So the pilot established Speechless‘ premise and characters, and the previous episode established JJ and Kenneth’s relationship, now this episode is establishing JJ’s friendships with the other students at his mainstream school.
Again JJ’s friendships with the popular kids and his sense of humour in his interactions with them showed another side of him as a typical teenage boy. I also appreciated how his friendships with them all seamlessly flowed into the A story of the school’s much anticipated bonfire being cancelled due to his inability to attend.
The alternative bonfire was indeed a disaster as JJ described, another example of over-the-top compensation for ignorance/intolerance, however I feel it was balanced out well by the students saying how they were feeling about the bonfire being cancelled. I feel that those moments showed another realistic side of living alongside someone with a disability, in this case, going to school with one. The students, including his new friends, expressed feelings that until then they didn’t have the guts to say out loud. I felt it was a great choice by the writers to have Maya’s idea backfire, only to redeem herself using inspiration from JJ’s initial prank with the cool kids. I also appreciated the revelation that JJ actually wanted Maya’s help with the bonfire, showing that they are still figuring out the realities of being a part of a mainstream school. I hope that their journey on this discovery continues to play out throughout the season.
The Dylan and Ray subplots were hilarious and were an improvement of the previous episode’s subplots, however there was still not enough time being spent on them. I appreciated the character development in Dylan with her questioning why she runs and loved the scene where she questions her motives in front of her track team, which in turns leads to them all revealing their own doubts. I also enjoyed Ray’s attempts to woo Jillian, although I don’t think there is any hope there. I also appreciated the character development with Jimmy when he reveals to Ray exactly why other people’s opinions don’t phase him, which is believable and relatable.
Other hilarious moments of the episode included Kenneth’s hilariously sad dynamic with the high school students, Maya replacing JJ’s board with “cooler phrases”, and Dylan’s track teammate who apparently deserves the pain she feels while running because of “what she did”–what did she do?
Overall this episode was improvement on the previous one with its solid character development.