Wheyy another review…
Now I know that this final season has been reviewed and re-reviewed over and over and that, but what the fuck, here I go anyway.
Okay. Having a mental illness is something that has, until only very recently and perhaps even now, not been taken with the seriousness and attention that it deserves. The absence of an immediate physical symptom in an illness such as depression or anxiety has led to the widespread opinion that it is of somewhat less importance than purely physical illnesses.
I first heard of mmfd through my best friend, whose mum was one of the producers on the show (Roanna Benn). I was a bit hesitant at first, wary as a result of past experiences with TV and its depictions of mental health. I thought it would prove, at best, naff and predictable, and, at worst, insensitive and maybe even insulting. I was wrong, so, so, wrong.
Having a character like Rae, with all of her good and not so good qualities, her achievements and her fuckups, her good moments and her bad days, in short, seeing an on-screen teenage girl reflecting all the highs and lows of a real adolescent, someone who could be me or you, or a classmate or family, is rare and unusual, and comforting for those of us who can’t identify ourselves completely in depictions of teenage life in the media today. What’s more, to find a program that does so in a painfully accurate, unashamedly honest and, at times, even funny way means more than I can begin to describe.
Season 1, Rae’s gradual reintroduction into the world, her struggle to come to terms with her illness, her search, not only for acceptance from her family and peers, but from herself, it was so well written and acted and filmed that I wanted to cry, not just because of the heart wrenching story line but also out of appreciation of having that much attention and care put into telling Rae’s story, into making this a show worth seeing.
Season 2 (my favourite season) did this (if possible) to an even greater extent, handling taboo subjects carefully with no hint of cliché or sarcasm. More importantly, however, neither of the two seasons in any way encouraged or glamourised mental health disorders in the way that TV shows such as say, Skins, have done in the past, nor did they portray them in a way that might make viewers identifying and suffering from such disorders feel like total shit.
Season 3 had absolutely none of this care and attention poured into it. Let’s start with Finn and Rae’s relationship. At the end of the first series Kester tells Rae that she has to stop rejecting herself in order to stop being afraid of rejection by others. One of the biggest worries that I, at least, had when I was first clinically diagnosed with depression was what the fuck was everyone going to think? I was anxious, I beat myself up over it, it took over my reactions to events around me, like something dirty and shameful, and, as a result, I handled it really badly. The worry of being accepted, of being loved despite everything, of being understood. And that’s what I loved about the character of Finn and his honestly incredible portrayal by Nico Mirallegro: his unconditional love for Rae, no matter her size or her mental state. I loved how he was set up to be this gorgeous, gorgeous guy, sporty, popular, musical, whatever, essentially the perfect boy and was instead, through equally incredible character development on Tom Bidwell’s part, portrayed as normal, with faults and his own insecurities, and a very human struggle in relating his feelings and thoughts to those around him. I loved how he was never purely Rae’s love interest, no, he was first and foremost her friend, somebody who had even misjudged her at first, disliked her, and had taken the time to get to know her, admitting his mistake and eventually fallen in love with her. That bit where he tells her he likes her because she’s strong and she just hasn’t realised it yet. What a scene, seriously. Mental illness leaves you feeling weak, vulnerable, unable to properly see yourself. To be told that you’re strong is literally all I and I’m sure many others in similar positions to me have wanted and still want to hear and have the people surrounding us see. Which is why I hated season 3. That bit where he tells her she’s mental? It’s not so much what he said, rather that he said it at all. It’s a character inconsistency, one of the many actually. He would never. Not the Finn from the first two seasons. He had too much respect and understanding for what Rae’s illness meant to her, how it was affecting her. He was always wary and careful when they talked about how she was doing, quick to reassure her and never, ever insensitive. Then there’s the matter of him cheating on her with that Katie girl. I was completely in denial for the entirety of the scene; I wondered a few times if George Kay had even bothered to look over the previous seasons at all, such was the difference in characterisation. There have been several instances in both season 1 and 2 in which we see Finn express his opinions on the way that romantic relationships, shall we say, should be handled. An example would be in the second episode of the first season, in which he, despite his apparent dislike of Rae at the time, takes the time to apologise to her on Archie’s behalf as well as for his own actions because he believed it wasn’t right to lie and let somebody down the way that Rae had been. Again, in that scene with Chloe in season 2, he tells her he thinks that one should only really kiss somebody if one means it. At the beginning of the second season, when he kisses Rae and explicitly tells her he’s kissing her because he wants to, with no ulterior motives. He’s consistent. He’s not a character which has, in any way, given viewers reason to expect him to cheat. It’s just not something he would do. I understand that the new writers, producers etcetera wanted to deconstruct the ‘perfect’ image Finn’s character seems to give off but, as described above, I believe that was completely unnecessary. We already knew he had faults, he started off as a prick, didn’t he?Moody and miserable and sarcastic and rude, however good looking, it still took some time for viewers to warm to him. Essentially, they did deconstruct Finn’s character: they created a whole new persona many fans were hard pressed to reconcile with come the end of the show. Also, his hair. No.
