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TV Review: SMILF (Season 1, Episode 8)

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SMILF’s finale is not quite as successful as the phenomenal previous episode but manages to tackle an equally serious issue.

The epigram that begins this week’s instalment is an infamous Woody Allen quote, “the heart wants what it wants,” and the series’ typical credits are abandoned to mimic those of Allen’s Manhattan. It’s a bold, clever statement in support of Dylan Farrow’s allegations against her father, ones that share no small similarities with the experience of Bridgette Bird.

 

It’s unfortunate that Mark’s Lunch & Two Cups of Coffee never again reaches the heights of its pitch-perfect opening scene, which sees a young Bridgette rehearse conversations about her abuse with her therapist. I didn’t foresee laughing at the line “my dad touched my vagina… yeah, I’d love to get tacos,” but the ordinary rules don’t seem to apply to SMILF.

Difficult though it is to write a sitcom about child abuse, SMILF successfully taps into the darkest vein of humour imaginable by making Bridgette’s therapist the butt of the joke; her insistence that talking about her experience to everyone, even to other children, will help Bridgette recover is patently absurd.  

However much Bridgette has moved on from her experience, trauma is still part of her life. Things are going pretty well for the adult Bridgette, as she’s reclaiming her apartment thanks to her new job. Not even an unfortunate bowl cut can get her down, until her foray into Tinder throws her back into contact with her abusive father.

The accidental contact with Richard sends Bridgette into a spiral that sees her stealing colleague’s lunches, binge-eating in the bathroom, and sleeping with her boss Ally’s son Casey once again. Throughout the sex, Bridgette insists that Casey degrade her, and when he politely advises her to keep quiet for the sake of Larry she humiliates him.

It’s shocking to see Bridgette act so callously, but it brings her to an important realisation: she’s not OK. With the help of Eliza, Bridgette adopts an unconventional method to get some closure: deliberately matching with her father on Tinder so she can confront him in person.

Is this strategy entirely healthy? Probably not, particularly considering the creepy montage where Eliza and Bridgette look for “date” outfits. Bridgette’s plan to make her father confess is not only potentially scarring, but it’s also very unlikely to work, as Tutu points out. Sadly, the argument that follows deserved to be a bigger moment than a half-hour episode allows.

Bridgette gives Larry to Rafi and Nelson as she prepares to meet her father, inadvertently revealing through her familiarity with their dog that Rafi slept at Bridgette’s house recently. Despite Nelson’s anger, she joins Tutu and Eliza to watch over Bridgette as she confronts her father in the restaurant, a nice nod to the strong female relationships that form the heart of SMILF.

A dramatic confrontation between Bridgette and her father would be out of character for this show, which has excelled in its quieter moments. True to form, after reciting her date a letter she wrote as a child it becomes clear that the man Bridgette has arranged to meet is not her father at all.

For all the catharsis of Bridgette’s speech, the chance to close this chapter of Bridgette’s life does not appear, nor would that have ever been possible. The episode never convinces you that Bridgette is really going to meet her father; it seems only Bridgette really believes that this might happen.

Last week’s episode delivered the drama that a series finale would typically bring, but the anticlimactic final episode is trying to say something else. SMILF chooses to end its first series with Bridgette among friends, rather than confronting enemies.

Bridgette’s world is more mundane and more beautiful than the tragedy that’s happened to her. After pain, things continue. Life goes on, in its sad, strange way. I only hope we get to see more of Bridgette’s life in future series.

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