One Day At A Time
“To Zir, With Love/Roots”
Season 2, Episodes 3 and 4
They is them. Stop making it confusing.
As previously stated, One Day At A Time looks to be tackling the topic of identity with season two and this next set of episodes gets into the nitty gritty of the subject matter. Both gender and racial identification play a massive role in their own respective episodes. Better yet, they’re used to such a great effect that it’s a shame no other family comedy has tried to take these on yet. Sure, Disney Channel shows aren’t going to attempt to look inward on themselves - save for Girl Meets World whose characters were more introspective than most of us will ever be - but these ideas are ripe for story.
“To Zir, With Love” is done well in that it takes the touchy issue of gender identity but examines it in a way that the two sides (those who understand and those who don’t) are highlighted well. The rest of the Alvarez family is allowed to have fun with pronouns without being disrespectful for instance. Featuring this as its own A-plot is a decision made easy due to the series’ streaming life which allows for the existence of topics that won’t have a life on television for years to come. A kiss between teenage girls later on in the season is probably the tipping point that a majority of parents would have with One Day if it aired on, say, any of the broadcast networks and maybe even Freeform - the most “woke” and hippest of cable channels. But that discussion is best saved for the next set of reviews.
To that point, Elena – now out and prouder than ever – spends time with her new set of friends, finding she has a crush on one of them (“them” is this reviewers’ unintentional understanding of how the girl refers to her gender). If that last parenthetical confused you, this episode is bound to tie up more wires in your brain. But the best way to deal with it is to go with the flow as the characters deliver their preferred identifications on more than one occasion in hilarious fashion. A “Who’s on First?”-esque conversation is challenged by the Alvarez’s bleak understanding of everything.
But “Roots” offers the emotional footing for both as Lydia finds her year’s long secret outed when her family learns she can’t vote because she’s not a citizen. This episode is the strongest out of the two with its solid sense of story combined with a heartfelt footprint. Elena’s pure childlike want for her grandmother to vote is adorable and yet the revelation of why Lydia chose not to go through with becoming a citizen is devastating. Justina Machado’s Penelope is the emotional anchor of the family but Rita Moreno’s Lydia may have won a sentimental Emmy with her story. Situations like hers help others outside of them get a miniscule comprehension of what it’s like to come to a country, become a citizen and denounce your home country. Lydia even kept the deed to her home in Cuba just so the family could have a plan B in the future. Should she have gone through with the citizenship, she would have lost her sense of home and possibly well-being.
The Alvarez family is insanely proud about who they are. This can be seen with Elena’s sexuality, Alex’s sticking up for his heritage, Lydia’s refusal to leave her past life and Penelope’s willingness to fight for her family. There’s something special with One Day At A Time that can’t be summed up in a few sentences. Credited writers Sebastian Jones (“To Zir, With Love”) and Dan Signer (“Roots”) managed to elevate One Day’s emotional status while keeping things focused for the world outside of the show. Their side stories too – Pen getting a boyfriend, a callback to Schneider learning Spanish from Lydia, another callback to Carmen’s parents getting deported and fear surrounding that, and Pen teaching Alex how to live frugally at the movies – manage to also lighten the mood or further development when necessary.
Should you watch “To Zir, With Love” and “Roots?”
There’s never a reason not to watch this show. So do it, jerks.