Here is how this busted system works: it convinces you that you are the broken piece, and that the pieces that could support you until you’re repaired are instead edged in spikes. Then it grinds and it grinds and it grinds until all the pieces inside are broken, a little or a lot.
“Isn’t it crazy how one week can just set the rest of your life in motion?” Kennedy (Aisha Dee) marvels to Jules (Eliza Bennett) at the top of Dec. 6’s “Sweet/Vicious,” as the two steep themselves in nostalgia on a morning run before their last ever Pledge Week. Kennedy is not referring to Pledge Week — though for all Grace and Sara and the “grimy-ass” Kappa queens who torture them are concerned, she might as well be — but instead to the week in freshman year when she both claimed Jules as her best friend, and also first met her boyfriend, Nate.
While she is certain of her own importance in Jules’ life, Kennedy doesn’t realize that the Nate aspect of that week looms just as large in Jules’ history — but for different, more emotionally-shattering reasons: Nate raped her, and Kennedy, his girlfriend, has no idea. And won’t ever, if Jules’ is past and present behavior are any indication. How do you tell your best friend someone she loves raped you? How do you speak, after months and months and months of silence? Letting her go to bed with him every night, letting him into your home, into your bedroom? Which pain and humiliation do you suffer, to reach the end of which other pain and humiliation?
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Over at Kappa house, this week’s assault victim, Grace, is asking herself the same questions: How much suffering can be endured, to sidestep a lifetime of being a lonely loser? Is the limit being stripped to her underwear by the Kappa queens and made to stand under unforgiving blacklight, slurs painted across her stomach? Is it that same humiliation being recorded and passed all around campus? No, it seems, and no again. Grace, a legacy Kappa whose every high school year was lonely and miserable, has been so brainwashed by her Kappa mom — and the violent promises of the reigning Kappa queens — that she sees this human rights violation of a gauntlet her literal only path to the possibility of happiness. She is broken, and has invited the spiked cogs of Kappa to grind and grind and grind.
Jules and Ophelia aren’t having any of this, naturally. They are so deadly serious about how wrong this type of Greek life hazing is (Jules’ sorority is a sisterhood of cookie-decorating Khaleesi) that even Ophelia finally takes up her long-ignored Kappa legacy mantle (stealth rich kid, remember?) and undergo a basic bitch makeover, heading undercover for incontrovertible proof of the sorority’s gross misdeeds. (She’s even willing to undergo a face full of poop.) In fact, the only thing on this mission that gives badass Ophelia a moment’s pause is the surprise arrival of her Kappa Board President mother, THE Bobbi Mayer, and the sudden ocean of love and interest she rains down on Ophelia, all because they finally have something in common. Maybe Grace and the rest of the girls have a point, she offers in a sidebar with Jules: Maybe what the two of them think looks evil, from the outside, is just different?
But Jules has no mother-issued rose-colored glasses when it comes to Kappa, and thank goodness for her sake that she doesn’t, otherwise she would have been just as grimly devastated as Ophelia when the worst of the Kappa’s Hell Week rituals is revealed to be a keystone of Bobbi’s own tenure as Chapter president. The stakes have been raised to suit the age of the internet — with a secret surveillance room gathering footage for a lucrative hazing porn side hustle — but the skeleton is all Bobbi’s.
So our girls take the Kappas down, from their website to their chapter, and all their power. And on top of the physical beatdown handed out, Ophelia transfers all their hazing-earned Bitcoin to a battered women’s shelter: Total mic-drop. Ophelia’s mom leaves town the moment she hears, and Jules continues to spiral into panic over how to handle the secrets in her non-vigilante life, but for the moment, they are sweet/victorious.
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Four weeks in, “Sweet/Vicious” has settled confidently into its own skin. Our odd-couple superheroines have a rhythm and unwavering sense of purpose, and the tension of both Tyler and Harris edging in on them from opposite directions adds a complicated sense of urgency: It’s not a love- but a crime-triangle, with major consequences of very different sorts waiting at the end of each dude’s discovery. The fact that both the show and the girls have branched out to tackling not just female predators, but also institutional ones, is ambitious and promising — and the fact that their wins keep giving them back just as many losses perhaps more so.
In spite of the fact that these Kappa girls are truly terrible, the fact that stands that they put up the best fight Jules and Ophelia have had to face yet: Girls know how they have to live in the world
The more Harris refers to his new publication as “Law Journal,” the more he sounds like Buster Bluth saying “today at Army”
The pink rucksack is definitely, for sure going to be what brings Jules down
“Sweet/Vicious” airs Tuesdays at 10 p.m. ET/PT on MTV.
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