got her happy ending and finally came clean with everyone, so it seemed like the end sting would involve the Katy/Guy storyline. Going into its season finale, this is a series that has earned its confidence and is now telling stories that aren’t merely disposable but actually have some merit. To use fairytale imagery, it still has its glass slippers, but the cracks on the heels are continuing to splinter.
Next week: More on Pepper’s arrest as the season draws to a close.
• Yes, that was the one and only Debi Mazar making a cameo here as Jorge’s customer at Lacy’s. This show’s guest casting continues to be unrivaled.
• Since Josie grew up in Riverdale (a fact that she loves mentioning as much as possible), she hasn’t had the privileged life of Katy and understands what it is like to do anything to just survive. I hope that in the second season we get more Josie/Pepper team-ups.
• We learn here that Pepper was abandoned as a baby at the Palace Hotel by a woman of some wealth (that ring!), and that she has no idea who her birth parents are.
• So, um, why does Pepper have a British accent then?
• For $200,000 that sure is one ugly ass purse.
• Pepper’s real name is Rosemary Woodhouse, which is a Rosemary’s Baby reference. Make of that what you will…
• I know that Jorge and his pop have had some troubles, but the scene where Mr. Lopez interrupts the least erotic lapdance ever shown on television is beyond funny. Talk about a bonding moment.
• So Katy, like you know that all big industries are built on the blood, sweat and tears of others who don’t get any credit for their work, right? Guy’s an asshole, but he’s kind of right about how the world works.
• The evolving Amanda/Katy friendship might be my favorite thing about this show right now.
• K.O. remarking “suddenly I wish I punched him harder” is the first time I have genuinely liked his character all season.
• Sorry Stan, but #doormandad isn’t trending.
• What exactly was Pepper arrested for?
• Okay real talk, the Pepper Plant is a dump. I’ve been to more impressive loft parties in New York City and this is coming from someone who has been wearing Spider-Man sleep pants for the greater part of a month so yeah, hardly a mover and a shaker here. Yeesh.