Selfie — ‘the entire rest of it’ review

EVEN HELL HAS TWO BARS

This is the first episode of this show that wasn’t a complete disaster. It’s just Henry’s weekend that’s a disaster, and he’s got his own nerves to blame. Wow, and then Henry goes and blames Eliza for all that’s gone wrong that weekend. Apologise, dude!

“I have grown accustomed to your face.”

Dawww, Henry coming over on that majestic horse is adorable. I kinda hate myself for liking the show for those sincere moments… it’s hard to see past how furious it made me in the beginning and to take the bad with the good because, the first four outings have been pretty much… all bad. I just wish that we could have had more of this, two people connecting and slowly showing each other the way they see the world instead of forcing them into the corset that is My Fair Lady.

NEVER BLOCK COOKIES

If Henry says, “There’s nothing wrong with me because I’m not sexually promiscuous,” then someone on that show has to have the sense to realise that Henry berating Eliza for being, guess what, sexually promiscuous is the same shade of wrong, just from the other side of the argument.

This show has a persistent problem with ignoring nuance and only seeing things in black and white. There’s always only two sides to an issue (the wrong and the right), when, in fact, there are about 100 sides to each problem they’re facing. The entire dichotomy that’s being propagated here runs along the lines of, “damned if I do, and damned if I don’t,” and Selfie, if it is intended as satire, is not doing a good job. Because satire hinges on the art of taking people’s prejudices and turning them on their heads right in front of them so they may recognise their own idiocy. Selfie isn’t doing that. It’s scoring cheap shots.

Episode 6 did so well in not being completely terrible — probably because, for once, it wasn’t about Henry berating Eliza for her behaviour. Instead, it was Eliza trying to get Henry laid — just as dumb, but for once not targeted at her. Of course, it was the celebrated beginning of the narrative now definitely attempting to push Henry and Eliza together.

John Cho and Karen Gillan star in SELFIE

HERE’S THIS GUY

Aaand here’s the girlfriend, and here’s the jealousy. And there’s the terrible trope of the nagging girlfriend not wanting their boyfriends to spend time with other women. And the other harmful trope of boyfriends not liking their girlfriends’ best friends. And that other thing with the first instinct being to knock the perceived competition down.

Ladyboy? Really? Can this show really only be funny by being a jerk?

Thanks to Julia for being the voice of reason and kindness that tells Henry to shove off and go help Eliza.

TRAUMATIC PARTY STRESS DISORDER

Oh. Oh I think I may have found it. The episode that didn’t go wrong, but that, instead, offered some character development. Henry had fun, Julia may have not reacted so well but came by later to apologise, and Eliza had an earnest motive for wanting to make this birthday a good experience, and acknowledged her own lonely past to explain why.

That’s not to say that I thought this episode was the pinnacle of sitcom because… it wasn’t, really.

Eliza and her phone — the one true love

FOLLOW THROUGH

The jazz session was actually funny!

In the meantime, Freddy wants Eliza to meet his parents, and she’s… wigging out.

And… oh dear, Henry actually respectfully tells Bryn’s friend that he’s not interested — and she’s not immediately being portrayed as a nutter. Right up until she stops making the boss’s favourite to get back at him…

Oh, and there’s the reminder that actually, Eliza is still, technically, an assignment for Henry. Someone that he’s doing a “great job” with.

Eliza is actually doing a great job herself — because she found an opportunity of using her proficiency in social media for work.

“Little bit of you, little bit of me.”
“That seems to be the winning combination.”

Heeey, look at you, show, learning that merely a makeover isn’t enough and that both of them have to integrate what they learn from each other into their lives or else they aren’t going to grow as people. Pity that the show only focuses on their differences, not on what they have in common already and then build from there. It’s an interesting narrative, but since the play on dichotomy and opposites is so strong, it gets exhausting and kind of an endless tug-o-war.

Like that bit at the end: it seemed like the world was divided into two kinds of people — those on their phones, and those not on their phones. For goodness’ sake, give me something that’s not good and evil, real life and social media. They work together, wasn’t that supposed to be the whole point?

Ooh, that’s clever. “We’re just not a winning combination.” So, so obviously recalling her earlier conversation with Henry. Cleverrrr.

