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Speechless–Season 1, Episode 23 (C-A–Camp)

So we’ve reached the season finale, where story arcs and other loose ends are tied up and potential plots are set up for the next season. I felt that in this finale it was only partially achieved, however this is due to the fact that it has been rare that each episode is interlinked as they normally stand alone.

The beginning of the episode with Maya speeding to the school and the police recording her speeding on the radar was a nice throwback to the pilot, however Dylan running behind them with the police also recording her speed was a hilarious addition to the throwback. The scenes of Ray, JJ and Kenneth in the choir was also a nice throwback to earlier in the season.

Coming back to the present, this episode continues the JJ summer camp story arc with the family flying with JJ to drop him off. I felt that Maya’s packing of JJ’s clothes (and apparently Ray’s and Jimmy’s underwear) for the trip was hilarious and true to her character, and that for JJ’s physiotherapist of all people, to make him nervous, was realistic as outsiders would be the ones to put JJ off not the family. I felt that JJ’s reaction to his nerves by lashing out through, as Jimmy points out, a dated insult was realistic as he obvious can’t physically lash out.

Meanwhile, Ray decides to not be himself in an effort to find a girlfriend. Dylan’s suggestions to him to basically changw everything about himself was the typical younger sister reaction, and the scenes at the beginning of the episode of him officially being rejected by every girl in his year were hilarious. I felt that the ending of his subplot–Ray gaining a girlfriend via JJ’s summer camp was realistic, and I’m looking forward to seeing this played out next season.

I felt that the Jimmy and Dylan subplot was sweet but weak. Jimmy’s idea to make the flight rather than the trip fun was genius and I liked them working together as a team by deciding on the Miami layover. When the fun restaurant they wanted to go to at Miami airport was closed, it lead to a sweet reveal by Jimmy on his desire to not only have actual fun, but to have it with Dylan.

Back to the JJ story arc, I liked that Kenneth was all of people, the one to convince Maya to say goodbye to JJ like she wanted, as it showed the progression of their relationship. I felt that Maya’s arrival at the camp in a helicopter was very true to her character.

The ending of the episode was perfect as it showed the whole family letting go of JJ and letting him be independent for the first time. This shows the growth of all of the characters, not to mention provides a story arc and potential for the next season.

Overall this was a very understated but well done finale and I’m looking forward to reviewing season 2 when it eventually becomes available on iTunes as it’s sadly no longer airing in Australia, or at least not for now.

 

Stray Observations:

-JJ signing everyone’s yearbook by Kenneth having a stamp made for him was genius.

-Apparently Kenneth has a “summer” mode and keeps to his word of becoming more tropical as the summer progresses.

-Apparently Joyce (JJ’s physiotherapist) and Kenneth are friends.

 

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Speechless–Season 1, Episode 22 (M-A–May-Jay)

So this episode is the penultimate season 1 episode. The penultimate episode is usually a set up for the finale and I believe in this instance it was successful.

JJ tries to assert his independence by proving he is capable of undressing himself, or rather undoing a button. The montage at the beginning of the episode showing a whole day has gone by with JJ unsuccessfully unbuttoning his shirt was humorous, but also not over-the-top. The twist of JJ trying to undo a button to prove his independence, so he can go to summer camp was genius and also showed another aspect to his and Maya’s relationship.

While JJ’s independence or rather whether he would be capable of having any, was touched upon in C-H–Cheater and R-U-N–Runaway, this is the first time that JJ tries to assert it to his mother outright. Both sides of the argument by Maya and JJ were realistically played out without being preachy, with it coming to a head with JJ trying to unbutton his shirt, only to fall out of his wheelchair and needing knee surgery. With this situation, we see character development in Kenneth in that he is slightly traumatised by seeing JJ in a hospital bed hooked up to machines. In all honesty, I felt his reaction was unrealistic, however I can give him a pass as this is the first time Kenneth has seen him in hospital.

I did enjoy the scenes between Maya and Kenneth after JJ admits defeat. These scenes showed growth between them as Maya is aware that she can’t be the person to tell JJ he can’t do something, and concedes that JJ listens more to Kenneth than her when it comes to self-belief. While Kenneth overcomes his trauma to help JJ when he needs it most. JJ eventually undoing the top button of his pyjama shirt provided perfect bookends to the subplot.

Meanwhile Dylan feels threatened when she discovers that Ray is capable of running faster than her. Her attempts to both beat Ray again and become smart like him were hilarious. I did question whether Ray let her win the hospital race, however I’m willing to give it a pass. I felt that the Jimmy subplot of having “juice” was weak but hilarious, especially when he discovers his juice at the hospital and proving so to Dane at the end of the episode.

Overall this was a good penultimate episode with great character development, however the subplots were a little weak.

 

Stray Observations:

-Maya’s nickname for her and JJ as a summer holiday team is “May Jay”, hence the title of the episode.

