We’re back to continue our review of One Day At a Time, and while on the first episodes we focus on Elena (Isabella Gomez), Alex (Marcel Ruiz) and Lydia (Rita Moreno), in this part of the review I’d like to focus more on one of the most beautifully fleshed-out characters in a sitcom today… Penelope Alvarez (Justina Machado).
While season one focussed on her trying to maintain her family together and act as both the mother and the father of Alex and Elena, this season gave so much more to Lupe. Like showing us what it’s like for her to deal with school, her job, family – or her blossoming lust and eventual love to the sexy gringo Max.
Penelope is a woman with PTSD that deals with anxiety and depression but manages to go into her every day determined to make something good out of it, always with a smile on her face even when the situations in her life make her want to scream and shout.
Man, seeing the episode where Penelope spirals down with her depression and anxiety, and Lydia trying to get her pain away, trying to understand her daughter and make her happy was a tough and emotional episode for me to see. If you suffer from depression or anxiety… you’re going to need a hug, a blanket or something to make you feel a little better.
Note: By saying that, I don’t mean the show is triggering, on the contrary, it portrays so accurately what’s like to spiral down even though you thought you were alright, that can be a little painful to see something so true come to life. And maybe it’ll teach some people a little something about mental health.
But what they did in the final episode was not ok, not even one bit, as I genuinely thought Lydia was going to die and if that happened this show would’ve lost me, as Rita Moreno as abuelita is one of the most endearing characters I’ve seen in a sitcom. You don’t touch abuelita, punto.
I really can’t tell you what it was for me to see that final episode when Lydia is in the hospital. When every member of the Alvarez family -even the honorary ones like Schneider and Dr. Berkowitz- shared a few words with Lydia as to how much they loved her and what she meant to them… Man, I was sobbing so hard I had to pause the sitcom for a while; but it was Penelope’s words the ones who really broke me, as we saw -in a monologue that goes through anger, fear, desperation, and acceptance- a daughter saying it was okay for her mother to let go.
Then we got a beautiful reunion between Berto and Lydia when they talk about their relationship and the beautiful daughter they have and I was already picturing the Season ending with Lydia dying -and I was sobbing even harder- so, when Lydia said “not yet” to Berto and wakes up, a literal weight lifted up from my shoulders and tears started to stream down my face, as I was so relieved to have her well and alive, that for a moment I really got angry the show had made me pass through that emotional rollercoaster.
But what I “hated” the most is that, in the middle of my tears, the show actually managed to give us some jokes that had me laughing while crying my heart out -believe me, it’s possible.
Justina Machado is a magnificent actress, as most of the heavy emotional scenes from the season rely on her shoulders, and even when someone else is performing something heartbreaking, one look at her face can tell you how much Penelope feels for her family. If she doesn’t get nominated, we should recognize her talent and her voice. And her chemistry with Rita Moreno… man, it was a beautiful thing to see.
This show is really relatable in the situations it portrays, especially to the Latinx community, by telling stories about immigration, cultural heritage, what feels like being told: “go back to your country”, “build that wall” or even tell us we are from a country we are not.
One Day At A Time is a show made by the Latinx community for the Latinx community and the rest of the world, as we all know what it’s like to deal with issues bigger than us and trying to fit in a world that is not very “fair”, by always having your family -blood or filial- to help you get through it.