And then… oh no. That scene in the elevator. Bless them, that was actually funny.

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IMPERFECT HARMONY

Raj. Raj, take that binder and set it on fire, I beg of you.

I was going to be surprised that Eliza declared her love for Henry first, but then it occurred to me that he clearly wasn’t going to find his courage somewhere under the couch first.

You know, I like them together. I think Karen and John have great chemistry. It’s just that… Eliza fell in love with the guy who spent months correcting her behaviour at every turn, trying to mold her into a different person without taking a sufficient look at the person she actually is. He was tasked with creating a personality for her. Without asking about her life, about her past, about who she thinks she is or could be or wants to be. Without finding out what they have in common that he can use to connect to her. Sure, she grew on him. But he still didn’t treat her well. Consistently.

And, basically, he fell in love with the person he made her into and only partially with the person she actually is and always was before they even met.

This is a narrative of a man tasked with making a sexually promiscuous and notorious woman into someone who desires monogamy — and who ends up desiring it with him. Am I the only one who finds that creepy? It’s sort of glossed over how much Henry influences what Eliza does on any given day, but it’s pretty much… all the time. Because the premise is that Eliza has no persona of her own.

“We’re talking about our relationship, not a hostile corporate take-over.”

Questioning the validity of Eliza’s feelings is a bad, bad move, Henry. Her responding speech is actually great. Where did the writers find the energy to give Eliza real, actual feelings and some emotional insight?

And Henry was lying, Julia wasn’t waiting for him downstairs.

The show’s actually pretty strong when it moves away from its titular obsession, the selfie and the social media and the kids and their phones. Bad luck it never really get out of the gate on this stuff.

PERESTROIKA

Eliza gets evicted from her apartment because of her reckless spending. Show, why do you do this to me? On the plus side, she and Henry reconcile over putting her finances back together.

Yes, Freddy, why didn’t you offer to let Eliza stay with you?

And now it’s totally credible that Eliza is back with Freddy… come on, she’s settling for the comfortable alternative because she’s unhappy. I like that Eliza is genuinely sorry that it didn’t work out with Julia, but now they’re at this weird juncture where one of them has taken a step forward (moved on from the one they aren’t in love with) and one backward (going back to the one they aren’t in love with).

David Harewood and John Cho in 'Selfie'

STICK IN THE MUD

David Harewood is wasted on that role, man.

Oh look, they’re giving Eliza backstory with a borderline hellish sister who she’s had a sibling rivalry with and who didn’t actually come to the city to catch up with her, but to catch Eliza up on her life.

Meanwhile, Henry has an outlet for his jealousy of Freddy in that damn mud run. I’m just grateful that their physical altercation isn’t solely about Eliza, but about their long-standing animosity.

“And you often besmirch my neckties!”

At the end of it, there’s actually some growth. Freddy and Henry bond, and so do Eliza and her sister.

Oh great, here we go. The way Eliza is stems from her parents’ divorce and her not getting as much attention as her sister. Aha. Good to know. But, in the wake of that, Eliza takes steps to get closer to her family, which I guess is positive.

I WOKE UP LIKE THIS

In the last and final episode of Selfie’s one-season run, Eliza finally finds that accepting her former awkward self is actually a good idea — something that could and should have been explored throughout the narrative of the show before we get to this point, but oh no, they had to waste their time and the characters’ potential on… all that other stuff.

Why does the show even end on the note that Eliza and Freddy are seemingly still in love with each other? If, just a couple of episodes before, Eliza realised that their personalities are just not… compatible. Because they hardly know anything about each other, and because they don’t really care. And now there’s this. And Henry on a skateboard. I mean, sure they had hoped that they would get more than one season, and that’s the emotional cliffhanger, but come on.

The implication certainly is that Henry will eventually be able to express his feelings for Eliza — we’ll just never get to see it happen.

So we say goodbye to the 1/4-hit-wonder that was Selfie, and hope that Karen and John’s next projects are a) more exciting, b) get better writing, and c) don’t perpetuate harmful tropes and stereotypes under the guise of comedy. ’cause that shit ain’t funny.

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