Fine, we’ll admit it — we started watching “Awkward” for the love triangle.
There’s just something about a girl torn between two really awesome guys that makes for fantastic, iconic teen television (we’re still talking about Ben vs. Noel, though the Dawson vs. Pacey debate has officially been settled). Watching Jenna (Ashley Rickards) ping-pong between the hunky Matty (Beau Mirchoff) and the endearing Jake (Brett Davern) has been a blast.
But that’s not why we watch anymore.
A show that could have easily been a superficial series about the trials of first love has become a powerful, refreshing, honest look at a complicated mother-daughter relationship that we can all relate to. Playing the deeply flawed Lacey, Nikki DeLoach began her “Awkward” run as the comic relief. In Season 1, Lacey had little dimension — she was ditzy, selfish, and mostly oblivious to the needs of her teenage daughter. But when it was revealed that the anonymous “carefrontation” letter Jenna received in the pilot was actually from Lacey, everything changed.
Season 3 opened up old wounds for the mother and daughter. At the beginning, things were incredibly tense — Lacey was deeply ashamed of herself and suffering consequences throughout her life, and Jenna was still an exposed, raw nerve — angry and hurt and confused about the measure of her self-worth.
“At the end of the day, friends come and go and boyfriends come and go, but as a girl, it’s that relationship with your mother that is supremely foundational and that you carry with you the rest of your life,” DeLoach tells us. “It’s been really fantastic that the fans have responded to this storyline the way that you have.”
When we last saw Jenna and Lacey, they’d worked really hard on rebuilding things. Lacey put it all on the table when she told Jenna that she’d always love her — “But you don’t have to love me.” Talk about a tear-jerker. Later, when Lacey was beating herself up for the umpteenth time, Jenna crawled into bed with her mom and sang her a lullaby. It may not be a forgive-and-forget moment, but it showed the profound bond between two characters and reminded us that their history together extended far beyond the scope of the last two seasons.
It would appear that after the traumatic letter experience, these two may emerge with an ultimately stronger bond — but the story doesn’t end here.
“Just like any mother-daughter relationship, there’s going to be missteps, there’s going to be fights,” DeLoach says. “Lacey is going to upset Jenna. Jenna’s going to upset Lacey. But they are on this road to forgiveness, which is the first step with any relationship. In order to have forgiveness there has to be some sort of understanding. These episodes leading up to [the finale] helped Jenna understand that her mother didn’t always have it so easy, and her mother was always there for her, even when she didn’t know it.”
It strikes a personal chord for DeLoach. “The same thing happened to me when I became an adult and realized that the whole entire time my mom was there loving me, and fighting for me, and I just didn’t know it. My eyes weren’t open to it,” she says. “They’re on the road to recovery in a lot of ways.”
The Season 2 finale airs Thursday, Sept. 20 at 10:30 p.m. EST. “The secret blogger will be revealed,” DeLoach teases. “I’m really looking forward to seeing how fans react to that because there have been tons of murmurs on Twitter of who that person is, so that will be really fun — but also, Jenna is finally making a choice. We’re ending the show with a very philosophical ending. It’s a question of ‘I got what I wanted, but was it necessarily what I needed?’ I love that.”