The second episode of CW’s Katy Keene, “Chapter Two: You Can’t Hurry Love,” is still frothy, though some of its plot points do grate more than its pretty pilot did.
“Chapter Two: You Can’t Hurry Love”
Steve Adelson (director), Michel Grassi (writer)
Lucy Hale, Ashleigh Murray, Camille Hyde, Jonny Beauchamp, Julia Chan, Lucien Laviscount, Zane Holtz, Katherine LaNasa (cast)
Based on Archie Comics
February 13, 2020
There’s something romantically apt about watching an episode of Katy Keene the day before Valentine’s Day. In a show dedicated to love — between friends, dedication to one’s art, passion for one’s city and desire between romantic partners — the show dishes up plenty of affection, tinged with the bright, ripe reds that Katy’s so fond of wearing.
Unfortunately, love doesn’t quite come as easily to our heroine as one might hope. Katy Keene first shows us how K.O. Kelly and our titular heroine met — then shows us the highlights of their relationship over the past half-dozen years — ranging from their first meeting on a bustling New York street as teenagers to his intent support of her during her mother’s cancer battle. By the time the montage is over you will ‘ship it — and be a little disappointed, if not sad, that Katy ends up turning down K.O.’s proposal.
I know — you can probably see her gentle rejection of their union coming — it’s only the second episode of the series, after all, and we have to build up to what will likely be Katy and K.O.’s eventual nuptials. Yet, watching our heroine’s decision be nipped from her grip by a convenient thief is a disappointment that’s far too convenient to the plot.
It turns out that the fleet-footed thief who ripped off Katy’s engagement ring is the “Alphabet City Bandit.” While Pepper exploits the situation for her gossip column — turning a horrified Katy into a public spectacle — her friends interrogate Katy over her ambivalent reaction to K.O.’s proposal. They’ve been together since high school, she demurs, but her lack of passionate certainty causes Josie to tell Katy to make sure that K.O. is the one.
While Katy might be nervous about how she really feels about K.O., her position in his family is solid as a rock, and her interaction with his mom, June (well-done by Becky Ann Baker) is tender and shows a natural history. It helps give her an answer but doesn’t promote the engagement’s health.
But Katy doesn’t have the luxury of time to reflect (and Lucy Hale keeps her wide-eyed, eager ambition alive) because everyone around her is thinking marriage. The Prince she impressed in the pilot has specifically requested her help in picking out an engagement ring for his commoner honey — which means Katy’s thrust back into the high glam world of Gloria and Amanda — while trying to balance life with Francoise, who demands she pick once and for all between mentorship with him as a window dresser or life above-stair as a personal shopper. This plot point confused me, since Gloria had fired Katy in the previous episode, and the decision had already been made for her — why she needs to make it again feels like a waste of time. Yet I really like the relationship between Gloria and Katy and its messy, muddy complexity as it wavers between a boss/employee and mother/daughter interaction.
Predictably, Katy’s engagement angst leaks out all over the place and she becomes less than helpful while trying to guide Prince in selecting a ring. Even more awkwardness happens when K.O. tells her that his mom’s throwing them an engagement party based on what she read in Pepper’s column. But this helps drive Katy’s ultimate choice in a way that feels realistic.
Elsewhere, Josie is already feeling overwhelmed by life in New York — when pressed to come up with a full $1,000 of rent money for her share of the apartment, she realizes one job isn’t going to cut it. While running around looking for a secondary employment to cover her bills, she lucks out in stumbling her way into the dying Chubby’s Records after seeing an old Help Wanted ad. Josie’s clear love for music charms Chubby himself (played by the gloriously talented André De Shields, a Tony award winner for Hadestown last year) into allowing her to try to revive the place. This whole portion of the story — about how high rent prices are killing New York’s cultural heart — is impactful and much better handled than the more awkward Aesop from last week’s episode. And it brings Alex right back into her orbit, Alexandra in tow.
There’s really only one character I can’t bond with — Pepper, who seems to take little flack for making Katy’s life more difficult in this episode — mostly because she has problems entirely of her own. She’s trying to get a backer for her club “The Pepper Plant,” which is supposed to be a modern version of Andy Warhol’s Factory. But the guy she wants to get money from is more interested in doing cocaine in the bathroom than giving her money; when he’s unsurprisingly arrested on drug charges, she’s left without major investors, and on top of that is in arrears for $600,000 in rent money for a place she’s already sacrificed her all on. Compared to the struggles of the other characters, Pepper’s plot continues to avoid impressing me.
And then there’s Jorge, whose ex-Rockette, ambitious mom (essayed fabulously by Daphne Rubin-Vega — that’s right, Jorge’s mom is Mimi Marquez!) keeps trying to nudge him to go back out on the Broadway audition circuit, even though his actions in the last episode have made him a persona non grata in the community, blacklisting him. Jorge’s subplot is heartbreaking even as he gets an audition for the touring production of the hot musical “Jefferson” and is told nastily by his agent not to perform any of his “antics” — in short, to butch it up, forcing him to recede from his tough statement of independence — closeting him, he comes to realize, and closeting his existence as Ginger. Jonny Beauchamp is a treasure, and Jorge and Ginger’s portion of the series continues to bring serious weight to the cotton candy texture of Katy’s world.
Lighting continues to be the show’s main bane — while it does a good job of both making New York City look grungy and dreamy — a land where, as Katy monologues in the beginning, “the city that inspires you can knock you down and trample over you in the next,” everything is photographed twelve shades too darkly 70 percent of the time.
Katy Keene, overall, continues to be a light trifle of a show with an earnest heart.