In what feels like an extended The Weeknd video, you get a pop star seemingly inspired by many a troubled starlet, who falls in love with a club promoter prepping her reintroduction as a sex kitten.


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Plot Recap

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The Fading Pop Start – Jocelyn, Leia, Dyanne, Nikki, Xander, Destiny, Chaim, Benjamin, Andrew, Talia

It has been a year since Jocelyn put something out, and everyone hints and rumors that she had a psychotic break. Why? With how hush things are about her mother, there might be your answer. But no one talks about Jocelyn’s mother or can really ask. Jocelyn’s best friend and assistant, Leia, walks on eggshells around her. Talia, from Vanity Fair? Oh, she won’t get a straight answer because Jocelyn knows the game and is tired of it. As for the rest of Jocelyn’s team? It’s hard to say if they could be confided in or helped beyond selfish reasons.

Andrew (Eli Roth)
“Andrew (Eli Roth),” The Idol, “Pop Tarts & Rat Tails,” directed by Sam Levinson, 2023, (HBO)

Jocelyn’s manager, Chaim, wants her to release this new record, “I’m A Freak,” and regain prominence. Andrew, from Live Nation, wants the hit tour that was expected before refunds were given out, and Nikki? She just wants this album cover shoot to be hot, and everything it needs to be, as does Xander, who handles creative for Jocelyn wants the same.

However, appeasing all these people is hard. Benjamin might be a crisis manager, and perhaps Destiny, but they are part of Jocelyn’s team. They rely on her to support a song she doesn’t even believe in, for that’s how they make their money. All of this is getting to her. Multiple people see it, but the only one who provides any real relief is Dyanne, one of Jocelyn’s dancers. She may not say the song sucks, but at least she is open to providing Jocelyn some encouragement and a distraction by going out after the hawks are done circling.

You Said Something About A Club? – Jocelyn, Tedros, Leia

Going to a club seemed to be just what Jocelyn needed. She needed to dance freely, drink a bit, and maybe even get away from Leia, for while she is lovely, she can also be a buzz kill. Enter Tedros, who owns the club Jocelyn dances at. He slithers up to her like the snake in the Garden of Eden and seduces Jocelyn as if she has never heard a compliment before. Leia peeps this, and all the red flags go off, as they should. Something about the people in Tedros’ club seem off.

Tedros (Abel Tesfaye aka The Weeknd)
“Tedros (Abel Tesfaye aka The Weeknd),” The Idol, “Pop Tarts & Rat Tails,” directed by Sam Levinson, 2023, (HBO)

However, by the end of the night, Jocelyn is hooked, intrigued, and unable to control herself over the idea of what Tedros would have gotten to do if Leia didn’t show up.

Love To Love You Baby – Jocelyn, Tedros, Leia

Jocelyn might be intrigued, maybe even seduced, but she isn’t an idiot. Hence her not sending Leia away and putting in an effort to ensure she has every advantage she needs. She invites Tedros to her house, cameras still on, and plays her position in heels so she can stand over him. Tedros, though has come prepared. He knows this is a major opportunity to interact with a pop star and what that can do for his life.

However, the first one to show their hand is Jocelyn. In his club, they talked about music, had a real conversation amongst all the dancing, grinding, and him trying to insert himself into her. So, to follow up on that, she has him listen to the new single to get his thoughts. She figures, being the kind of man he is, he’ll give her an honest opinion, and he says he likes the song but doesn’t believe it. Tedros doesn’t see Jocelyn as a freak, at least not on the level she sings in the song, and it seems he wants to introduce her to experiences that can make what she sings authentic. Donna Summer singing “Love To Love You Baby” is his goal, and even with Tedros being very new in her life, Jocelyn trusts him, allows him to choke her, and give her experiences likely no one has before.

Collected Quote(s)

Pop music is like the ultimate trojan house.
— Tedros

Revenge is empowerment?
— Jocelyn

I just think you’re enough of an asshole that you might tell me the truth.
— Jocelyn

Review

Highlights

Depp and Tesfaye’s Chemistry

How Tesfaye interacts with Depp is like she is a girl in one of his videos. He consumes the room, yet with everything seemingly being about him, he doesn’t take it all in but redirects that energy to Depp. It’s almost romantic, but the man is more focused on the opportunities this vulnerable pop star can give him than romance. So every touch, every compliment, is a spell.

Yet, Depp, as Jocelyn, knows this game. She may not be the freak or good girl gone bad that Tedros thinks is required for her song, but she isn’t as naïve as he thinks. From what it appears, she is a former child star, has skin in the game, and has long learned how to adjust her person to fit the attitude, wants, needs, or persona of others. So a man who wants something from her? That isn’t new. It’s just this man doesn’t have any real power beyond a certain allure.

