Spoiler Alert: Do not read on if you have not yet seen Season 1, Episode 3 of The CW's "The Carrie Diaries," titled "Read Before Use."
"In reality, nothing is ever as simple as the label we give it," a young Carrie Bradshaw says at the end of "Read Before Use." In the third episode of "The Carrie Diaries," the over-analytical teenager struggles to look beyond the labels she quickly fashions for herself, her family and her friends. She realizes that sometimes, labels are not created in haste, but descriptions that are earned.
Similar to the second episode of the series, "Read Before Use" suffered from the show's inability to crisply convey its central theme. The episodes need a stronger structural element to weave the various subplots together. I don't need to hear Carrie say the word "label" more than 30 times as her voice narrates over scenes to understand that this episode is about, well, labels.
I love Amy B. Harris' writing. In fact, she wrote two of what I consider to be the best "Sex and the City" episodes ever -- "Ring A Ding Ding" (where Charlotte gives Carrie the engagement ring from Trey for her apartment down payment), and "Hop, Skip and A Week" (the legendary episode where Berger breaks up with Carrie on a Post-it). But there's a difference between crafting age-appropriate storylines and dumbing down the writing. I fear we are dealing with the latter here, which is a shame, because I think this series has great potential.
Carrie continues to hang out with Larissa, the Interview magazine style editor she met at Century 21. I love the idea of Carrie spending time with an older, trendy and tapped-in party girl who introduces her to New York City nightlife. I would just prefer that older party girl be discerning enough to realize when she's hanging out with a 16-year-old.
Carrie's romance with Sebastian is still blossoming in and around Castlebury High. Her father has forbidden her from dating Sebastian, but that doesn't stop a defiant Carrie from seeing him against her father's wishes. She figures out that her dad was Sebastian's lawyer at some point in time and later learns how the object of her affection earned his bad boy label.
"Sebastian got kicked out of his last school because he had sex with his art history teacher," Carrie tells her friends Maggie and Mouse over lunch at a diner.
"Okay, gross. You can never date him!" Mouse responds.
"But it's sort of cool he took art history right?!"
I laughed out loud at this moment, and no, not ironically. It was a cute scene and Maggie and Mouse were more appealing to me here than usual. When Carrie meets up with Sebastian, she tells him (as though it's not a big deal at all) that she knows he had sex with his teacher. He freaks out (understandably) and ends things between them. And for some other reason, Carrie tells her dad that she broke into his work files to learn about Sebastian's case, which prompts her dad to explode at her. Carrie's naivete was palpable in both these scenes. Because she thinks her intentions are pure, she fails to understand the ramifications of her actions.
That night, Carrie accompanies Mouse into Manhattan. Mouse is on her way to see her ex-boyfriend Sean, the Princeton freshman she lost her virginity to over the summer. Carrie, Mouse and Sean meet up with Larissa at an art exhibit, which is actually a former porn star sitting on a throne-like chair and flashing her nether regions to interested parties for a penny. A PENNY. We get it, she's cheap. Anyways, this makes all three of the sixteen-year-olds uncomfortable. Mouse runs away, while Carrie has a dramatic moment in which she says that she's "owning [her] vagina" and getting the hell outta there. Right. So, as I wrote last week, the city scenes are not yet working for me, and I was happy that the majority of the episode took place in Connecticut.
Meanwhile, Dorrit shoplifts a hamster she named Morrissey and brings him home. While their dad is out trying to socialize at a singles bar, Morrissey escapes from his shoebox. Carrie's dad eventually finds the hamster and takes both girls to the pet store to purchase a proper cage and food for the newest member of their family.
While I'm still not a fan of Mouse or Maggie, I am becoming more invested in Carrie's life at home and the Sebastian saga. The relationship between Carrie, Dorrit and their father is compelling, at-times cheesy and mostly enjoyable. I giggled while watching her dad try to buy tampons at the grocery store, but found myself cringing while seeing him talk to women at a singles bar. It felt tremendously out of place, and I hope there isn't a "Carrie struggles with her dad's dating life" storyline coming in Episode 4. Let's ease into that one, shall we? I'd prefer to watch more scenes of Carrie developing her love for high-end fashion by mulling over her mom's closet than seeing a new maternal figure move into one.
And there we have it! Did I miss anything? Are you enjoying watching the young Carrie Bradshaw navigate love and loss? Sound off in the comments below!
"The Carrie Diaries" airs Monday nights at 8:00 p.m. on the CW.