-Kenneth is not good at making up hypothetical situations to get his point across, but is hilarious in trying all the same.

-If the montage is anything to go by, Kenneth is good at juggling.

 

Speechless–Season 1, Episode 21 (P-R–Prom)

Both the DiMeo parents and the DiMeo kids had a fun night in this episode.

The A story revolves around JJ and Ray’s school prom, with Dylan also attending as the “bartender”. While usually JJ is the centre of attention, story wise, this episode Ray was front and centre, which was refreshing. Uniquely this episode peeled back another layer of the metaphorical onion, however this time it was a layer that didn’t directly affect JJ. Instead this layer focused on how a family member would deal with people’s ignorant perceptions of disability, which could possibly affect JJ at one time or another.

I personally enjoyed seeing Ray having to face a moral dilemma of this kind, especially as he is usually lecturing others on how to behave morally. It also shows that despite his intelligence that is usually beyond his years, at the end of the day, he is still a young and hormonal boy. The outcome of his situation with Riley was always obvious, his morality was always going to win over his desires, even if JJ gave his approval.

Meanwhile, JJ as usual is the unintentional centre of attention at his prom due to his disability, however I enjoyed how he managed to flip this on its head by having a fun, albeit brief non-prom with three miscasts. I stated brief as unfortunately the non-prom didn’t last long. I enjoyed the scenes between the four of them, especially due to the fact that they’re from different cliques and I would have liked to have seen more of them. I found that JJ ultimately going full circle, embracing the prom and drawing attention to himself, to relieve Caroline of her own self-consciousness, was true to his character and the right outcome.

Maya and Jimmy’s subplot of spending their night away from their kids as an opportunity to work on their marriage and air out old arguments, was hilarious. What made it even better was Kenneth acting as the judge/mediator on all of these arguments, eventually leading to him questioning how he fits into the family. I found Jimmy and Maya’s proposal to include Kenneth as part of the family slightly corny but also true to their character as their seemingly affectionate proposal, was really an excuse to get rid of some of their old stuff.

The writing was superb, especially in the cold open with Kenneth giving a “DiMeo sensitivity speech” to diners in a restaurant, which was a nice full circle moment in his relationship with them and a nice boomerang to how they met. The outcome of this moment was predictable but perfectly executed. I also found that the cold open was perfect foreshadowing of the A plot involving Ray and Riley.

On smaller notes I enjoyed Jimmy’s “party mode” on JJ’s wheelchair again displaying his talents for wheelchair costuming, and Dylan perfectly pulling off being a bartender, even going as far as studying “Tom Cruise in ‘Cocktail'”.

Overall this was a fun episode, focusing more on humour than drama, and with Maya, Jimmy and Kenneth, and the kids having their own plots, rather than mixing them up in pairs, which was a refreshing change.

 

Speechless–Season 1, Episode 20 (R-U-N–Runaway)

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.

Speechless–Season 1, Episode 19 (C-H–Cheater!)

So this episode peeled back another layer of the metaphorical onion, this time, JJ’s independence–both in the present and in the future, but I’ll get to that.

The A story of JJ “cheating” on tests was interesting but not spectacular. I liked the reveal of JJ’s cheating consisting of Kenneth giving him the answers, as well as the reveal of the teachers letting everything slide with him, however I felt that the outcome was predictable. Yes JJ was acting up and would have doubts, but we all know that he’s intelligent and would therefore pass at the end.

I felt that the B story was solid and I loved that it eventually led to the peeling back of the metaphorical onion. I found Ray’s interest in going to a careers fair to find out what type of careers make the most money, and the way in which he goes about it, hilarious. I felt it was smart on the writers’ part to have Ray sucked into a pyramid scheme as it makes him learn that he’s not always as smart as he thinks he is, especially due to his age and lack of life experience. What I enjoyed the most about this plot was Jimmy stepping up as a father by rightfully scolding Ray for his apparent greed and for revealing to him why he has a job rather than a career. Jimmy’s story, especially emphasising that he needed something “solid now, not great later” is something that a lot of people, especially college graduates such as myself, could really relate to.

While I found Dylan’s inadvertent trend setting by wearing the luggage that Jimmy brings to the careers fair humorous, the joke of it in itself fell flat and didn’t really add anything to the episode.

What I loved the most about this episode was the end, not because I wanted it to end, rather that every element of the B story paid off beautifully in the last few minutes, and peeled back another layer of the metaphorical onion. I didn’t see the reveal of Ray wanting to make a lot of money to support JJ, and the fact that both he and Dylan worry about JJ’s future coming. I felt that the whole family discussing the possibilities of JJ’s future was both heartbreaking and realistic. What was equally heartbreaking was the fact that JJ’s joy at proving his independence at school was taken away from him by overhearing his family making assumptions of his future independence.

