June 17, 2015

SHOWBUZZDAILY Season Finale Review: “Finding Carter”


MTV’s FINDING CARTER is another high-concept series challenged by its concept losing some of its height.  The original impetus for the story was teenager Carter (Kathryn Prescott) being rescued from a kidnapping at the hands of Lori (Milena Govich) that Carter didn’t even know had happened, because Lori had taken her at the age of 3.  Carter then had to readjust to an entirely new life with birth mother (and police detective) Elizabeth (Cynthia Watros), father David (Alexis Denisof), twin sister Taylor (Anna Jacoby-Heron), and brother Grant (Zac Pullam), amid the tensions that had developed due to her disappearance and then return.  All those new relationships provided plenty of material for Season 1, but by Season 2, Carter’s life with her birth family was simply her life, and the series had to look elsewhere for most of its plots.

The resulting Season 2 has been uneven.  (Original showrunner Terri Minsky was replaced by Emily Whitesell, which probably contributed to the feeling of recalibration.)  Finding Carter is at its best when dealing with the relationships among its family members, especially Carter’s with Taylor, with whom she has a tangled trail of resentment and unconditional support.  Grant, too, is an impressively complicated character when the show finds room for him, a boy whose mask of sarcastic flippancy drops at times to reveal some serious darkness.  David, who was a strong duplicitous presence in Season 1, lying to his wife and children about his self-centered determination to write a book about Carter even while swearing not to, was softened quite a bit in Season 2, and his character was much thinner, and Elizabeth, while still an important presence, was also less distinctively edged than in Season 1.  When heading outside the family circle, the series spent much too much time at the story well of Carter’s boyfriend Crash (Caleb Rummer), a familiar bad boy who became less bad, and then very bad, and then not so bad, and since last being seen enlisted in the Army, has apparently become downright good.  With the sturdy exception of Max (Alex Saxon), a (mostly) ex of Carter’s who’s become Taylor’s boyfriend, the other teen characters have never really come together, rising in importance for an episode here and there–Taylor was briefly sleeping with Ofe (Jesse Carere), who then mostly vanished–only to fade again.  The decision in the season’s penultimate episode to kill off Elizabeth’s partner and former lover Kyle (Eddie Matos) felt random, and not in a way that signified anything.

For tonight’s Season 2 finale, written by Whitesell and directed by John Terlesky, the show finally returned to its central plotline.  Very early in the season, after Carter was rescued from the Season 1 cliffhanger of being kidnapped once again by Lori, we had learned that Lori was actually the egg donor for Elizabeth’s pregnancy with Carter and Taylor, and that David had what was supposedly a one night fling with her.  Somehow, Lori had parlayed this into a court proceeding to have herself declared Carter’s true mother and earn an immediate release from the psychiatric hospital where she had recently attempted suicide.  This provided Prescott with the chance to do some capital-A Acting when called to the stand and forced to testify (in a scene that didn’t stand up to much scrutiny) to the daughterly things she’d said to Lori after the suicide attempt, but it was mostly all just the build-up to the last-second reveal that a young man we hadn’t met before was in fact another biological child of Lori and David.

It wasn’t entirely clear how the boy’s existence would affect Carter and Lori’s position in her life, but it should at least provide some narrative for the show’s next run of 12 episodes in October, and creatively, Finding Carter can use the help.  (Ratings haven’t been particularly impressive either.)  The show continues to have very strong bones, with wonderfully rounded performances by Prescott, Jacoby-Heron, Watros, Saxon and Pullam at its center, and an admirable ability to find perceptive small moments and believable humor in the midst of its melodrama.  Too often, though, the series has felt like it could easily slide into being a typical teen drama, and fighting against that tide will likely get only more difficult as the series continues.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."