The highly controversial and anticipated series, The Idol, has finally been released on HBO Max, and opinions have been formed. The series, helmed by hit series Euphoria writer and director Sam Levinson, has been in the limelight for almost a year now. With a massive cast including actress Lily-Rose Depp, singer “The Weekend” (also an executive producer), everyone’s favorite comedy queen Rachel Sennott, K-pop idol Jennie Kim, singer Troye Sivan, and more, the show was bound to make waves. But these waves are rather frozen, seeing as how confused and aimless the first 30 minutes of the first episode are. It’s yet another tale of what is wrong with the music industry and “produced” artists who are just puppets to the big names and companies. We get it. The Idol is offensive not because of its obscenity but because, despite all the hype and talk about it, it’s got no substance. Or at least the first episode definitely feels superficial, just as Jocelyn feels about her new single. Maybe it was an intentional choice, but added to the mix with the obnoxious characters, “artistic” lighting, and cinematography, the show borders on narcissistic faith. What I mean is, with the defense of the show by all the stars after “THAT” Rolling Stone article, it felt drab and extremely overstated.
What Happens In ‘The Idol’ Episode 1?
The Idol Episode 1 begins with a close-up of singer Jocelyn’s face as she’s in the middle of a photoshoot for her new album cover. Jocelyn is recovering from a psychological breakdown after her mother passed away about a year ago, and this is her big comeback after the traumatic incident. Jocelyn is obviously very good at what she does because we see different shades of her performative skills as she’s posing for the cover. Things begin to get messed up when she decides to be more explicit than what the team had in mind, making the intimacy coordinator all riled up. This is the first of the many problems Jocelyn’s team is going to face in a matter of minutes. Apart from dealing with the intimacy coordinator, they have to deal with a non-consensual, scandalous image of Jocelyn being leaked online. In the middle of all of this, Jocelyn’s deteriorating mental health is considered “sexy” by some, whereas the kids who are getting insulted for being college educated consider it problematic. It’s a whole mess, really, and everybody is just trying to make Jocelyn the biggest star again after her long break. Nobody is really worried about her except for her friend and assistant, Leia, who is the only one of them who seems to have an ounce of care for the poor girl.
Amidst the chaos, a journalist from Vanity Fair joins in for a little profile on the new Jocelyn. Since Jocelyn is the trending topic on Twitter, she too knows about the photograph and is shocked to find out that the victim herself is unaware. Jocelyn seems to be putting on a brave face because she’s unhappy about how the song has turned out and has conflicting ideas with the other people involved in her album. Out of the many people in her mansion, nobody is interested in knowing what she wants.
While rehearsing for the dance, Jocelyn is compared to one of her dancers, Dyanne. She’s made to watch Dyanne’s performance so she can improve her own moves. At the same time, all the people in her team watch from a higher ground, clearly pressuring her to do better. Jocelyn looks visibly hurt and even sheds a few tears while watching Dyanne and having the executives breathe down her neck (so to speak). After she’s done, Jocelyn tells Dyanna she wishes she could dance like her, and it seems like there’s some history there. Dyanne is the one who suggests they go to a club to relax. Maybe Dyanne is jealous of Jocelyn, who has it all, whereas she’s just a more talented backup dancer, and so, she’s leading her to the lion’s den. Jocelyn doesn’t want to go to the club at first, but she finally finds out about the leaked photo and decides to use the club as a distraction from the humiliation.
Jocelyn looks completely stoic on her way to the club. Like a shell of a person who’s just smiling for those around her. At the club, the second she enters, something seems to be happening. We find out a little later that Tedros, the owner of the club, planned his encounter with Jocelyn. From the drinks to the place where she’s dancing, all of it was well thought out so that she can be in a vulnerable position for him to enter her life and save her. Tedros pretends to be excited to see a famous superstar in his club and asks for a dance, which Jocelyn is reluctant to do at first but later becomes somewhat infatuated with Tedros in an instant. Leia is immediately creeped out by Tedros. But somehow, Jocelyn is oblivious or chooses not to pay attention to his many red flags. She even tells him how she truly feels about her new music, as though she has no sense of boundaries anymore (really, there was no way Tedros did all that with his seduction). Back home, we see that Jocelyn may have some fantasies of her own that involve physical control.
In her interview with Vanity Fair, Jocelyn is aloof and completely changes herself to give only the right answers for the recording, even though the journalist attempts to be vulnerable with her. Jocelyn is unimpressed and continues to stick to the expected answers. Later, despite Leia’s disdain for Tedros, Jocelyn invites him over. She creates a mysterious vibe for him, just as he creates a stimulating environment for her, meaning they both want something from each other but won’t reveal their true selves. She decides to show him her unreleased song because she feels like he will be honest with her, unlike anyone else she knows. Tedros thinks Jocelyn has the best job in the world, and Jocelyn thinks being famous entails other people lying to her face. Tedros gives her fake encouragement in the most bizarre manner and then tells her to find her own voice. To show her what she really needs to dig deep into, he uses her red robe and puts it over her head, almost making her look like a nun. Earlier, he said she sounded like a nun when she was singing the words “I’m a freak.” She needed to change herself in order to embody people like Sharon Tate. Tedros uses the robe to suffocate Jocelyn and then uses a knife to make a slit where her mouth is, so she can breathe again.
What Is Tedros Really Trying To Do?
Now, we know rat-tailed Tedors is some kind of cult leader from the promotional content of the show, and with the way he looks at the cameras in Jocelyn’s home, he might want to use her “voice” to get people to join his cult. Idols are, after all, worshiped by people, and she would be the perfect puppet to manipulate and get people to join him. Jocelyn doesn’t look naive, but it might be her vulnerable state that is attracting her to this man who is willing to take control of her life. She wants something authentic because she’s tired of the superficial; just like her song, it’s her form of escapism.
Firstly, Maddy’s (from Euphoria) presence in the show just makes Sam look like he’s trying to build a universe around his film-camera shot and neon-lit over-sexualized shows, and we’re not here for it. The angles and shots all make it look like a fantasy, rather than a woman losing her agency to a manipulative cult leader. I had to take a step back at the end of the episode because my actual first thought was, “What did I just see.” Apart from being unentertaining, The Idol is also trying really hard to be self-aware and insert jokes where they’re unnecessary, and I really don’t think anyone’s laughing. Either way, I’m hoping there’s an improvement in episode 2 because if there isn’t, HBO has some serious thinking to do.