Ugly Betty sneaked up on me last year to become my favourite new show of 2006. The first couple of episodes did nothing for me, the characters were too broadly drawn, the cartoonish style grating, the humour too weak. It's premiere collided unfavourably with the hype surrounding The Devil Wears Prada and I initially dismissed it as another well-intentioned, but unfunny satire of the fashion industry. The very fact that I've been eagerly awaiting this season premiere all summer should alert you to two facts; that I'm as fickle as a pickle and that you shouldn't judge a series by it's season opening (unless it's that rare beast, a first episode that's simultaneously enormously entertaining and indictitive of the series to follow, step forward the pilot episodes of Arrested Development and The West Wing). That's why I'm not too worried that the first Ugly Betty episode of the new season wasn't quite up to the usual standard - things can only get better.
As can only be expected, "How Betty Got Her Grieve Back" primarily deals with bringing us up to date on the characters. Betty is trying to forget about Henry by taking on an even greater workload, resulting in her becoming super-stressed and even getting, um, high blood pressure. What is it with this show and stupid medical-related problems? Ignacio's heart condition was boring enough - if I wanted hospital action I'd be watching Grey's Anatomy. We discover that Bradford is Amanda's father which I think is supposed to be a major plot point, but which didn't elicit an "Oh my God!" such as an "Oh...yeah. Duh?" response. Bradford really bores me, I wish the guy would get a facial expression or two.
The Awesome Claire Meade is living with prison break-out buddy Yoga in what looks like a beach house of some description; Daniel is recovering in hospital from the car-crash that has left his sister Alexis in a coma (!), Wilhemina is still scheming to get her hands on Mode Magazine, Marc is...doing not much and Christina is still Scotish. I wonder if they'll develop her "I left a husband back in Scotland" storyline; I kind of hope not, unless they draft someone amazing in to play Mr McKinney. Somebody, say, Scottish and dark and...Timelordesque?
As usual, Mark and Amanda provide the giggles. Even fairly clichéd phrases are laden with extra humour and snark when they drip from this pair's laconic tongues.
Marc: So, this is where you grew up?
Amanda: This is it. The house of lies. [shouting upstairs] Mother! If that is your real name...
We also get a nice, if slightly awkward looking, Mark dressed up as Wilhemina. His Wili-outfit looks suspiciously like his Middle-Ages outfit from Secretary's Day. One tacky wig fits all, I guess.
Alexis wakes up from her coma, feeling thirsty. The twist? She wonders why her brother is calling her Alexis. "It's me, Alex" she croaks. I've never been in a coma, but I would hope that when I awoke I'd be able to tell what sex I was. Maybe that's just wishful thinking...
Finally, the crux of the episode - Santos' departure. The episode tries to lull us into a false sense of security by having Santos "alive" throughout the entire episode but c'mon people, after that season ending how could they leave him alive? It was slightly manipulative to have Hilda be with Santos for the entire episode just to reveal the truth at the end, but I admit I wallowed in it. When Betty opened the door to the darkened room with Hilda hunched alone in her bed...yep, I cried.
But, no fear because happiness is (hopefully) soon at hand - the glorious return of Senor Grubstick to the Big Apple! Yahoo!
Let's hope Charlie's gone for good. I like Jayma Mays who plays her but the character was such an unnerving mix of cloying sweetness and pyschopathism that she was impossible to like (Mays similar but superior character, also named Charlie, on Heroes was cruelly murdered in her first episode - this actress just can't get a break).
One question - what the hell is up with the timeline of this episode? I only watched it once, so maybe somebody mentioned how much time has passed since the last episode, but if they did I missed it and so am a little confused. Daniel is recovering in hospital but is still fairly beat up (and still poppin' those pills, good old Danny) and Alexis is in firmly in a coma which would lead to me believe only a shortish time has passed; Justin's at summer-camp and seeming quite perky despite his obvious cause for being miserable (having your dad bumped off just as you two were getting along, him showing you how to snap your fingers and all, must be a bit of a downer, no?) so I'm inclined to think a decent amount of time has passed. Conflicting thoughts! Agh. This show should not require brain power. Plus, how long did it take Amanda to confront her parents about their true identity?
Overall, it was a decent episode with some laughs, some tears and, yes, a couple of cringe-worthy moments. There was no Wowzer moments, but that can hardly be expected in a expositionary episode.
Claire Meade: "I’ll be dressed as a nun ... or a cat. I haven't decided yet."
(Have I mentioned that Claire Meade is awesome? That punch she administrated to Wili was dead on, much better than the lame one Bree gave to to Orson's ex-wife that I can't remember what she was called in the last season of Desperate Housewives.)