So Help Me Todd 1×11 “Side Effects May Include Murder” is all about people acting out of character. Or are they? That’s the question that Margaret (Marcia Gay Harden) and Todd (Skylar Astin) have to figure out, in order to help their client of the week. But in order to figure out what’s “out of character” for you, you first have to figure out who you are. And that’s the question Allison (Madeline Wise) struggles with this week.
Good Girl, Bad Boy
In this week’s fight for justice, Margaret and Todd have to get to the bottom of a client’s uncharacteristic violent outburst. She’s accused of attempted murder, but it turns out her outburst was the due to one of her medications. The pharmaceutical company that produced the drug had discovered this potential side effect during trials and had covered it up. Of course, in true So Help Me Todd style, the Wright family is able to expose the truth and save an innocent woman from jail.
But while that’s the framing device of the episode, it isn’t really the point. The episode is really about Allison, who begins the episode being bailed out of jail after copping a charge for disorderly conduct. It’s not like her…at least, she doesn’t think so. But she doesn’t really know who she is, does she?
This identity crisis isn’t entirely new for Allison. She’s been struggling with it since she signed up for a dating app earlier in the season, at least. Though, really, she’s been toying with the question since she realized how unappreciated her efforts were in the Pilot. Who is she, really, outside of who her mother pushed her to be? Would she have made the same choices for herself if she’d truly felt she had a choice in the matter?
In many ways, Todd and Allison are two sides of the same coin. They both struggle with the weight of expectations, even if those expectations present differently. In the family dynamic, Allison is the good girl. She’s the one who always makes the right choice. The one who has her life put together. She’s the one who keeps all the balls in the air at once and never, ever lets one of them fall.
By contrast, Todd couldn’t find his way to the right choice with two hands and a map. At least, that’s the “role” he’s expected to play in the family. Yes, he’s a screw-up, and the family (including Allison) gives him a hard time for that fact. But as we saw last week, they also don’t really allow him to be anything other than the screw up. The fact that he’s grown and he’s not always that anymore is hard to accept because it goes against his expected role.
The pressure may present in different ways, but it is pressure nevertheless. Allison’s moment of drunken rebellion happens once she’d reached a tipping point. Hopefully now, she’ll be able to discover who she is. She’ll likely find that she would have made some different choices – though not all of them. But at least now she’ll have the comfort of knowing her choices were her own.
And hopefully, Margaret will increasingly accept that both of her children are more than one thing. Todd isn’t just the screw-up, and Allison isn’t just the good girl. Then, they’ll be able to accept and love each other as they are in truth. And, let’s be honest. The truth is, every member of the Wright family is a screw up in their own unique ways.