On a related and unrelated matter, I’d also like to talk about Nico Mirallegro’s acting. He’s good looking and charming and all of that, of course he is, he was picked to play Finn, he had to be, but as an actor he is so much more than that. Small things, ticks and movements and facial expressions which render Finn a multi-dimensional and extremely believable 17 year old, he brought that character to life. It sort of pisses me off that, as fans, many of us seem to be unable to look past the undeniable fact that he is super cute and not be able to appreciate how much he has actually done for a character which would otherwise have been a little too obvious, black-and-white almost. Sure, I think that the way that Bidwell wrote Finn was brilliant but it was Mirallegro’s acting that made any of it convincing and utterly believable. On the one hand, Finn is the kind of guy we’d all like to meet someday, on the other, he’s kind of an asshole who struggles with his own emotions and how to get them across to the people around him. How many of those have we met? How many of those have we yet to meet?
Anyway. Moving onto Rae’s relationship with Kester. I think it’s Tumblr user darlingdiver who wrote a beautiful analysis of all of the ways in which Kester’s credibility as a trained professional and as a good therapist to Rae was diminished and cancelled out at various points throughout the final series. It is definitely worth reading and put into words my uncomfortableness with the absolutely huge plot holes surrounding Kester and Rae’s relationship. What’s even more heartbreaking is that that had previously been, for me anyway, one of the high points of the show as a whole. We see Rae’s relationships in four stages: her mum, her friends, her therapist and herself. Each of these were handled amazingly, believably and with clear contrasts between them. Her sessions with Kester were an opportunity for Rae and the viewer to group the episodes events together and make sense of the emotional impact they were having on Rae’s character and the storyline as a whole. To have Kester become another friend, an absent one at that, whose own weaknesses intervene and even damage Rae’s therapy, is such a let down, I was so incredibly angry by the end of it (that car park scene - what the hell?).
Finally, and then I really am finished, is Rae herself. As always, Sharon Rooney was stunning in every way and pretty much salvaged the show; however, once again, there were inconsistencies. Previous seasons have seen Rae struggle and eventually succeed in overcoming her inability to tell those around her the truth. Several times Rae is seen to hate the way her lies are spinning out of control and the season finale sees her finally able to put all of those insecurities behind her and trust her friends and family and general support network. So what is all that about her outright lies to Finn, to her family, to Chloe, to Kester? What? Season 2 finished with Rae finally letting Finn in, both emotionally and physically, so why would she hide such a massive change in her life and circumstances when, since even before they became a couple, she had always talked to him and confided in him? That episode in season 1 after the rave when she’s slowly scratching out her options of people to talk to, I’m pretty sure Finn is somewhere close to the top of that list alongside Chloe, who is, incidentally, yet another person she lied to. Her promise in season 2 to look after her sister and bond with her, we see absolutely no evidence of that happening, indeed, she doesn’t even seem upset about the idea of her baby sister and parents moving to Tunisia, another plot inconsistency which, in short, pissed me off. The whole thing felt lazily written and it is only thanks to the actors and they’re amazing loyalty to their characters that I and many others watched to the end. That and the misguided hope that it would somehow get better.
There are good points. Chop’s tattoo was so typical and endearing, Chloe was incredible throughout and the inclusion of Danny, although subtle to the point of almost invisible, were all small compensations for the rest of it.
For me the mmfd story ends with Season 2. The lack of closure is upsetting but at least I’ll get to keep the characters that I know and love.
Given that my Doc Scratch head is a pain and a half to carry around and wear, I will also be further desecrating my main cosplay character, Doc Scratch, by making him human sometimes throughout the day that I’m rocking the dance outfit look.
I will probably be the human version half the time I’m wearing the outfit, while wearing a white wig. As for the headpiece, I’m really happy with how it came out! Can’t wait for AX.