‘Vida’ recap (1.4): Emma Finally Let’s Loose (But Not For Long)

‘Vida’ recap (1.4): Emma Finally Let’s Loose (But Not For Long)

Both Emma and Lyn have compelling, forward-pushing storylines this week as Vida nears the end. After briefly convening with Eddy to discuss the bar’s racist name (“La Chinita”) and imagery, the sisters disagree on what to rename it. Lyn suggests “Vida’s” and though it’s a good idea, Emma shoots her downand then they go their separate ways for the rest of the episode.

Lyn is frustrated by her childhood bedroom, by her sister refusing to take her ideas seriously, and by her unanswered texts to Johnny so she decides to hop on a bus and take Vidalia’s credit cards out for a spin. After a little shopping spree, she winds up in a hipster shop (complete with a wall designed to take Insta selfies for) and catches the eye of, well, exactly the sort of guy you’d imagine hanging at a shop like thisridiculous hat and all. He invites her back to party with some more truly obnoxious twenty-somethings. But it’s not the boozin’ or the drugs that stands out; it’s Aurora, the Latinx maid who cleans up everyone’s drunken messes as Lyn watches from the sidelines.

It’s a fascinating plot reminiscent of an indie movie (the ending especially), and one that could fill the whole half-hour (or longer) by itself. But Vida deploys it quickly and succinctly while still hitting us hard. There’s a lot happening: We’re introduced to who Lyn is when she’s in San Francisco: picking up a guy, politely smiling when he says something dumb just to appease him, running up bills in someone else’s name, and allowing herself to be carefree.

But through Aurora, we see how she’s changed in the days since her mother’s death: she’s realizing more and more where she stands as a Latina, she’s understanding more of what Vidalia and Eddy did to put food on the table, she’s watching Aurora clean up her new friends’ puke and, deep down, knowing that could be her fate as well. Lyn has separated herself from Aurora but she’ll never outrun her own brownness; “Nothing sexier to me than when you guys roll your R’s,” a guy tells her while a white girl later compliments Lyn’s “Frida brows.”

The final shot of Lyn and Aurora both on the bus back home, after wildly different days, is heavy but Vida doesn’t verbalize or dissect this. It just lets them sit quietly, lets us sit with the episode as a whole.

Meanwhile, Emma has also left the her neighborhood’s comfort zonethough sure, neither sister is particularly comfortable thereto do “market research” on local bars. She runs into Cruz and Cruz’s crew (which includes a number of queer and trans folks, but who aren’t introduced as such which feels remarkable in itself) and is convinced to stay and drink. Though reluctant at first, Emma gets drunker and happier and lets go. Similar to seeing San Francisco Lyn, maybe here we’re seeing Chicago Emma: a lighter more carefree person who isn’t overwhelmed by her mother’s financial hardships or trying to take over a business but just wants to dance with her friends.

I haven’t talked much about the directing in Vida but it’s been stellarfrom the pilot’s overhead shots to last week’s sex sceneand “Episode 4” is another example. The bar scenes feel so alive, capturing the frenetic energy of a night out: yelling over each other at a table, sweatily dancing between friends, and (my favorite moment) when she smiles at herself in the mirror, a sign that she’s allowing herself to feel happyand feeling a little anticipation for the rest of the night with Cruz. The directing also captures the claustrophobia of bars, and the emotional flip-flops of a long night out. Emma is so close to Cruz that the tension is palpable, but when Cruz casually comments that Emma doesn’t like her own neighborhood, the mood temporarily switches.

It’s here, in this drunk moment of openness, where Emma reveals, “I never wanted to leave. Vidalia sent me away.”

As it turns out, Emma was caught kissing another girl in the building when she was 11 and Vidalia sent her away to live with family in Texas. Later, she was sent away a second time when Vidalia found poems and journal entries that Emma had written about Cruz. The reveal puts Emma’s anger toward Vidalia more into context, giving us a deeper reason why Emma believes Vidalia is a hypocrite. It’s not just that Vidalia didn’t accept her daughter’s queerness when she, herself, was queer. It’s that she literally sent her daughter away. It also explains part of Emma’s hesitance with Cruz: she associates her feelings for Cruz with being rejected, sent away, and wrong.

In true Vida style, this moment isn’t lingered on or picked apart. Emma simply states what happened and moves on, shoving the memories back under the rug, only to become overwhelmed and have a panic attack later in the evening when she’s hooking up with Cruz. Emma bails and heads back home where she encounters that mysterious little girl againand when she sees that someone has graffitied the bar.

That someone, of course, was Mari who became concerned once she saw Eddy taking down the sign. Even while acknowledging that it’s racist, Mari isn’t cool with the change. And even though Eddy agrees that she’ll never have it become, as Mari says, “one of those places,” Mari still brings up the “two sellout daughters” at her next meeting.

But Mari, too, isn’t having a good week. As expected, the video Tialoc took of her has begun making the rounds even though he swears up and down that it was just for him (which is also fucked up because he never got her permission) and that he never sent it to anyone, vaguely blaming the “cloud” or whatever. Mari is angry, humiliated, and beaten downa trifecta of emotions that Emma and Lyn are likely feeling, too.

With just two episodes left this season, Vida is really putting the women through the ringer.


Pilot Viruet

Pilot Viruet is a freelance culture critic and teen drama expert based in New York City.

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