Don’t forget to separate your paper and plastics!
Overview (Spoilers Below!)
As Tess and Dave chill outside her mansion, Tess complains about the impact that big corporations have on the environment. Noticing that Tess’s lifestyle isn’t exactly enviro-friendly—tons of trash cans, lots of sprinklers, a leaf blower coughing up exhaust—Dave tries to suggest that maybe individual people should also do their part, and not put all the blame on others. Tess points out her family’s solar panels and electric cars and shames Dave for not making the same steps towards environmentalism, despite his protests that he can’t afford it. Then she shames him again for drinking out of a plastic water bottle.
I appreciate that Highly Gifted has come back to making sharp social commentary, as that’s the aspect of the show that most intrigued me in season one. And “Do Your Part” does have some good points to make about our relationship to the environment and the people around us. Tess wants to do good in the world, but she’s blinded by her wealth; she can’t comprehend that others might have to prioritize affordability over “green” living. The episode also points out the hypocrisy inherent in those who claim to be passionate about social justice but don’t put their ideals into practice in their own lives. (Tess is proud of the fact that all seven of her family’s SUVs are electric, oblivious to the fact that they definitely don’t need seven SUVs.) These cutting observations are honest and clever. They’re issues that should be taken into consideration when discussing any social justice issue.
The episode lost me a little, though, in its insistence on making fun of Tess for her condemnation of big corporations. If the show lets Dave off the hook because he can’t afford to reduce his carbon footprint, the same logic cannot apply to multi-billion-dollar companies, whose CEOs have no shortage of funds. Why is Tess at fault for not being green, but major companies are not? I don’t quite get what the episode is trying to say.
There’s also the fact that this episode is far from subtle—Tess makes a comment about air quality one second before an enormous cloud of leaf blower smog hits Dave in the face. It’s just a little too on-the-nose and obvious. And then, just in case we didn’t get it, Dave has to run us through a list of all Tess’s hypocrisies: “You know, uh, watering in the middle of the day, the trash cans, the, uh, leaf blower…” I’m sure most viewers understood the joke without Dave outright saying it. I wish this show trusted its audience’s intelligence a little more. The characters, too, could stand to be a little less one-note: Tess is an obsessive, inconsiderate ranting machine, and it makes you wonder why Dave would agree to hang out with her in the first place (to be fair, it’s maybe because in some episodes he’s just as annoying).
On that note, I like that “Do Your Part” allows us to sympathize with Dave instead of portraying him as 100% annoying and insensitive. And I applaud this episode for trying to make an intelligent statement about social justice and the environment. It almost succeeds, too. But the satire could do with a little focus. Making fun of everything is all good and fine, but some of the message gets lost that way, and it’s difficult to make out what the show is actually trying to say.