Sugar Rush Recaps: S1E2/3

by thethreepennyguignol

I can’t believe I have to put this here, given that I’ve seen this show before, but somehow I forgot that these episodes would need a trigger warning for rape.

So, we’re back – thanks for all the support on the last recap. It’s been so cool to see how many people watched this show growing up, and how formative it was for so many people in terms of their queerness and otherwise; I’m thoroughly enjoying getting back into it, so without further ado, let’s take a look at episodes two and three, shall we?

The central themes to these two episodes, I would say, are notions built around hiding from who you actually are. Sugar is really more an incidental character here, with the focus being squarely on Kim’s family and their careful concealment of their true natures from themselves, and each other.

I think the first episode really gets into this in a juicy way, as Kim tries to reconcile her own concealing of her sexuality with the fact that her mother is having an affair. In this world, Kim’s world, she’s under more pressure to keep her (relatively, but we’ll get to that later) innocent homosexuality under wraps, while her mother can pretty openly have an affair with the decorator. Stella, Kim’s mother, is honestly one more of the more outrightly disturbing characters I can remember seeing recently – her emotional manipulation of her young teenage daughter in covering up her affair for her is genuinely kind of shocking to watch – but I like the way the show explores their two sexual awakenings in tandem, both of them shrouded in secrecy.

Sugar muses during this episode about her status as a slag (a term that viscerally returned me to my high school days, along with watching Kim put on clear mascara, good lord), and Kim’s reaction to this – comparing her to her mother, frustrated at their apparent lack of care for Kim over their outside sexual needs – seems pretty telling. For the time, and societally, Sugar and Stella are acting out sexually, but still, they’re more comfortable being out about their business than Kim is. It’s safer for them to be misbehaving hetrosexually than it is for Kim to even be out of the closet, and that’s hurt for Kim to cope with – especially when she feels like both of them are using her as a conduit for their escapades (Stella, by making Kim keep the affair a secret, and Sugar, by using her as a drinking buddy, and, in this episode, a cash machine, too).

But, as I said, this episode is about the whole family at large, and I’ve got to say I was genuinely pretty impressed with how it handled the storyline for Nathan (Kim’s dad) and Matt (her little brother) across the course of this sort-of-two-parter. Matt has become convinced that he is from another planet, feeling lonely and rejected on Earth, and has taken to living inside an actual spacesuit (which, you know, is a big mood for my OCD ass) – it’s probably the most literal metaphor we get for the division between the outside world and the various members of this family, but it’s also pretty potent.

Nathan’s attempts to reach Matt (which are honestly so sweet and I know this show came out more than a decade ago but if you’re looking for someone to cheat on your wife with, Nathan, I’m right here), and his eventual conclusion that he doesn’t know anything about what is going on in his family, is surprisingly strong stuff. If there’s been a theme of this show thus far, it’s uncertainty – the lack of knowing yourself and other people, even those closest to you. Also, this storyline features a trippy sequence of Matt dipping a live hamster in blue paint, which is some Kubrick shit if I’ve ever seen it.

And now we’ve got the serious stuff out the way, I want to talk about what a fucking mess this show is. Seriously, I think I just pushed everything that wasn’t softcore sapphic action to the back of my mind, because Sugar Rush is a really Going There and we’re not even a third of the way into the season yet. The reason I haven’t talked a lot about the second episode of this duo is because most of it revolves around Kim seriously considering – and planning! – to rape Sugar. And that’s not me projecting, either – the show calls it that. Kim calls it that.

To her mind, “Sugar isn’t exactly innocent” (!!!!!) – so when Kim hears about a girl being roofied and raped by a date, she decides that this is the only way she’s going to get what she wants from Sugar, and goes as far as to sort out the pills and booze she plans to drug her with. In the end, she doesn’t go through with it, though she does pinch a pair of Sugar’s used underwear. Which, honestly, given where I thought this episode was going to go, seems pretty mild by comparison. Is this plot meant to be funny? I honestly don’t fucking know. It’s certainly one of the worst things I’ve ever seen a lead character do this early into a show, so I guess we’re going to have to run with Kim as somewhat of an antihero now? It’s grim, for sure. We’ll call this version of her “Krim” for synergy purposes.

I didn’t expect Sugar Rush to be television of the highest quality or anything – most of the stuff from my childhood really doesn’t stand up that well – but so far, it’s been an odd mix of surprisingly potent thematic elements, Andrew Garfield and a small dog, and then just utterly bizarre shit that makes grown-up me go “huh! Wuh? Bluh!” a lot. It’s still in the finding-its-feet stage, just a few episodes in, and some of it feels very fully-formed while other parts feel like a writer in their middle-ages peering over the top of a pair of spectacles, reading the Hot Youth headlines, and finding some way to shove it into the space that’s left. Is that good TV?

Well, I’m not willing to say with certainty either way yet, with so much of the series left to go. But I will say that it’s interesting to write about, and I frankly can’t wait to see where the fuck Kim goes next in her thrilling adventures of being the teenage lesbian Don Draper (the antihero thing, alright? Do keep up) of Brighton. And if this show can keep it’s hands off rape plots for the rest of the season, please and thank you.

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(header image via Radio Times)