I loved the writers’ choice to have JJ runaway like a typical kid and the fact that the episode ended on this note unexpectedly turned it into a two-parter, which was a good twist.

Overall this episode was mostly flat but later turned into a great first part of a two-part episode.

Speechless–Season 1, Episode 18 (D-I–Ding)

This was a unique episode due to the fact it was in one location and since it was unique, this review will also be unique as I will be doing it character by character.

Maya, Ray and Heather–The episode kicks off with Maya trying to squeeze into a tough parking spot, although she successfully does so, she leaves little room for everyone to get out of the van. Maya squeezes out of the van when Ray notices a ding in the car next to them–Ray believes Maya dinged the car, Maya believes she didn’t, and Ray insists on leaving a note. However the conflict between them kicks off when Ray leaves a note behind her back. I enjoyed the fact that the writers lead the viewers to believe that Maya would be in big trouble, only for Maya to team up with the car’s owner, Heather, to teach Ray a lesson. What I enjoyed even more was the fact that it all lead to Ray making his own and much bigger ‘ding’ later on, and the reveal that Ray never gives Maya the benefit of the doubt.

Jimmy and Dylan–I loved the character development with Jimmy as Dylan reveals to him exactly how many promises he has broken to her and his efforts to make up for it. It’s not very often that we see Jimmy and Dylan team up and the way they did was well done, I especially enjoyed how sneaky Jimmy was with the switch of the Banjo Cola and the root beer. I thought that the ending of their subplot with Dylan not enjoying the taste of the Banjo Cola as much as she use to, was perfect and realistic.

JJ–JJ’s subplot was given less time, however it was significant in that it peeled back another layer of the metaphorical onion–how JJ deals with people who treat him like crap because he has a disability. I think it was typical of JJ’s character to get even with this man by giving him a taste of his own medicine and act as he stated “an object in his way”. It was enjoyable to watch as the man definitely got what he deserved.

Kenneth–My favourite part of the episode was the reveal of Kenneth moonlighting as the supermarket’s weekend manager and how he was watching the events between the other characters unfold rather than being a participant. I felt that the reveal of his second job so he can continue working for the DiMeos and make ends meet to be true to his character, and I loved his reactions and questioning of each character’s antics, as well as making the staff participate in them. I enjoyed the fact that Kenneth is the character with the most power in this episode, especially as he isn’t given much of it when he is working for Maya. I also enjoyed how significant his role in this episode was to the other characters’ subplots–he reveals that Maya did not in fact ding the other car, that Ray never gives Maya the benefit of the doubt, he puts his staff in place in regards to the Banjo Cola, and commends JJ on standing up for himself. I felt that his choice to let the DiMeos leave without paying because it’s more beneficial for everyone to be true to his character, and it perfectly concluded the episode as the family were going to leave the supermarket at some point.

 

Overall this was a solid and understated episode with the singular location, simple premise and character driven plots. I hope there are more episodes like this in the future.

Speechless–Season 1, Episode 17 (S-U-R–Surprise)

I think this was the best episode so far. I’ve come to this conclusion due to the extensive amount of character development in this episode.

I especially enjoyed the character development between Kenneth and Jimmy. While Kenneth’s role when he is not attending to JJ has been explored in previous episodes, this is the first time that the dynamic, or rather non-existent dynamic, between Kenneth and Jimmy has been explored. I felt that the initial awkward moments between them were realistic and their attempts to find common ground hilarious. I enjoyed the BBQ scenes between them and liked the twist at the end of the episode that their common ground was (lightheartedly) insulting each other. I hope their dynamic is explored in future episodes, especially as Kenneth’s dynamic with Maya is a more serious one, whereas with Jimmy he can relax.

I also enjoyed another layer of the metaphorical onion that I’ve been speaking about in my previous reviews, being revealed with the exploration of JJ’s independence for the first time. I felt that JJ’s resentment about being treated as if he was the younger son was realistic and well done. I also enjoyed JJ’s adventure being shown in glimpses throughout the episode, especially the moments where he is seen quickly overcoming obstacles. These moments show how independent and intelligent JJ really is and I hope this is also explored in future episodes.

I loved the character development between Dylan and Maya in this episode, as their relationship really hasn’t been given the spotlight it deserves. I felt that Dylan’s feelings towards a surprise party for her thirteenth birthday were a mystery that had to be solved, and I loved the writers’ choice to have the obvious answer be a red herring. I loved the reveal that Dylan wants Maya all to herself, rather than Maya not being around, as well as the reveal that Dylan tries to be the “easy child” for Maya’s sake. I felt the ending of this subplot was incredibly sweet.

On smaller notes, I found Maya’s seduction techniques to try and have another child were hilarious and I loved JJ’s unique way of standing up for Ray. Although I found the fact that Ray and JJ forgot Dylan’s birthday to be unrealistic.

Overall this was the best episode I’ve seen so far and I think I can safely label it as a favourite.