This Katy Keene review contains spoilers.
Katy Keene Episode 2
“The same city that can inspire you one minute can knock you down and trample over you the next.”
With the expositionary groundwork of last week’s pliot firmly laid, Katy Keene begins to find its groove in this outing, further exploring who these characters are and what they want. In short: love, success, fame and riches in the big city.
The CW’s marketing team has been working time to illustrate that this series is as far away from Riverdale as West Side Story is from Cats. Instead of murder and mystery and teen angst there’s….romance and career woes and twentysomething angst. Okay, so there’s some similiar DNA thanks to the Archieverse connection, but this installment makes it clear that these characters are most definitely living in a fairytale of New York. (One that doesn’t have any of the grit of The Pogues, either). Does it work? Well…
After the hilariously named Alphabet City Bandit runs off with the engagment ring K.O. bought for her, Katy gets a short reprieve. She genuinely loves K.O., noting that he does things like bring her pizza and install her air conditioning. These are nice things to be sure, but hardly the basis for the Love of a Lifetime™ that the show’s writing staff seems to want us to think these two have. To be honest, K.O. is a bore who doesn’t seem to have anything in common with Katy than a shared past. Two episodes in and this is understandable, none of these characters are fully formed yet. But K.O.’s aww-shucks demeanor is already grating. So if these two are “endgame” their relationship is going to need to heat up, and fast.
As much as K.O. is unengaging, I will admit to loving the scene between Katy and his mother, June (played by the always great Becky Ann Baker of Freaks and Geeks fame). Katy and June have a genuine camaraderie, and even in this brief scene you get a sense of the depth of their relationship. If K.O. and Katy’s on-screen time had this much warmth, I’d be genuinely cheering them on. Currently, I’m wishing that Katy ditches her basic boyfriend and starts dating the Prince Handsome or whatever his name is. Surely a love triangle is being set up between these three, but right now I’m Team Royal all the way.
After getting good advice from both Gloria (whose character has notably softened into more of a mentor than frenemy from the pilot to this episode) and Francois, Katy realizes that the status quo can’t remain. She decides to give her future with K.O. a legitimate shot, proposing that they are too young to marry but should try living together. This was a reasonable, mature response to her ambivalent feelings about K.O. — one that will begin to determine whether or not they truly belong together.
While Katy is coping with her complicated love life, Jorge is trying to make his dreams come true. Unfortunately, this subplot is packed with youthful idealism that, the show being a fairytale or not, stretches incredulity. Having already developed a bad reputation for throwing shade to a successful Broadway director at his Mannequin: The Musical (!) audition, Jorge’s agent warns him that he is on professional thin ice. (Something we witness when his audition for a revival of Cats is cut short due to his troublesome rep). Miraculously given the nature of showbiz, Jorge is given another shot and lands a role in touring company of a Hamilton-esque musical about Thomas Jefferson. His response to this opportunity that every actor you and I have ever met would kill for? To notify that producers at the very last second that he is bailing on them because the opportunity isn’t 100% what he wants.
Now, had he pulled out of the production because he felt the producers wanted him to act more masculine — something that is glossed over here — that would have been a legitimate reason to jump ship. But this issue isn’t addressed. Instead Jorge decides that he can make a go of it on Broadway if he keeps trying hard enough. Without paying his dues.
Hopefully, future episodes will address the consequences of his actions, because not only is he considered argumentative, but he cost a production thousands by forcing them to hire a replacement at the zero hour. The Broadway community is smaller than you realize, and in real life, either one of these factors would be a career killer. But both? Yikes.
As for Ginger’s coworkers telling him that he’ll have to shelve his Ginger persona, I’d like to point out that there are a number of LGBTQ+ friendly spaces in the Midwest that would be happy to host her. This is just a sloppy contrivance created to give Jorge another reason to stay in NYC and on the show. Two episodes in and the series already has a Jorge problem, one that needs to be fixed ASAP.
At least Josie has a better perspective on things. She knows to achieve her dream she is going to have to suffer and work hard, and even then talent only matters so much. (Her remark to Alex about needing to pay bills was a stab of reality amidst all the gloss and idealism of the show). Her interactions with Chubby, portrayed by Tony winner André De Shields, have a genuine sweetness that make you believe how this record store feels like home to her. Unfortunately, she is burned again by Alex after turning to him to save the shop…only to have Alexandra want to change the local landmark to her liking. I get the feeling that after this episode she will be more apprehensive in her dealings with the Cabots. As she should be.
Finally, there is Pepper. Quickly becoming the outwardly most annoying character on network TV. She is revealed here to be a massive phony, racking up thousands of dollars in hotel bills and desperate to raise capital for her misguided artist’s enclave idea. The Pepper Plant sounds like a horrible place for horrible people, and the type of commune that just doesn’t exist anymore. Still though, I do love the idea of her having this secret double life that her friends know nothing about. It should be great fun to see what, if anything, about the character is genuine. (If they reveal that even her accent is a fraud I’m going to cheer). There’s a good chance here that her vapidity is just a front, and showing someone truly struggling to survive in the appearance-heavy world of NYC opens the door for some compelling storytelling possibilities. Stay tuned.
– Katy’s beloved Little Red Lighthouse is a real New York City location, located in Fort Washington Park. You can learn more about it here.
– Broadway fans were not only treated to seeing André De Shields in this episode but also Daphne Rubin-Vega, who portrays Jorge’s mother and also originated the role of Mimi in Rent.
– Katy and K.O. take the bus? If he were truly her soulmate he’d spring for an Uber to NYC from Long Island. Sheesh.
– On Riverdale, Josie left to tour with her jazz-musician father. This episode establishes that she moved back there for some pre-determined amount of time before heading to NYC.
– Just like Riverdale, this show LOVES its fake brands! Plunkin Donuts, Total Foods, Vanity Flair and The Daily Hail are all mentioned tonight.
– Jorge’s mom mentions being on the touring company of Starlight Express, a glorious trainwreck of a musical from Andrew Lloyd Webber that this writer loves way too much.
– Josie on the Cabots: “Those siblings are more drama than Cheryl and Jason Blossom, and one of them died.”
– Legendary New York City drag queen Hedda Lettuce appears briefly as one of Ginger’s co-workers at Molly’s Crisis.
– Shout out to Ashliegh Murray for a fantastic cover of The Supremes’ “You Can’t Hurry Love.”
– While I’m not a fan of his character’s storyline, Jonny Beauchamp is fantastic as Jorge/Ginger.
– Josie really thought she could find a New York City apartment for less than $400 a month? This show really is a fairytale.
– Pepper’s would-be investor has the last name Gekko, a reference to Wall Street.