This seems exciting for her. Someone who isn’t in the industry approaching her, being bold, and doing it with no shame? Even if Tedros is a leech of some kind, him being upfront about it leads to Jocelyn seemingly game as long as she gets hers in one way or another, and Depp and Tesfaye seem to know how to play up this dynamic like they have worked together before.

The Sinister Vibe

With that said, there is a sinister vibe here. Tedros’ club feels like a snake’s den, and while he might be the biggest of them all, it is made clear with each glance Leia makes that he isn’t the only one. The question is, are Tedros’ associates of a similar ilk to him and just want to raise their fortune off a potentially vulnerable pop star, or do they want something else?

A picture of Jocelyn with fluid on her face is already out there, and she is slightly unfazed, but can she handle people getting to know her more personally, beyond the physical, and being betrayed? Never mind, as she seems redo to be reborn and reform her image, can Tedros and the rest hold her up rather than pull her down?

Knowing The Game And Being Tired Of It

I feel like there is a real need to hone in on Jocelyn and recognize that she is someone who seemingly lost her narrative in a public space. She can’t choose what music she puts out, can be tired to a point but never angry, and as much as she knows the game, she isn’t a master of it but rather tired of it. There are so many influences and control mechanisms in her life, even in the form of her best friend who reins her in, and she knows this.

Xander (Troye Sivan), Destiny (Da'Vine Joy Randolph), Chaim (Hank Azaria), Benjamine (Dan Levy), and Nikki (Jane Adams)
“Xander (Troye Sivan), Destiny (Da’Vine Joy Randolph), Chaim (Hank Azaria), Benjamine (Dan Levy), and Nikki (Jane Adams),” The Idol, “Pop Tarts & Rat Tails,” directed by Sam Levinson, 2023, (HBO)

It’s like watching a self-aware puppet. She dances when they want, sings what they want, how they want likely, and in exchange, she gets money, a career, but not necessarily a life. Which pushes the talk of a psychotic break and an in-episode comparison to Britney Spears, and the sense something is off with Jocelyn to make you wonder will the puppet snap its strings or will the puppet master break the puppet first?

On The Fence

Some Of It Feels Like It Wants To Be Controversial Than It Simply Is

From the outfits, Lily-Rose Depp’s breast being out, watching her masturbate and nearly have sex in a stairwell, and the minor drug use, at times, it can feel like what we see is less about establishing a character or culture, but to get people talking. To use sex sells as a marketing method, with people, as we’ve seen thus far, talking and providing free publicity over giving them something truly worth talking about – Which this show could potentially do.

Things don’t have to begin and end with a Britney comparison. This show could speak about the experience of being a child star trying to shed that image and be reborn as an adult. It could speak on the demons and leeches of the music industry, the lack of control over your voice, and the difference between being a male musician and a woman.

There are so many layers hinted at, and we can only hope that the sensational path isn’t chosen for a quick hit but rather something more profound so that whether this show lasts for one season or more, it can truly be a showcase of the leads’ talents and be as honest, and uncomfortable, as many movies and shows about the entertainment industry try to be but seem to miss the point.

General Information

This section Includes information about the Director, Writer, and Cast.

More From The Series
Previous Episode: N/A Next Episode: Episode 2, “Double Fantasy”
Created By Sam Levinson, Abel Tesfaye, Reza Fahim
Release Date (HBO) June 4, 2023
Director(s) Sam Levinson
Writer(s) Sam Levinson
Newly Noted Characters and Cast
Jocelyn Lily-Rose Depp
Leia Rachel Sennott
Dyanne Jennie Kim
Nikki Jane Adams
Xander Troye Sivan
Destiny Da’Vine Joy Randolph
Chaim Hank Azaria
Benjamin Dan Levy
Andrew Eli Roth
Talia Hari Nef
Tedros Abel Tesfaye

FAQs

For More, Check Out The Character Guide

Why Is The Episode Called “Pop Tarts & Rat Tales?”

It represents Jocelyn, the pop star whose music she sees as superficial and without taste, and Tedros, who has a rat tail hairstyle.

Jocelyn (Lily-Rose Depp)
The Idol: Season 1/ Episode 1 “Pop Tarts & Rat Tales” – Recap and Review (with Spoilers)
Overall
As with anything with Sam Levinson attached, “The Idol” exists on a tightrope between the too real it can feel uncomfortable and a certain level of sensationalism in order to get and maintain attention. The only question is, when the show inevitably slips onto one side or the other, will it try to get back onto the rope or decide to remain comfortable where it has fallen – likely on the side of sensation?
Highlights
Depp and Tesfaye’s Chemistry
The Sinister Vibe
Knowing The Game And Being Tired Of It
Disputable
Some Of It Feels Like It Wants To Be Controversial Than It Simply Is
80

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