The Idol Episode 5 Recap: Don’t Call Her Angel

The creators of The Idol attempted to pull a big switcheroo in the show’s finale. Unfortunately for them, it doesn’t seem like anyone was convinced.

the idol finale
Photograph by Eddy Chen/HBO

Since the fated Rolling Stone article released months ago, The Idol has been locked in battle between its creators and its viewers. Sam Levinson, The Weeknd, and the rest of the “sick and twisted minds” on production thought they were delivering a sexy, thought-provoking, shocking look at the music industry as well as sex and trauma. They took to the press multiple times throughout The Idol’s five-episode run to speak their agenda into existence. But the show that filled up our screens every Sunday night was something different—awkward, dry, and clumsy. “Jocelyn Forever” continued the trend of missing the mark, and thus cemented the legacy of the Max show.

But before we get to that, let’s start at the beginning of the finale. While electrocution didn’t seem to phase her, manifestation is a step too far, and Jocelyn finally turns on Tedros after finding out he orchestrated their initial meeting. She snaps at him multiple times, telling him to leave, but he doesn’t give up so easily, instead hanging on the edges, growing more pathetic and sweaty by the minute. Jocelyn can’t worry about that at the moment, though, because her team is coming over to discuss the tour. She plans on pitching three of her new roommates as her opening act, and a showcase begins, taking up a large chunk of this final episode. By the end, the hard-shelled executives Andrew (Eli Roth) and Nikki (Jane Adams) are sold on the Manson Family band, and even Xander (Troye Sivan) gets in on the fun. Jocelyn closes out the performances with one of her new songs while writhing on the floor and on top of Andrew—who loves it, and declares the tour is still on.

Photograph by Eddy Chen/HBO

The whole scene is fun, but a little too ’80s redemption movie arc for me. (Yay! We saved the tour, and everyone is going to be a star!) Jocelyn created the best album of her career (I personally preferred “World Class Sinner,” but to each their own). Anyway, the group celebrates as Chaim (Hank Azaria) takes Tedros aside at the behest of Jocelyn and attempts to pay him off with half a million dollars, which he denies—a bold move, considering he’s not really in a power position at this point. So, Chaim declares it time for plan B, and provides journalist Talia (Hari Nef) all the information she needs to take down Tedros for his pimping ways.

Now, this was one of the (many) plot holes in the finale that irked me. Maybe it’s just the journalist in me, but Talia had what was likely a pretty juicy profile on what we’re supposed to believe is the biggest pop star of the decade. She had incredible access to Jocelyn, and with a new album coming out and all the drama surrounding her, it was likely quite the scoop. But she gave up that story to write an exposé on some not-even-Z-list nightclub owner? Yeah, he’s a scumbag, but who cares? Certainly not Vanity Fair’s readership, right?

Photograph by Eddy Chen/HBO

In the world of The Idol, though, the public seems to eat the story up. Six weeks later, Chaim, Nikki, and Andrew recap all the happenings from the time we missed as they stand in SoFi Stadium, awaiting the opening night of Jocelyn’s tour. The tickets sold out and she dropped three hit singles (Jocelyn really can’t lose at this point). Tedros, meanwhile, lost his club and has the IRS breathing down his neck. Still, he shows up at the stadium where a guest pass is waiting for him. If you’re like me, you expected Tedros to get stopped at every checkpoint as he approaches Jocelyn’s dressing room, but he gets in, where she is waiting with open arms. The show ends with Jocelyn taking the stage to begin her tour, and introduce her fans to “the love of my life,” Tedros, whom she brings on stage to kiss in front of the audience, cementing her involvement with a man who was just slammed in the press for his violent past.

I had to rewatch the final minutes of “Jocelyn Forever” a few times to understand what just happened. Did Jocelyn fall under Tedros’s spell again? Did she crave his abuse? I truly couldn’t untangle the web weaved in those last scenes to determine what the writers were attempting to say about these characters. Finally, as a last resort, I watched the “Crafting the Finale” segment to allow those behind the show to explain their vision to me. And boy, were my initial takeaways far off.

Photograph by Eddy Chen/HBO

“Jocelyn is a very calculated and strategic person,” Lily-Rose Depp says of her character. “Tedros was her muse and she got what she needed out of him.” While in the beginning of the series, she says, it seems like Tedros is taking advantage of Jocelyn, “by the end he realizes that she knows exactly what he’s doing and she knows exactly what she’s doing.”

Basically, they’re attempting to paint Jocelyn as a mastermind who used Tedros as a “conduit for creative unlocking,” as Levinson says. Now, don’t get me wrong, I do like the idea of that. I actually asked for it after the first episode when Jocelyn exhibited some control over Tedros, suggesting the emergence of what could have been an interesting, egalitarian dynamic. But it’s hard to look back at the last five episodes and see that Jocelyn was in control the whole time, and it doesn’t explain to me why she’d go back to him in the end.

Photograph by Eddy Chen/HBO

Instead, it feels like Levinson created a different story with a different ending, but when they reached the finale he said, “Let’s give Jocelyn agency in this situation,” and decided the last two scenes would be enough to convince the audience. But it all feels rushed, confusing, and half-baked. Part of me is disappointed, because there are aspects of this show I did like, and I was rooting for it; the thought that the show could redeem itself was constantly in the back of my mind. And maybe that’s why I felt stunned watching Chaim, Nikki, and Andrew in the audience, staring at Jocelyn kissing this rat-tailed man, wondering why we went through all of that just to end up back here—and how things could get so lost in translation.