The L.A. Complex should be very pleased with itself, because its second episode “Do Something” just ended with a wonderfully shocking moment: Tariq (Benjamin Charles Watson) making out with gangster rapper King Kaldrick (Andra Fuller)! Better yet, Tariq’s subplot was buried beneath the other (straight) romantic dramas and audition woes, and so the final zinger came as even more of a shock.
While Abby and Raquel spent the episode facing off for the coveted “Hooker” role on the procedural Cause of Death – as well as who gets to give Connor some afternoon delight in his trailer — and Nick obsesses over what he’s doing wrong with women, Tariq was showing Kal around Los Angeles. Not because Kal doesn’t know the town, but because in order to work with someone he has to know something about them first. Even though Kal easily loses his temper when Tariq fails to bring him to cool spots, he warms to the younger kid when Tariq confesses that the reason he doesn’t have any “ins” in Hollywood is because he’s from Canada.
Then, the last scene: After a day of getting to know Tariq, Kal lets him in to his apartment to play him a record while they brainstorm his album. The soulful music is pulsing and Kal is up in Tariq’s face snapping, “Do something. Do something!” And right when you think it might devolve into a fistfight, they start making out. (Start at 11:30.)
I literally pumped my fist and hissed, “Yes!” I was so psyched to see The L.A. Complex go right for the throat in terms of a daring romantic plotline, as opposed to hemming and hawing over an attraction the fans might think is in their heads. Consider that it took 90210 three seasons for Teddy to gingerly test the waters of homosexuality, whereas by the second episode you have an out character in the middle of a hot-button topic: Homoeroticism in the rap industry.
Remember that Canada has already seen the season finale, which means we have to avoid spoilers but also means that the actors have already done press about the show’s shockers. TV Fanatic expressed skepticism that this might just be a ratings ploy, but based on an interview that Andra Fuller did with Examiner when the Kal/Tariq hookup first aired, I think the show is going to take this plotline seriously. (Again, it’s Degrassi creators Stephen Stohn and Linda Schuyler, so of course they’re going to treat it with respect.)
“The thing that’s so appealing to me about playing this character is that I get to show my range. I get to be so explosive and so angry, and then in the next scene, I’m showing my tender moments and vulnerability. That’s the appealing side of this character: I get to show both sides all in one day.”
We already saw that in 1×02: During one of their tender bonding moments, an overzealous fan snaps a photo of Kal and Tariq… at least, until Tariq strides over and smacks the poor boy upside the head. That was your first hint that Kal is stressed trying to give off this tough-guy image; the fan happened to catch the moment that he put his hand on Tariq’s shoulder.
Another great facet about Tariq’s character is that up until that last moment it didn’t even occur to me that he might be queer. However, that will become a sticking point in Tariq and Kal’s relationship, as Andra Fuller told Examiner:
“He kind of admires Tariq. Tariq is out, and he wishes he could be also, but he can’t. This guy’s a hip hop superstar. He’s the Jay-Z, Kanye, Lil Wayne, all wrapped into one. This secret is so detrimental to his career. Literally and figuratively he can’t afford for his secret to escape.”
Like Chris Colfer‘s character in Struck by Lightning, Tariq’s sexuality doesn’t define him—but now it’ll lead to an interesting plotline. Especially since some vague spoilers indicate that in 1×06 their secret will come out in the studio and possibly end their relationship.
Seriously, how can people hate this show?