Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Ugly Betty looks better and better

I was a little underwhelmed by the Ugly Betty premiere. It had the appearances of the Ugly Betty I love, the flash, the sparkle, but something seemed lacking. Maybe it was because Betty was no longer the shining example of morality she used to be (plagiarism scandal last season, anyone?), and I felt that Alexis, who was the driving force behind the entire excellent first season, had been given nothing to do except have her brain plop out of her head.

But last week's episode, and actually, the entire "Christina being pushed down the stairs" was exactly the shot in the arm this show needed. Ugly Betty is at it's heart a soap opera. It's based on those telenovellas for goodness sake! And while having Betty torn between two guys, having Wilhamina trying to take over Mode, and almost every other plot from the second half of last season was "dramatic," it wasn't soap opera-ish. The guys Betty was deciding between, while cute, were both kind of vanilla. And Wilhamina may be evil, but having her plot while Christina walks around kinda-pregnant, wasn't all that interesting.

But now! Christina gets attempted-murdered! Betty plays Nancy Drew with Mark and Amanda with hilarious results! Alexis gets arrested! And of course, admits to Claire that she (when she was a he) is actually the father of Daniel's supposed love-child! THAT is some good soap-operaing.

I'm gonna be honest...I knew Daniel was not going to turn out as that French kid's father. But when Alexis told Claire that she was the father, I was completely gobsmacked. In fact, I haven't been as surprised by a twist like that since Ugly Betty's first season when Alexis was revealed as the mystery woman scheming with Wilhamina. Well done, show! I believe the words "holy" and "shit" were bandied around my condo last night when I watched the show on the DVR.

The episode also set up some good plots for a lot of our other secondary characters. Christina's trouble with Stewart made for some really nice work by Ashley Jensen and Vanessa Williams, Amanda's money troubles will surely pay off in the coming weeks, and Mark secretly beats on a Wilhamina doll! Shocking! And actually, quite visually disturbing.

So does this signal a return to form for Ugly Betty? I hope so. I mean, don't get me wrong. Even when the show is not at it's peak, it's still hella entertaining. But this past episode, and the direction the plots are taking make me very optimistic. Only time will tell!

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