‘Betty’ Season 1, Episode 3: “Happy Birthday, Tyler” Review – The All-Girl Skaters Have Each Other’s Back, No Matter What

The third episode of Crystal Moselle's ‘Betty’ dives further into the “Me Too Movement”, and pulls together a deeper meaning of importance with a skating sisterhood mixed up in drug plugs, crushes, and dilemmas.

HBO

With the essence of youth in the air and the effortless summer days furthermore filling the luminous setting of our young real-life sisterhood, Betty, with its handle on friendships and dilemmas, starts to become a show that makes us question if a narrative dripping in color and delight can bare any wrongdoing. But, as the third episode of HBO’s famous pack of skateboarders teaches us, despite its neat lesson of dining and dashing like a pro, there’s always something hidden underneath the tasteful grace that’s laid on-screen. And unlike anything else, how a group of skaters can have each other’s backs throughout it all – proving time and time again how friendship is the main key when surviving in a world that can sometimes be against you.

Starting the episode off with the fortune lighting a cigarette can have when you don’t want to pay the bill, we learn that throughout quarrels of pancakes and mishearing the word ‘dinosaur’, that Kurt (Nina Moran) has forgotten Janay’s birthday…again. Sinking to the conclusion of gifting Janay (Ardelia “Dede” Lovelace) with her honorary presence, the table of laughter that roamed the beginning’s visual feel soon draws apart as a scavenger hunt of Indigo’s (Ajani Russell) lost weed pens becomes the group’s main problem – and an all-too clueless Kurt rehashes in a singing “Happy Birthday” outside her friend’s bedroom window, carrying a balloon that’s dedicated to ‘Tyler’, and presenting an all day-trip of fun. To which, as the episode goes on, switches into a cat-and-mouse game between Janay and the girl Donald has been talking about — slowly flipping the series’ familiar delight into a strong tension built for the worse. 

As Indigo and Honeybear (Moonbear) rummage through the skate park, a trail of the lost pens on the ground quickly lead a path to a group of male skaters — stoned out their heads from the stolen goods placed between their lips. From drug-induced slip-ups, and Indigo’s rather credible threat about the “plug” she’s involved in (which ironically is Farouk, “the only nice drug dealer you’re ever going to meet”), the remaining few pens are delivered back with irk, but not quite enough to stop the two skaters from smoking the rest and sharing delirious theories on the older generation. Becoming all the more euphoric, that their doped selves and normal selves are completely indistinguishable from one another, Honeybear catches a glimpse of Ash (Katerina Tannenbaum) heading their way, a fellow female skater that the group noticed her checking out at the skate park during the previous episode. Quickly switching back to her usual quiet mode once Indigo leaves, her quiet call of “She already loves you!” heard in the distance, Honeybear skates towards Ash in an attempt to introduce herself but rethinks with a swift turn of her board. 

This, while making us understand how difficult it is to approach someone you’re fond of, makes us all the more eager to see where the pair’s relationship will go in the remaining three episodes. And, while rather keen in the similarly-dressed skaters becoming close, makes us avid in knowing that the same desire from Honeybear is kindred with Ash as well: a spark that is still yet to be unmasked. 

As the episode proceeds to varnish the screen with its ever-glowing visual beauty of New York City, we start to see Camille (Rachelle Vinberg) and her life outside of the all-girl skate group a lot more. Practicing skills and kickflips for the camera, her relationship with Bambi (Edmund Donovon), a skateboarding influencer she connected with during episode two, starts to become closer by the minute. In the last scene of them together, the pair were shown bonding over films and jokes, sharing smiles and helping each other with their prized boards, connecting on a level that felt more than friendship — at least to Camille. However, when telling the boys she’s only being filmed because she’s “cute”, Bambi quickly shuts down that remark (despite it being an obvious joke to the others) and reminds her that he sees her talent more, despite her appearance. While crushing to see there are no remote feelings towards Camille as we, and probably herself, had hoped for, the complement that he presents her with is all the validation we need to know about his feelings towards her. And while not yet clinging on a romantic-base, the remaining three episodes make us all the more eager to see where the pair end of on — even if it concludes to Camille having the door closed on her face for the second time. 

Carrying on the same idyllic image of the city that never sleeps, the episode starts to focus more closely on Janay’s constant search for Donald’s ‘harasser’, and while scrolling relentlessly through Instagram, walking in and out of nail salons and bubble tea shops with an attempt to bump into the anonymous, Kurt, being the zealous leader and lover of Mango bubble tea, calls Indigo and Honeybear for some much-needed “backup.” However, despite their form of enthusiasm and energy to join the mission, the all-girl squad spread their spirit at an outdoor dance party instead — with even Janay, while still persistently twiddling her thumbs on social media, giving into the beat; sinking into the music, color, and exuberant atmosphere that, for the first time in this episode, shows her using her birthday for something other than a desperate seeking. 

Ending all too soon, the girls head to another party, skating down the street in yet another visually stunning slowed-down montage, with their high-spirits and vibrance still lingering as they arrive — a boldness that even shimmers into Indigo stealing $3000 from her mother’s purse (a payment due to Farouk), and Honeybear approaching Ash with enough confidence to start a conversation. However, with groups mingling in with talk on margarita making, acid trips, and star signs, Janay is somewhat of an outcast in the swarm. Cautiously looking around, and assuring Honeybear that the girl accusing Donald of harassment is lying, blurting out that she is the “exact type” of “straight thot” to do something as irrational as this, there’s a back-and-forth play that shows her friend trying to make sense of how Janay can side with her ex-boyfriend merely due to her categorization of women. Implying that a girl showing her breasts is something that anyone looking for attention would do, we start to see a side of the fun-loving Janay that we haven’t quite seen before. Besides picking out stereotypes and clashing them with the ludicrous, Janay is on the base of the series’ loud expression of how the ‘Me Too Movement/ is exemplified from both sides — and how the message “believe all women” is portrayed in a world as real as Betty. And from what the three episodes have shown so far, the realistic lens on female skaters is really so much more when pictured in a society that is headstrong in cloaked lies and veracity. A 30-minute episode that, while making us laugh weekly at their humor and look at the world, depicts our most beloved characters in situations that are at the utmost authentic, but scarcely unbearable to see when they are so far away from fidelity and understanding of a topic that is so important and momentous for women everywhere.  

As the third episode approaches its ending, Janay finally confronts the person she’s been tracking down all day — but surprisingly comes face to face with two of them. Clashing heads with twin sisters, Yvette and Ceila, the eagerness to meet up throughout the day soon causes an explosion of backhanded insults to be thrown, and a gathering of people watching the thunderous clamor emerge. However, despite the jabbing of fingers and curses spat within the huddle, Betty, while showing how indifference can take a turn for the worst, proves yet again the importance of a sisterhood in a world that is bombarded with sexism and intolerance. Ending with a smashed window and a swarm of police sirens echoing the streets, the series furthermore expresses the value of friendship and how a group of all-girl skaters can have each other’s back no matter what — despite it ending in cuffs in the back of a police car, on a birthday that will forever be remembered.  

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Keli Williams

Keli Williams is a freelance writer based in Liverpool. She loves all things cinema and Paul Thomas Anderson. Bylines include The Simple Cinephile, Little White Lies, Girls on Tops, Screen Queens, and more. Follow her on twitter @kelionfilm and Letterboxd @beforesnrise

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