I don't know how many of you have been checking, but I've been trying to keep track of every book Daria is shown reading. I know I've missed some (my copies of some episodes weren't nearly high enough quality to let me read the titles) so if you know of some I'm missing, let me know. All the books on this list are recommended reads for any serious (or not so serious) bibliophile.
What brought that up? Could it be "Fire!"? Just a thought... Although I don't have the credits for this episode, I've been told it was written by Peggy Nicoll. Her use of Daria's reading to comment on the episode is wonderfully done.
I'm going to start by addressing the minor (i.e. not Daria, Jane
or Tom) scenes. The Fashion Club was pretty typical this episode,
and I'm not too sure why this subplot was given so much time. As Quinn
points out, Sandi's stalker comments don't fit with the Fashion Club
objectives, and there's only so much more jealous and snippy Sandi
can get before imploding or snatching Quinn bald. The most amusing
thing with these young ladies was Stacy wearing a cowboy hat with
her swimming suit; perhaps she's another Texas transplant?
The Morgendorffers were a bit odd this episode. All their reactions
to the fire were great, but Helen and Jake just changed so much at
the hotel (twice) that it makes them a little less believable. Relaxation,
fine, but their little love/rage relationship is just plain strange.
On the other hand, they obviously don't go on vacation nearly as much
as they should...
Daria and Jane and Tom, oh my. This episode's main function is, of
course, a setup for the season finale. Tom and Jane having problems
is not a surprise, they've been in a fight of some sort nearly every
time we've seen them this season. Tom is not handling the relationship
well at this point, and their first fight of the episode actually
involves Daria, which is not a good sign to Jane. Backed up by the
pizza invite and their political discussion, Jane gets pretty jealous
and paranoid, but we've never seen her in a serious relationship before,
so it's hard to tell whether or not this is her usual reaction. She
is definitely put in a bad position this episode, and she doesn't
hide it (I've never seen someone rip a canvas with a small paintbrush
before). The most telling sign of her relationship with Tom is when
Jane goes to Jodie for help, and when she described their usual date
Jodie responds with "You're kidding, right?"
Overall this is a fair episode. There's not as much of the Daria-style humor as I'd like, but it is there to some degree. The story is pretty good, but it also doesn't quite work as a drama; there's simply too much incidental and trivial stuff taking up time. Definitely not as bad as most of the last couple seasons, but not great either.
Which leaves "Dye! Dye! My Darling." I could hardly mention one without the other, as they're too close to a "to be continued..." split episode.
Where to start? Why don't I address the humor? There really wasn't any after the dye-shopping scene, except for Trent's refrigerator comment. This really is a marked shift for the show, but with this topic that's unavoidable. A major are-we-still-friends fight between Daria and Jane, the two characters we've been setup to identify with, is hardly going to be funny. This leaves the character of fifth season open to question... As a drama, this episode worked well, with everything, even the brief Fashion Club appearance, serving some sort of purpose for the story. But as a Daria episode? If that humor comes back, we're probably okay, but we have to wait and see.
I'm going to take the rest of this fairly sequentially, rather than character by character.
Jane forcing Daria to do her hair was really awkward, for both of
them. Jane knew, as Trent points out, that Daria was not going to
be any good at that, and was basically fishing for a reason to fight
with her. Jane seems to be incredibly jealous between "Fire!"
and this episode, and what's odd is the focus of it. Jane's been very
close friends with Daria for a while now, and protecting a new not-so-great
relationship at the cost of a strong old one doesn't make much sense.
Jealousy rarely does, but Jane is really going way out on this, and
she basically does accuse Daria of trying to steal Tom. Jane then
gets, as Daria expected, a reason to fight, and throws Daria out.
She then starts avoiding Daria, which does fit with her earlier behavior,
as we've seen her try to run from her problems rather than face them
before (and her whole fondness for running is probably an allusion
Then Daria goes looking for someone to talk to. Jake, Helen, even Quinn. Quinn could be considered an "expert" in this field, but Daria's ethics are so different, and she knows that, there's not any real point in asking. Daria's never been in a real relationship before, and she doesn't really have an good examples to have learned from. Quinn certainly has a lot of dates, but none of them have been serious, and Jake and Helen are, well, slightly dysfunctional. Still, Helen is the closest thing to an expert on the subject that Daria has available.
Jane is amazingly chipper at school the next day. She may have actually
got over her jealousy jag, at least until Daria's compulsive truth-telling
(and bad timing) slapped her in the face. I can certainly see Daria
telling Jane, that had to happen, but in the middle of the hall? Daria
doesn't like to be the center of attention, and she is a fairly private
person. The only thing that could force this out of her here is an
incredible load of guilt. Unfortunately, and almost incidentally,
this scene ruined the small buildup of Andrea's character. After they
got our hopes up in "Mart of Darkness" it wasn't nice to
see her gawking at Daria and Jane's big fight.
I really don't know what to make of Daria going to Helen at work. Helen's response is accurate; if Daria's actually come seeking her out at work, there's a really big problem. Helen really couldn't be expected to solve this problem, but as Daria says she's got no one else (which would have been a more Daria line if she hadn't added the "I didn't mean it that way"). Helen at least knows Daria enough to be truthful, even if her "everything will turn out all right somehow" line is weak drivel. Their little talk doesn't much cheer Daria up, and it couldn't be expected to. The residuals on this will be interesting, and how Daria interacts with Helen in fifth season is going to be one of the watch-points of the show.
Trent gets what is probably his best performance this episode. He's used very well, even if he isn't singing at all, and he gets about the only funny line in the last half of the show. He definitely knows his little sister well, and he's surprisingly aware of relationships given his on-again, off-again history with Monique.
This pretty much leaves Daria and Jane's final conversation scene. This does highlight what the friendship means to Daria, and her "Right?" when Jane just shrugs... One comment in particular during this scene struck me. Jane's comment about Daria being the tagalong all year, plus Tom's similar comment earlier adds to the way most of fourth season showed Jane fitting Daria in around Tom's schedule. Jane couldn't see herself doing the same thing (especially now), and this is going to be one of the problems to come up often next season.
This was a strong episode, judged as a drama, but it was questionable
as a Daria episode. The early ones could make fun of serious problems
in a great way, but we haven't seen that happen in a long while. The
comedic-drama format was largely lost in favor of one side or the
other most of the season, and next season offers the opportunity to
either get back on track or shift the focus of the show outright.
The latter would seem to be a really bad move, as alienating your
established fan base at the same time as you're negotiating for another
season is not a smart move.