I don’t know about you all, but I am not OK. There’s no way to be OK after watching this week’s episode of Sweet/Vicious. Jennifer Kaytin Robinson, Eliza Bennett, Taylor Dearden and company delivered one hell of an emotional gut punch with “Heartbreaker.” One that, once we’re all done rocking back and forth in the corner, deserves a standing ovation. So much of the show’s first season has been built around this moment, and Robinson penned an episode that provided an in depth look at the characters, relationships and what exactly happened the night Nate raped Jules.
I’m not always a big fan of flashbacks, but if used correctly, they can be a powerful storytelling device. As with most aspects of storytelling during its first season, Sweet/Vicious not only succeeded with their use of the flashback sequences, but they added so much depth to the viewers’ experience. Thus far, we’ve only ever known Jules as a survivor and Nate as the rapist. But what were they like before everything happened? What was their relationship like before he crossed the line? The flashbacks served to show us just that, Jules’ attack itself, and the messy, complicated aftermath she had to deal with.
As I’ve suspected all along, Nate and Jules used to have a pretty good relationship. He was her best friend’s boyfriend and they were close friends because of that. Of course all that changed at the party, and Nate’s intentions about what he wanted, along with the fact that he was going to get it no matter what, were clear the moment he went upstairs. Nate may not have started out as the villain, but he sure as hell has become one now. It was extremely difficult to watch as he covered Jules’ mouth and raped her. Eliza Bennett should be commended because she was heartbreaking, raw, exposed and stellar once again.
Sweet/Vicious has done such a wonderful job showing all sides to these assault stories, the issues surrounding them and giving them the full time and attention they deserve. This week the spotlight was on Jules’ attack and I was glad the show didn’t gloss over what happened after it took place. Instead, we saw everything she was thinking and feeling as she tried to figure out not only what just happened to her, but what to do next. Sadly, it’s a situation many sexual assault victims can relate to–the fear, the uncertainty, the sadness, the unknown–and as she sat and googled what to do next, it all felt so real. Sweet/Vicious also has a knack for always picking the right song for the moment, and the haunting cover of “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” while this was all going down was pure perfection.
While she did ultimately seek medical attention and then counseling, the show caused me to hate Keiko Agena (aka Lane from Gilmore Girls) like I never have before. I wanted to reach into my television screen and shield Jules from this horrible person that was supposed to be helping her. Again, this is just another sad reality that far too many victims are faced with, where people that are supposed to be providing a safe space and be someone that the victim can talk to, turn out to be helping the perpetrator instead.
I could feel my blood start to boil as this counselor succeeded in turning everything Jules told her on its head, suggesting the attack was nothing more than a case of regret. The fact that conversations just like this one are happening all across college campuses is downright terrifying, especially when they involve “high profile” students like Nate. Unfortunately for Jules, she returned home to find Kennedy gushing about how much it means to her that she’s close to Nate, and coupled with the experience at the counselor’s, and the fear of telling those close to her about the attack, it’s easy to see why Jules has kept this secret for so long.
Thankfully, Jules now has Ophelia in her life and the true depths of their friendship, and the lengths at which Ophelia is willing to go to be there for Jules, were evident. Sweet/Vicious does a great job at blending laughs and lighter moments in with its serious subject matter, and “Opharris Day” was a prime example. Seeing Jules and Harris celebrate the anniversary of their friendship, while adding Jules into the mix, was a much needed and welcome change in tone from the heaviness of the flashbacks. Also, Sweet/Vicious please know that I’m always down for more Brandon Mychal Smith in any capacity that you will give him to us.
“It’s cool if you don’t identify me as your best friend yet, but you sure as hell are mine. So let me do what best friends do and make you feel better.” – Ophelia
Now we all knew that Jules drinking for the first time since her assault was going to turn out to be a bad idea, but it was hard to ignore her need to let loose, especially after that amazing sing-a-long to The Bleachers’ “I Wanna Get Better.” (Seriously though, the music on this show guys!) Unfortunately, that pit in my stomach grew exponentially when Nate showed up at the bar, and mixed in with the alcohol, we hit Jules’ breaking point. Given Jules’ vigilante activities over the last year it was no surprise to learn that she thinks beating Nate up will be the only way she can move on.
Once again, Ophelia was there to stop her and remind her that the only way she can truly get better is to talk to someone about what happened to her. Jules needs to stop listening at group therapy and actually talk about her trauma. That scene in the bathroom made it clear how these two always seem to know what’s best for each other. It’s also clear that Dearden and Bennett flat out spoil us viewers. On a show like Sweet/Vicious, where the cast is so strong–especially these two leads–it’s easy to take something like that moment for granted. Dearden and Bennett seem to effortlessly hit all the notes and drove an emotional dagger right through my heart.
The episode ended with a flashback to Jules’ group therapy sessions where one victim shared her story and the feelings she felt during her attack. As she recounted feelings of fear, and how she wished her attacker was subjected to the same, Jules the Vigilante was born. This flashback, coupled with the scene in the bathroom, make it easy to see why Jules feels she needs to get justice on Nate to get better, but I fear that Ophelia is the one who is right here. Until Jules starts to talk about what happened to her she’s not going to be able to truly start to heal.
“I wish I could strip away his sense of safety. I wish I could make him feel like I do, like fear is running through his entire body.” – Female assault victim
Whether or not Jules does that remains to be seen, and she faces quite an uphill battle trying to get Kennedy to know the truth about what really happened that night. Thankfully, Jules has Ophelia by her side, and with each passing week I’m convinced more and more just how powerful these two are together. So hurry up and tell your friends, and have them tell their friends, that they need to be watching Sweet/Vicious. From its strong, complex female characters, to the unexpectedly wonderful variety of female friendships and most importantly, the very realistic and brave take on the subject matter, this is a show we need on the air. Let’s make sure MTV knows that and gives the show the second season it so rightly deserves.
What did you think of seeing the flashbacks of Jules’ assault? Add your thoughts on the episode in the comments below!
Sweet/Vicious airs Tuesdays at 10 p.m. ET on MTV and MTV Canada.
Editor in Chief Bridget Liszewski comes from a long line of TV Junkies who fostered her love of television from a very young age. She's channeled that passion into covering both US and Canadian television shows, and is thankful everyday for the invention of the DVR. A graduate of the University of Notre Dame, she loves college football and is a fan of sports in general. Bridget is always up for talking TV and you can follow her on twitter at @BridgetOnTV.