Katy Keene’s “Ma” is all About Family

Katy keene, a dark-haired woman, wears a blue plaid blazer over a red jumpsuit and white blouse. She has tan Uggs on her feet, is captured in intense conversation with the man with whom she's interning, Guy Montagne. He is facing away from the camera, wearing a houndstooth blazer and black turtleneck.

In Katy Keene chapter eightJorge copes with the aftermath of his gay bashing incident, which means dealing with his father’s resultant over-protectiveness and his own trauma. Josie rebels against Alex’s authority vis-a-vis her career (again) by shooting a music video behind his back. Katy has the opportunity to compete for a prestigious internship, but to get it, she has to deal with Xandra, just as she’s trying to figure out if she and K.O. can still be friends. And Pepper’s plan for her birthday is disrupted by the return of Miss Freesia.

Katy Keene
“Chapter Eight: It’s All Right Ma (I’m Only Bleeding)”

Will Ewing (writer), Jessica Lowrey (director)
Lucy Hale, Ashleigh Murray, Camille Hyde, Jonny Beauchamp, Julia Chan, Lucien Laviscount, Zane Holtz, Katherine LaNasa, Nathan Lee Graham (cast); Bernadette Peters (guest star)
Based on Archie Comics
March 26, 2020

Family’s the name of the game on this week’s Katy Keene. There’s found family, like the Fab Four, blood clans like Jorge’s, and mentorship relationships.

In the main, everyone’s dealing with the painful aftermath of the homophobic violence Jorge suffered in the last episode, and while his physical pain extends to a black eye and a busted lip, his emotional trauma is far more profound. Jorge feels like he’s lost his sense of security and his sense of belonging in New York, a city that he’s considered “his” from birth. Worse, his father’s first instinct is to both blame Jorge’s drag career and the rest of the family for concealing Ginger’s existence from him, putting a chilly strain on the situation. His friends try to find the men who beat him, and even his boss at Molly’s Crisis tries to talk him into taking the week off and surrendering his shift to Deveraux. The only good thing about the whole disaster is that Bernardo is still proud to be seen with him — as Ginger or Jorge.

Elsewhere, Josie learns that her contract with the Cabots gives Alex’s father final approval over her career, which means he’s turned down her Apollo gig, and may hold her EP indefinitely unreleased. In rebellion she decides to ignore Alex’s advice to wait and decides to film a music video behind his back with Raj. When she finds out that it’s been taken down for copyright infringement, she instantly blames Xandra, but there turns out to be another culprit behind it all.

Katy keene, a dark-haired woman, wears a dark pink dress with a dramatic ruffled hemline. Beside her stands Pepper, her asian-american best friend, who wears a yellow-and-black pattered top over a blue mesh seethrough sleeveless jersey with red and yellow straps. Beside her is Josie McCoy, an African American woman wearin ga pink sleeveless shirt, a white peal choker and barrette and a black jacket. They're all looking stage right with smug smiles, their arms wrapped around each other.

Katy, meanwhile, is competing for an internship with Guy LaMontagne in the wake of the wedding dress fiasco — an act complicated by her attempt at being friends with K.O., and by his relationship with Xandra, as her first assignment is to retrieve one of Guy’s dresses from Xandra. This intentionally sticky situation tests Katy’s ability to separate work and business. It’s not an easy task at all; in fact, she doesn’t like how Xandra is trying to change K.O., and it’s all the much harder to accomplish when Xandra shows up to Pepper’s birthday party in Guy’s dress as an intentional provocation. Disaster strikes and ultimately Katy and Xandra are forced to find common ground.

Speaking of Pepper’s birthday (and no, she doesn’t know what day it actually falls on), the occasion of it usually means that the gang heads to Molly’s Crisis to celebrate. Miss Freesia appears suddenly at the doorstep of the Pepper Plant bearing treats, hoping to charm Pepper into running a con on an old target — also a birthday tradition — instead.  When she refuses to hang out with the gang and keep her only shot at going straight alive, Miss Freesia doesn’t make it easy, and her worlds collide. Also back: Chadwick, Pepper’s formerly addicted investor, fresh from a stint in rehab.

“It’s All Right Ma (I’m Only Bleeding)” anchors itself strongly in two opposing storylines: Jorge’s search to re-find himself, and Katy’s search for a friendly understanding with both Xandra and K.O. The former is moving, with a lot of good work from Jonny Beauchamp and Frank Pando as Luis, Jorge’s father. On the other hand, I don’t know how I feel about the possibility of a Jorge/Bernardo/Buzz triangle, especially after Buzz’s earlier antics.

It’s Katy Keene, and I have learned that while the show will try to mete out stories about heavy matters, such as gay bashing, to the viewing populace, its message will always be one of love, acceptance, and equality triumphing above hate. So I’m not shocked that the show doesn’t go overtly dark with Jorge’s journey back to his love of both Ginger and life in New York. What it does have the courage to do is examine how deeply being divorced from his sense of tribal pride hurts Jorge, even as his blood family flounders. But his friends group never fails him for a second.

Jorge and Kay have known one another since the third grade, and it shows in this episode, when she’s not angsting about K.O. and Xandra’s relationship. At this point these are well-trod storyline beats —  Katy is always going to be confused about her relationship with K.O., and they’re always going to be family. Everything else is just window dressing to their evolving relationship. (This includes even putting Xandra in K.O.’s orbit for reasons that still don’t make a lot of sense yet, but work because the show has only one true villain thus far, and it’s her.)

Katy keene, a dark-haired woman, wears a blue plaid blazer over a red jumpsuit and white blouse. She has tan Uggs on her feet. She looks stage left at her ex-boyfriend, K.O. Kelly, a while man with a meaty face and a buzz cut. He wears a tan vest over a blue shirt and wears cuffed jeans. They are caught deep in conversation, and they sit in a park during a beautiful if cold fall afternoon.

I do have to add that between her window dressing job, whatever she’s doing for Gloria, the fashion school application, and her internship, Katy has way too many irons in the fire right now even for an ambitious 20-something New Yorker. If I were the producers, again, I’d fish and cut bait on the window dressing plot, which would free up plot time and keep the tension where it belongs. I feel like I say that every week, but it’s really distracting from the narrative. The show genuinely seems to know what it wants — Katy choosing between creative fulfillment and high-class but empty luxury — but can’t pick the playing field.

Finally, it’s taken me eight episodes, but I’m finally starting to warm up to Pepper. Our introduction to her adorable father (no spoilers as to his identity) helps a lot, and Bernadette Peters’ sharp-minded and delightfully wicked Miss Freesia also provides an assist. We needed more of this Pepper long ago, before she tried to sell her friends out to the highest bidder for a headline.

Josie, meanwhile, seems to be stuck in a spin cycle of getting bad news from Alex, rebelling against Alex, absorbing disastrous consequences, and then being bailed out by good fortune. The show seems to have no idea what they actually want to do with her, and I look forward to them emerging out of the holding pattern they’ve had her stuck in.

“It’s All Right Ma (I’m Only Bleeding)” does a lot of beautiful things right, making it a huge step up from last week’s episode, and well worth watching.