(Editor’s Note: The following review contains spoilers for “The Idol” Episode 5, “Jocelyn Forever”, including the ending.)
Hidden away in a boring, jaw-dropping ending is a joke that, I think, speaks to the general point “The Idol” was trying to make. Thankfully, it’s shared by the loudest person in the room. Andrew Finkelstein hasn’t been around much. Live Nation’s rep played by Eli Roth with Eli Roth’s mad behind-the-scenes energy appeared in the premiere, as part of the ruling class concerned that Jocelyn’s (Lily-Rose Depp) personal crisis could impact her professional ambitions and her profits. Later, he would be heard on the phone, threatening to cancel the tour, or seen in his office, threatening to cancel the tour, usually peppering the conversation with profanity and comments so crass that they were obviously only included to arouse further controversy. However, the verbose boss held the keys to the kingdom and kept dangling them in front of his pop star client.
Until now. After introducing himself to Jocelyn, if not entirely prepared to cancel the tour, then definitely considering it, Andrew navigates his way through half-hearted seduction and full-blown performance, where his skepticism fades, his cynicism withers away, and he falls in love with Jocelyn everywhere. Still. Setting aside his probable topped glass of water, he says to the proud panting singer sitting before him, “This is the best fucking music you’ve ever come out with. (…) The pain you went through, everything with your mother, everything, everything brought you right here. As a parent figure, I couldn’t be more fucking proud of you. And with that, the tour resumes. Jocelyn is given back the keys to her livelihood. She’s in the driver’s seat, at least in the eyes of “The Idol.”
Simply put, this is what Sam Levinson and Abel Tesfaye’s remarkably subtle satire is all about. The entertainment industry, embodied by Andrew and the rest of the ruthless men, doesn’t care about people. He doesn’t care about art. He worries about money, and in the end money makes every abuse worth it. That mentality also exists in Jocelyn. As evidenced by the much-discussed hairbrush: “Didn’t you say this is the hairbrush your mother used to beat you with?” she asks, backstage before her concert. “It’s brand new.” — Jocelyn invited Tedros Tedros (Abel Tesfaye) and her cruel brand of motivation into her life on purpose. After losing her mother, the original and brutal bristle-bearer, Jocelyn needed someone to take her place; punish and push her; loving her and expressing that love in ways that others know is not love at all. Tedros Tedros is dumb enough to think what he’s doing is genius AND that he is in charge. In the finale, from his disheveled state during the showcase to his demolished public image after the timeskip, it’s clear that he’s the hunted, not the hunter.
It’s also clear that none of this makes any sense. As we discussed last week, just because “The Idol” laid the groundwork for its second half twist, that doesn’t mean it justifies these characters’ choices or the existence of the series in general. Is Jocelyn aware that she is addicted to abuse? Did she really need this specific guy and her weird tactics to produce an album to be proud of? Even if she did, which is a stretch, it’s hard to explain why she brings him back into her life after he gets what she needs. Guys like Tedros Tedros are a dozen, and that’s something THE series emphasizes making him look so damn lame. No matter how impressed Nikki (Jane Adams) is with the singers found by Tedros Tedros, that doesn’t stop her from ruining his life and then laughing maniacally after he recaps how she did it. If anyone was going to prop up a fragile male ego based on his questionable ability to groom pop stars, it would be them! That would be the entertainment industry! Not Jocelyn!
So… do you really like him? She alone think does she like him? Onstage, to kick off her first show, Jocelyn introduces Tedros Tedros as “the love of her life” – a choice that baffles and infuriates Nikki, Chaim (Hank Azaria) and Andrew, even though they just talked all the free publicity caused by Jocelyn’s contentious relationship, so you think they’d be happy? -but then he emphasizes their new dynamic by whispering to Tedros Tedros: “You’re mine forever. Now go stay there.
To be clear, Jocelyn and her team annihilated this man. Talia, the highly corrupting Vanity Fair reporter played by Hari Nef, published a story that contained “quotes from the prostitutes she used to exploit.” She has lost her club. The IRS is looking for it. His failed rap career is now a known joke, and Chaim even makes fun of Mauricio (Tedros’ real name) for being twice employee of the month at Carl’s Jr. Frankly, “The Idol” has no right to despise Carl’s Jr. ., a fast-food restaurant that is not Well, but it’s still far more nourishing and entertaining than anything else within this sloppy series. If Jocelyn just needs to keep Tedros Tedros around for motivation, she doesn’t need to go public with that choice. (And why, oh why, do Levinson and Tesfaye want us to feel sorry for this man?)
Maybe he wants free advertising. Maybe he doesn’t want to hide anymore. Maybe it’s for some other reason that would become clear in season 2, but I plead with HBO not to let that happen. No answer is worth dwelling on all of this yet. Many of the questions evoked by episode 1 (and episode 5, for that matter) are still unanswered in the finale – and not questions that Should be left open. Who is Jocelyn? What does it matter to her? Is she meant to be a real person or just emblematic of real-life pop stars? Telling us what she did is not the same as helping us understand why she did it, just like “The Idol” closes its rigid narrative framework — Jocelyn Done produce a new album and she does going on tour – that’s not the same thing as providing any kind of closure. Whether it’s a season finale or a series finale, this finale needs a reason to exist, and “The Idol” still keeps us guessing.
“Jocelyn forever”? Hardly. Please let it finish.
“The Idol” is available on HBO and Max. The series has not been renewed for a second season.