This episode was the second part of Speechless‘ first two-part story arc, an arc which was pulled off beautifully.
I’ve been talking about each aspect of JJ’s life as a special needs child being revealed to the viewer layer-by-layer, like a metaphorical onion being peeled. I believe the reason why a two-part story arc has only been explored now is due to the fact that each layer has explored JJ’s life in the past and present. This was the first time that JJ’s future was discussed in great detail, and what it would mean for each family member.
The A story of JJ running away both to Kenneth’s and later with Maya, was the most brilliant A story I’ve ever seen. I found the scenes between JJ and Kenneth in the cold open, and every family member yelling for JJ only to be yelling at themselves, provided necessary comedic moments for what turned out to be quite a heavy and profound episode. I thought Maya helping JJ run away by packing for him and taking him to the casino, entirely missing the point and finally getting it when JJ points it out to her, was heartbreaking and hard to watch. That being said the payoff was beautiful.
While we’ve seen JJ interact with other special needs kids before, this was the first time we see him interact with another person with CP, or as Maya affectionately dubs him, a “wheelchair badarse”. I found their interactions both sweet and funny, but I also enjoyed hearing Lee (Zach Anner) provide JJ with much needed advice on how to live independently without being preachy, which I predict he will take and put into action in future episodes.
I felt that the B and C stories were blips in comparison to the brilliant A story. While the reveal of Kenneth’s past as a basketballer was amusing and provided some nice character development, what I actually enjoyed about it was the fact that it lead to him and Dylan bonding and interacting, which is something else the viewers haven’t seen. I also felt that the minor C story of Ray and Dylan trying to get Jimmy to have a “heavy talk” and also get what they wanted out of it, didn’t really add to the episode and fell a little flat.
Overall this episode was incredible with lots of heart, hope, reality, and appropriately placed comedic and profound moments.