The Day That CBC Broke My Heart

It has been just over a week since the finale of Being Erica. It has taken me this long to calm down enough to be able to compose some “intelligent” thoughts about how I feel about it.

“Feel? Really Lizz? But it is just a TV show!” Sure. But if TV shows had no effect on your emotions then they’re wouldn’t really be doing their jobs. Even reality TV makes you think about something – albeit maybe just how much you don’t want to eat cow brains.

But back to Erica.

It wasn’t just the bad acting, indulgent story lines, or overall bad writing – all of which is true and I will get to – but mostly I was just so completely offended by the plot that it actually drove me to tears of anger. This was the big story, the one we’d all been waiting for: Leo’s death. The preview for this episode had been scrolling on the website for many weeks before, and Dr. Tom told us in the very first episode that Erica couldn’t go back and save Leo. And yet, they went there anyway.

What I was so incredibly offended by is that this episode was written like all the other episodes – as if saving or not saving her brother was the same as telling the truth about her party at Casa Loma or being bold enough to fire a bad writer at work. Leo’s death, which is hyped up as a pivotal moment in Erica’s life – was reduced to a lesson about …. well actually, I’m not sure. Either way, the trauma of sending Erica back to watch her brother die was never given the power it so obviously deserved.

Let’s back-track a bit.

Summary: It is the anniversary of Erica’s brother Leo’s death. We sit through 15 minutes of superfluous indulgence where Erica and Ethan gush about how happy they are, how stressed Erica is about the anniversary, and how her parents react every year. Next, in an odd attempt at curing her family’s collective guilt for Leo’s fiery death, Erica suggests they rebuild the barn he died in. Blah, blah, blah, her mother finds Leo’s cigarette case and falls apart in a tremendous display of bad acting. Enter Dr. Tom.

Ordinarily Dr. Tom is entertaining enough. He spouts out quotations that you know some eager writer has been scouring the Internet for daily, tells Erica what she is doing wrong and what the lesson is she should have learned. In this case, Dr Tom gets hyper and gloomy (if those can really happen at the same time) and tells Erica she can go back to the time of Leo’s death if she PROMISES not to try and save his life. She promises. She just wants to help her family get over it.

So let’s stop right here. If the point of this was that Dr Tom actually knows that she will fuck up and save Leo – as any human on the planet would do if they knew their brother (or anyone I’d hope) was about to die- and the lesson was that her years of guilt were unfounded because shit happens, then great. The trouble is that apparently Dr. Tom was turned into an idiot, sent her back to do something he knew she couldn’t do, then got ANGRY with her for doing that thing she couldn’t have done. Setting aside all the reasons it is inaccurate, and offensive to have her therapist be angry at her for sending her to complete an impossible task, it was all just an awkward set up for a new, higher-up “therapist”. If you write the end of the story before the beginning then there is no natural flow.

Then it turns out that Erica is actually a bad person if Leo doesn’t die when he’s 21 – which I guess means the whole show about fixing her unambitious, aimless life is useless since the whole reason she didn’t “go anywhere” was just because Leo died. The show also falls into the butterfly effect category that it has managed to avoid all season. This show was special because Erica’s time traveling actions were about self-discovery and improvement, rather than being a typical change the past/future show where everything inevitably falls apart because you have messed with the space-time continuum. The beauty of this show was always that it wasn’t about the time traveling itself, it was about the lessons learned in it. Apparently some over-zealous writer forgot that, or maybe didn’t know that to begin with. But this is still not what really bothered me.

Leo dies again in the butterfly effect life. So then Erica must go back to the original time to let him die how he was supposed to (I guess so that she could stop being the bad person she is in the new life). She goes back, encourages Leo to write a letter (which magically solves her family’s guilt problems despite having nothing to do with the fact that they couldn’t get him out of the fire) and then stands in front of the burning barn with a tear running down her face as her brother burns alive.

Is no one else disturbed by this?! She watches her brother burn alive! BURN ALIVE! Then in real time she gets back up on the horse, delivers Leo’s letter, and tells Ethan about how good the weekend is.

There were all sorts of poorly-acted emotions from the entire cast, but none that reflected the trauma of watching your brother die. Not even to mention the trauma that follows when her therapist, with whom she had spent months building up a relationship of trust with, abandons her because she failed. What were they thinking?

Someone over there at CBC better clean up their act and decide what kind of show they are trying to make before they even think about writing a second season. If not, I hope they set Erin Karpluk free to pursue well written shows where her acting ability isn’t the only thing holding it together.

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