If last week’s episode was one of my favorites of the season, So Help Me Todd 1×14 “Against All Todds” felt like something of a step backward. Yes, Margaret (Marcia Gay Harden) had a bit of a personal revelation and let Todd (Skylar Astin) off the hook in terms of his debt by the end of the episode. But last week brought Todd and Margaret full-circle, having them demonstrate both their individual growth and growth as a team over the course of the season. This week resurrected the Veronica (Eliza Coupe) plot from earlier in the season. Both the good and the bad aspects of it.
Two Steps Back
On the one hand, I recognize that personal growth isn’t a fixed thing. Just because you grow as a person in several areas doesn’t mean you can’t have your personal weak spot. So maybe it’s not entirely unfair – or unrealistic – of Margaret to have such little faith in Todd when it comes to Veronica. It isn’t entirely groundless, since he has demonstrated shockingly bad judgment when it comes to her in the past. And, yeah, he’s not exactly clear-thinking when it comes to her now.
That said, Margaret’s tendency to immediately leap straight to “you clearly haven’t changed at all” whenever the subject of Veronica comes up was not my personal favorite part of the last episode related to this plot. And, once again, it’s my least favorite part of the episode this week. Though it’s even more jarring this week, given the growth that both characters demonstrated in the last episode.
Which isn’t to say that the plot was a complete loss for me. I didn’t enjoy any scene involving Todd and Margaret arguing over Veronica. However, it did lead to Margaret asking a question she really should have asked before: Why does Veronica have such a hold on Todd?
Because the fact of the matter is that Todd has been (and continues on some level to be) short-sighted at best when it comes to Veronica. But he actually has grown in many ways from the first episode. She may be his weakness, but the presence of a weakness isn’t a sign that no growth has happened. It does, however, mean that you have to figure out why they weakness exists. Todd is never going to completely break free of the hold Veronica has on him until he finds out why it’s there.
Todd doesn’t really know why she has such a hold on him, but Veronica does. To her mind, she has a strong hold on him because she’s a lot like Margaret, herself. Both strong-willed women who have a way of steamrolling the people around them. It may not be an entirely fair critique, but it’s not completely groundless, either. Hearing the words had to put Margaret’s self-perception in rather harsh perspective.
Sleep With One Eye Open
Thankfully, the episode ends with Todd and Margaret on the page once more. It doesn’t fully wrap up the Veronica storyline, which is both promising and somewhat baffling. On the one hand, it’s nice to have an antagonist in the series who’s smart and can go toe-to-toe with Margaret and Todd as a team. And there’s no question that this particular plot adds a personal touch to the cat-and-mouse game.
On the other hand, Todd and Margaret anticipated Veronica’s wily ways enough to have perpetuated a sting operation against her. Which meant, in part, anticipating that she would anticipate their actions. But they didn’t…follow through, once she was captured? Neither of them decided to show up to her court hearing? Whether or not they expected they would need to testify, Margaret didn’t even want the self-satisfaction of seeing her son’s tormentor shipped off again?
Obviously, they couldn’t be there for plot reasons. If either Todd or Margaret had been in attendance, Veronica couldn’t switch places. (I mean, there’s a whole other question of how she managed to do that after having been taken into custody, but that’s a whole other discussion.) Which is…yeah, it happens in television shows. Sometimes plot happens for plot reasons, and that’s just the way it goes. This just felt like a glaring example of plot contrivance. Making it, from a character perspective, a somewhat baffling choice.
But it does mean that Veronica’s still out there. And neither Todd nor Margaret know she’s still out there. So who knows what trouble she’ll get up to next? Whatever it is, I do hope Todd and Margaret are able to face it together – with the recognition that neither of them are who they were at the start of the season.
In the review of the last episode, I suggested that they had left Todd and Susan (Inga Schlingmann) at a crossroads, romantically speaking. They could either move the relationship forward, or they could decide their OTP hasn’t been OTPing and put that plot in the past.
Well, if anything, this plot stepped into an even murkier grey area this week, after Susan planted a kiss on Todd before walking away. And, look, as a person who happily ships things on television, it was a decent kiss. The actors sold the chemistry, so it didn’t look like a kiss between two strangers who just met thirty seconds before. (I’m sure we’ve all seen shows where the chemistry didn’t land.)
That said, as an audience member, I still felt like I was watching two strangers locking lips. This has been a recurring criticism of the show from the start, but I just don’t feel like the audience has gotten to know Susan enough to really root for this kiss.
If I’m being completely fair to the writers, the kiss itself isn’t entirely out of the blue. It just doesn’t feel like the natural next step for these two characters, either. In the tiny moments of Susan we’ve seen there have been hints of trouble in paradise. (In the same episode Veronica was first introduced, no less.) But those storm clouds weren’t exactly looming in the last episode, during Susan and Peter’s (Desmond Chiam) romantic dinner.
Relationships are complicated, so of course people can have troubles one week and not the next. That said, the lack of consistency in this plot (which is, to be fair, pretty much the only plot Susan has had…and it’s been a minimal one at that) doesn’t make this kiss feel earned, either.
Why is the audience supposed to root for Susan to pick Todd and not Peter? Other than the fact that Todd is the hero of the show, that is. Outside of just wanting to see more of Susan period, why should we root to see more of them together? Why would Susan choose Todd over Peter, other than personal proximity? They didn’t work before because Todd was immature (I guess?). Admittedly, he is more mature now, as we’ve seen his personal growth over the course of the season. But we’ve barely seen enough of her to suggest she’s seen enough of Todd to notice his personal growth. What is it that’s drawing her to him now? It almost felt like week like she gets more turned on by Todd whenever his mom (or others) trash him, and that’s…uh…that’s a little weird.
In the previous episode, she seemed happy in her engagement. In So Help Me Todd 1×14 “Against All Todds” all we really saw of her was her reaction to Margaret complaining that Todd hasn’t changed. Then a momentary doubt that she’s as happy as Margaret suggested. Then the kiss. I’m happy to ship these two together if that’s where the show is going to go. But I’m literally begging the writers to give me a reason to do so. Because right now? I honestly don’t understand what’s going on in Susan’s head. Or what’s going on with her character in general, for that matter.