If MTV doesn’t submit Eliza Bennett’s fist-pumpingly brave monologue from this week’s episode of “Sweet/Vicious” for an Emmy, we will riot.
When we left Darlington’s campus before winter hiatus, Ophelia had accidentally chased the d-bag rapist son of the school’s dean out into the middle of the quad — where literally dozens of students streamed her throwing a knife into his thigh, then beating the sh*t out of him once he was down.
If you trusted the editing in the midseason supertease, you might have expected to return this week to a Jules reacting so extremely to Ophelia’s slip-up that she was leaning into a consensual (and violent) sexual entanglement with Nate as some kind of self-destructive retribution.
Of course, that’s not the show we’re watching, and that’s not — at all — what plays out.
First, the authorities immediately launch a manhunt — not a womanhunt, because as in Ophelia’s words, “pff, you know, PATRIARCHY” — so while her post-traumatic judgment slip has raised the risk on the ladies’ vigilante operation overall, individually they’re much safer than they, and we, initially worried. Even Harris’s personal suspicions about Jules’s involvement are quelled for the moment, thanks to Ophelia and her newfound ninja skills, deep love for Jules, and a complicated and funny plan to cast blame elsewhere that is as thrilling as it is successful.
Second, Tyler’s in the record store when Ophelia and Jules get back to Ophelia’s loft, so Jules’ primary concern shifts from Ophelia’s error to checking on him. Well, and using him to help her and Ophelia digitally establish their alibis for the night: #LOCKDOWNGOTMELIKE is not a great hashtag unless you’re on Instagram, but it certainly does cover a wide variety of emotions…
Third, Nate is locked down in the pizza place across from Vinylton, which means he is one wide street away from crashing Jules’ bubble of safety after he sees her and Tyler’s IG and gets irrationally (and menacingly) jealous — because he is literally incapable of understanding one single interaction with a girl who is putting up any kind of defensive shield.
So now we come to another turning point: Jules at the furthest end of her last frayed nerve not because of a ticking bomb sprung from Ophelia’s mistake (although that doesn’t help), but because Nate has made it his business to be all up in her business, right when she was at the cusp of a return to normalcy.
To cope, Jules rushes headlong into sex with Tyler, in spite of/because of Nate’s looming presence down in the store. Tyler is surprised, having previously understood her desire to take it slow — but with Jules’s enthusiastic consent acquired, Tyler is all in… At which point he shapeshifts into Nate, right before Jules’ eyes. This is the moment in the story that we think we all know: the victim shuts down, pushes away, falls apart…
Well, Jules shuts the sex down. She physically knocks Tyler off the bed entirely.
But she sure doesn’t fall apart.
Unlike Jules’ confession at the end of 1×02, this is not a daydream: It’s real, it’s gasp-inducing. It’s also endlessly, painfully brave.
Wells of bravery only run so deep, and Jules ends up breaking up with Tyler rather than telling him anything — she wants to tell Kennedy first, she says. Unfortunately, Nate gets to the house before Jules does, and poisons Kennedy’s perspective (his case helped by the fact that Kennedy discovered Jules has been lying to her about her study hours this whole time).
When the girls face off across Kennedy’s threshold in the final scenes, our hearts absolutely broke: We know this won’t be the end of their story, but watching Kennedy land on the too-common side of not believing women, of not believing her best friend, is devastating.
And, in a different way, so is Ophelia welcoming Jules into her home, and her arms, with barely any explanation offered, and none at all needed. Just a hug. Which we could, um, also use at this point.
Just to reiterate: Eliza Bennett deserves all the awards for this performance. We, like Ophelia of Jules, are just super in awe of her. As we are, in a different way, of the all too realistic, ugly irony of the security guard’s case to the dean:
“These are all the rape cases that have gone uninvestigated on the Darlington campus this year. We need to start tracking these rapes — so we can get in front of the vigilante, and protect the next victim.”
If it didn’t have the sarcastic bite of a classic “Sweet/Vicious” line, the realistic concept of these assaults only getting investigated to protect the rapists (and note, the rapist-protecting dean fires him for even suggesting this much) would be almost too much to bear — you might ignore the implications altogether. But ultimately, that’s what the show is about:
Breaking through the noise and repeated rules of consent and assault — and the entitled pushback of men who feel uncomfortable about the entire conversation, but are used to only having conversations that make them comfortable — that make Darlington’s nightmare, and real life sexual assault, such an everyday occurrence. By telling a necessary story, in a beautiful and intelligent — and often heartbreaking — way, to get past the “here we go again” eye-rolls of those who’d do anything to minimize that story, in pursuit of more pleasant conversation.
“Sweet/Vicious” airs Tuesdays at 10 p.m. ET/PT on MTV.