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Jellyfish Can't Swim in the Night
Episode 6

by Nicholas Dupree,

How would you rate episode 6 of
Jellyfish Can't Swim in the Night ?
Community score: 4.4

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One of the little details that kept me from loving this show's premiere was how it treated Miiko, the idol whose stream Kano and Yoru hijack in the climax. It wasn't just that Miiko was treated as an easy punchline—though taking a seemingly pompous or phony performer down a peg is a pretty common tool for cheap, guilt-free yucks—but she was presented as carrying a crummy kind of subtext. Intentionally or not, it felt like the writers were contrasting the more “real” art our heroines were making and Miiko's performative pandering—which didn't sit well with me. For all we knew, that girl was just as motivated and authentic as Kano. When the whole episode centered on the moral of being yourself regardless of others' judgment, it felt incongruously judgmental to treat her as an acceptable target.

So, imagine my surprise when this episode brings Miiko back, and immediately humanizes her in ways I don't think anyone would have expected. For one, it turns out she did pay out of her pocket for those posters that Yoru ripped down for the crime of temporarily covering up her public street art. Dick move, girls. More importantly, we quickly learn about who she is outside of that bubbly idol image—a 31-year-old divorced mother trying to support her young daughter, holding down multiple jobs while keeping the fire of her dream alive. Outside of the pure shock of her age reveal, that immediately opens up different ideas for the show to play with.

Miiko is facing many of the same struggles as our main characters but from the opposite end of adolescence. She's trying to achieve her dream but has over a decade of failure and perseverance to carry with her, as opposed to the youthful optimism of teenagers. Like Yoru, she has to combat fears of inferiority while trying to craft an identity she can be proud of. Her relationship with her daughter immediately begs comparisons to Kano's estranged producer/mother. The daughter, Ariel, has a dogged devotion to her mom's idolatry that touchingly lets her bond with Mei. All of this, while also touching on the topic of systemic misogyny in the entertainment industry demands Miiko project a sanitized version of herself to be acceptable. These are fantastic avenues to explore our cast and themes, all brought about by re-introducing a character who seemed like a total joke at first. It's fantastic!

...Unfortunately, Jellyfish once more delivers an episode where the setup far outclasses the payoff. Indeed, there are a lot of interesting angles to explore through Miiko's character, but the writers never really pick one to focus on—so none of them get their due. It seems like we'll be digging into Kano's issues with her mom, but that aspect vanishes after a single scene. Mei's relationship with Ariel gets a better payoff but also has to share time with JELEE's impromptu stage show—so it doesn't get the focus of a proper emotional climax. We end the episode with Miiko reclaiming her real name, Shizue, and revealing her real life to her fans. That's a genuinely radical move in an entertainment industry founded on carefully crafted persona, and the episode essentially hand-waves the consequences as a joke. The entire inciting incident of the episode is that Shizue commissions JELEE to write her a song, and we never get to hear it!

It's a frustrating way to resolve the episode because it feels like so much potential has been squandered or pushed into a nebulous future. Kano's story will come back up later but if we're not going to meaningfully develop it now, why spend so much time in an already busy episode? Why has Yoru brought up last week's kiss only for neither character to meaningfully address it? Why put the musical emphasis on JELEE performing when the whole episode started with writing a song for Shizue? It's a fun idea but when you're cross-cutting between a heartfelt sequence of Ariel standing up for her mom with jokes about Yoru cowering from the audience while playing the triangle, you're actively hamstringing both the drama and comedy of both moments.

All that negativity might make it sound like I hate the episode, but it's the opposite. There's a ton of great material in here, waiting to be articulated and explored. Jellyfish is enthralling when it's just about characters expressing their raw emotions, or building connections through their shared insecurities. Yet it keeps resolving those emotions through narrative beats that are way too clean, easy, or unsatisfying. I want this show to be a stronger, more focused version of itself and live up to the ambitions it so obviously holds.

Rating:

Jellyfish Can't Swim in the Night is currently streaming on HIDIVE.


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