My Brilliant Friend: Season 1/ Episode 6 “L’isola (The Island)” – Recap/ Review (with Spoilers)

Elena sitting on a beach.
100% (1)

It’s a (mostly) Elena focused episode and we get to see her reach a personal high, and low. Meanwhile, Lila deals with Marcello’s advances.


Network
HBO
Director(s)Salveri Costanzo
Writer(s)Elena Ferrante, Francesco Piccolo, Laura Paolucci, Salveri Costanzo
Air Date12/3/2018
Introduced This Episode
NellaNunzia Schiano
DonatoEmanuele Valenti

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Ischia, I Love You: Nella, Nino, Elena

Though it takes a bit of time, Elena eventually meets Nella – the woman who Maestra Oliviera arranged to be Elena’s host for the summer. What does she have to do in exchange? Honestly, not much. Just get breakfast done in the morning, clean up a bit, and help with dinner. As for the rest of the day? Well, Elena is free to be a teen girl away from home.

Thing is, Elena isn’t that extroverted so she spends a good couple of days, maybe weeks, just reading and working. However, once Nino’s family arrives she gets social. Especially since Nino’s sister relies on her to co-sign her every move. But, it isn’t until Nino arrives that Elena begins to really enjoy herself. At least, at first.

For with Nino making it seem, even without seeing Lila in years, he too was smitten, it kind of ruins her crush. However, not enough to end up. Just to not fantasize about his promise from when they were kids coming true – even though he remembers and brings it up. Instead, she just enjoys his company. Though, with a kiss on the lips, so returns the idea maybe something could happen – if she acts fast enough.

Commentary

Elena and Nino kissing.

I cut out a lot to keep it short but the gist is, with Elena having at least ¾ of the episode without Lila, this show doesn’t need Lila to be compelling. To my surprise, since all I really talk about is Lila, Elena held her own. She crafted what felt like a foreign romance movie. One about a girl on vacation who saw her childhood sweetheart for the first time in years. He was close enough to smell his natural scent. In fact, taking note Elena saw the boy in his underwear, it might have been the first time she knew being a woman meant more than kids and having her period. What it also meant was hormones rushing in ways they haven’t before.

Though, some of that is me adding details. Point is, Elena has long been seen as the boring one but this episode helped reminded me how that is the person who stars in many a great love story. And while, yes, Elena isn’t combative, doesn’t have a quip ready at a moment’s notice, and lacks significant drama, that is kind of her appeal. What draws you into Elena is her having a quiet brilliance. One that doesn’t need to be announced. Same goes for what allures people to her. It is with a gentle smile, a soft voice, and the characteristics which often get passed up. Yet, for those like Nino who pay attention, note the details, those are the ones who find the semi-hidden gems. Thus giving them more bliss than anyone who dared to write a love story – fact or fiction.

Meanwhile, For Lila: Lila, Rino, Marcello, Fernando

It seems the shift is real for while it seemed Lila was ignoring Elena, really, she just didn’t want to trouble her. She wanted Elena to enjoy the beach, bliss, and to not be as miserable as she usually was in the neighborhood. Be it because she felt like she was in Lila’s shadow or felt unstimulated. But, while Elena is away, it leaves Lila fending for herself.

Something that is quite hard for Marcello is coming at her family hard. He brings chocolate, pastries, even a damn TV. So, when he pulls out that ring, Fernando thinks he hit the jackpot. Making Lila rejecting him something that leads you to believe she will get flung out the window again. Yet, it isn’t just Fernando that Lila has to worry about. While Marcello seemingly enjoyed the chase, he is getting tired of going all out and being rejected.

Thankfully, for whatever reason, Rino decides to turn in whatever desire for the high life he had to go back to being his sister’s champion. So, while he doesn’t stand up to Marcello, he does to Fernando. Leading to them fighting as they always do.

Commentary

Marcello threatening Lila.

