Vida episode 5 review: Scars are maps of who we are


Episode 5 of Vida offers a glimpse of hope for its characters, which is a refreshing change. Will conflicts be avoided?

Vida has been an interesting glimpse into some genuine issues. However, prior to this episode, there weren’t many signs of conflict resolution, or of characters potentially bonding. In fact, most of the characters exaggerated differences between them, and some of them — especially Marisol (Chelsea Rendon) — are deliberately polarizing, and not particularly productive.

Episode 5 threatens to change all that, as the characters begin to actually communicate more, and address certain issues they have. In that sense, Vida may grow into a more valuable experience by the season finale (which will be the next episode).

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Raising Rent: A Look at a Real Issue

One of the main characters, Emma (Mishel Prada) has tasked herself with either saving or selling the family bar. To complicate matters, it was inherited jointly with her sister, Lyn (Melissa Barrera), and her mother’s wife, Eddy (Ser Anzoategui). The business-meets-family problem is one of the show’s key strengths, and there are disagreements on whether the rent should be raised.

The problem is obvious: Raising the rent will make the family look greedier, and will threaten its inhabitants if they struggle to make ends meet. At the same time, it is a business, and there is always pressure for a business to make money. The business aspect isn’t popular with everybody, especially anti-gentrification activists like Marisol, who consider Emma and Lyn sellouts. In fact, even Eddy accuses them as such, calling them “Chipsters” (a portmanteau of “Chicano” and “Hipster”).

Emma, who must grapple with her family business. “Vida,” Starz

“Vida” previously neglected to highlight economics or policy, focusing mostly on sexuality, identity politics and whites-versus-Chicano issues. Gentrification was mostly an aside, and looked pretty abstract.

However, as economics are discussed, the show becomes bigger and more relatable to audiences everywhere. Why? People being displaced by commercialization is a traceable theme, and could concern everyone — regardless of their cultural background, sexuality or skin tone.

On that note, Vida still missed an opportunity, as none of its characters have effectively organized alternatives to gentrification. For example: Instead of protesting a coffee shop they don’t like (and potentially turning people off to their cause), they could simply choose not to give it their money. Similarly, they could turn the bar into some type of cooperative, and run it collectively as some variety of non-profit social center. If they don’t want to depend on money, they could potentially take steps against it. Instead, Marisol marches around with her spray can. As I’ve suggested before, this is where Vida fails quite noticeably, and these elements would actually make it a more uplifting show.

Lyn vs. Karla

Overall, Lyn has been a complicated character. In the last episode, we saw her deflated after trying to party with fratboy white guys. It turned out to be a depressing experience. They treated her as a mere curiosity, and had their Mexican servant, Aurora (Laura Patalano), clean up vomit. As much as I hate to say it, I could totally imagine this happening.

Fresh from that degrading experience, Lyn has set out to humiliate someone else. She attends a yoga class where her love interest’s pregnant wife, Karla (Erika Soto), happens to be. Karla knows full well that Lyn’s been sleeping with Johnny (Carlos Miranda), but will not be intimidated. In fact, she approaches Lyn and says she will not fight her for Johnny. In effect, Lyn can have him. The question is, is this a win or a loss for Lyn? What are her motives? She may think she loves Johnny, but it’s apparent that her ego is one of her main motivators.

The Big Fight

For a show about conflict, it’s almost refreshing how little of it has been physical — up until this episode. As any writer knows, just about any story needs a conflict, and most require some sort of resolution. This is why Marisol and Emma basically had to fight. After Mari calls Emma a sellout, Emma accuses her of being a fake. This, of course, leads to a bit of a fight, and the real estate agent that Emma was with calls the cops, with both of them being arrested.

Ultimately, this fight’s also part of their bonding process. Because the two are jailed together, they are essentially forced to either talk it out or remain awkwardly silent. Interestingly, not much attention is paid to the whole gentrification issue, which supposedly inspired their fight. Instead, the two discuss the love triangle between Johnny, Karla and Lyn.

While Lyn is initially blamed for the fiasco by Mari, she eventually admits that Johnny is also at fault — he is, after all, cheating on his pregnant wife. Still, the two are basically powerless on that issue so it’s a bit of a “that’s the way the cookie crumbles” moment.

Scars are Maps of Who You Are/Not Mourning Enough

While in their cell, Marisol and Emma discuss some of their bodily scars. Emma makes an interesting statement: “Scars are maps of who you are.” It’s a statement that adds depth to the episode’s end, when Eddy confronts the two sisters (her step-daughters) over their lack of emotion.

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While the sisters may be repressing emotions, there’s a sense of emptiness to them, too. They are jaded by their life away from home, and trying to re-connect is a struggle. At the same time, Eddy should realize that not everybody expresses emotions the same way. In fact, not everyone has the same level of emotions. We all bare our scars differently, with some choosing to hide them as much as possible.

What are your thoughts? Is this a good episode of Vida? Let us know in the comments!