I think with Rino, there came a point when he realizes he was no longer working with his sister so they both can fulfill a dream. After a certain point, he was using her as a step ladder and with seeing his parents do the same, he realized he couldn’t stand by anymore. Lest we forget, there was a time Rino was demanding money so his sister could continue going to school. So that her brilliance wouldn’t be wasted in a shoe store, loveless marriage, or what many went through in the neighborhood. Yet, here she is.

On one hand, there is her father who is being bought by items that he can consume in one night or may conk out on him in 5 years – which he can’t afford to fix. Then, on the other, we got Marcello who looks at Lila like a wild horse. A “Prize Bitch” in his words. Someone who he, honestly, probably doesn’t love but wants to be one of the first to claim in the neighborhood. And all Lila can do is hope her sharp tongue fends off her father and Marcello but, problem is, she is getting older and people are giving her less leeway.

Leaving you to wonder, how long is it before Fernando kicks her out of the house? How long before Marcello hits her, maybe rapes her, just to combat her sense of self with his ego? Hell, considering how powerful his family is, can you imagine Marcello having Michele, or someone else, burning down the shoe shop? Maybe coercing Fernando into a loan that only Lila’s flesh could pay off? I know it sounds disgusting, the idea of handing your daughter over to pay a debt, but let’s remember the times we’re talking about here.

The Loss of Innocence: Donato, Elena, Nino, Nella

With how beloved Donato is in Nella’s home, and around most of his family, Elena doesn’t understand why Nino can’t stand him. Yet, she learns, two nights before she is supposed to leave, why Nino can’t stand his father. The reason being, not just that he is a philanderer but also a rapist.

In the dead of night, while, at first, just getting some water, he goes over to Lila and kisses her. The girl is so shocked she goes stiff. Following that, he may have fingered her and felt her up – not a sound comes from Elena. All we see is a tear pooling on the side of her nose. Yet, despite us, and Donato, seeing this tear, he acts as if nothing wrong was done. He talks about going to the beach the following day.

Leading us to find out, not until Elena, the real, fully grown, Elena wrote this book, she may have never talked about what happened with Donato. Not just because of what was done to her but her inability to process it. If not lack of desire to process it.

Commentary

Elena with a tear in her eye.

Men. Whether the age of Marcello or Donato, why is it they think they have some kind of ownership over a woman? What idea validates this opinion that, because of kindness shown, be it mutual or from them to the girl, they are owed something? Especially the “nice guys” who seem like a “good catch?”

Don’t get me wrong, I know the answer comes from religion, tradition, and things of that nature. It is just, I can’t recall a show, in recent memory, which has given so much second-hand frustration. Not even because of our leads doing anything wrong, but living during a time where they lack autonomy. Where someone like Lila, sharp tongue, intelligent, with wit, loses her passion to learn since life seems helpless. Then, for a girl like Lila, who is quiet, studious, just a plain sweetheart, she gets taken advantage of. An event which, for decades, probably caused more issues than may ever be revealed on this show. Just because one man, an act that took place in 5 minutes.

Highlights

  1. Elena getting to step front and center, for the majority of the episode, and show Lila is her equal. Yes, most of the show, thus far, has allowed Lila to seem like the most interesting, the one who you easily understand why so many find her engaging, but don’t sleep on Elena. Yes, she is quiet, but there is a reason Lila cares for her. She might be her opposite in some ways, but not in ways which are volatile. More so in ways which are complimenting, like Red and Blue rather than fire and ice. They both contain charm, intelligence, and overall brilliance, but they just express it differently.

On The Fence

  1. While there was nothing wrong with the performance or writing, I hated seeing Elena get assaulted and watching Lila be pushed further and further into a corner. Yet, with this being a real story, so it seems, to expect anything beyond the BS we see would be fantasy.

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About Amari Sali 3365 Articles
New Jersey native Amari Sali takes the approach of more so being a media advisor than a critic to sort of fill in the gap left between casual fans of media and those who review productions for a living. Thus being open about bias while still giving enough insight, often with spoilers, to present whether something is worth seeing, buying, renting, streaming, or checking out at all.

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