Vida packs layered character development into just about every scene. Even the scene in this episode between Mari and her friend as they slurp a chamoyada is meaningful, establishing their specific relationship dynamic, peeling back more layers of the emotional impact Tlaloc’s actions have had on Mari. In just five episodes, Vida has drilled into the core of its characters, upending expectations about who they are and what drives them.
In the beginning, Emma and Lyn were introduced as clear-cut, opposite types, Emma the strong and cold sister who gets things done and Lyn the carefree wild child who dates the wrong guys and never seems to have a job. But Vida has pulled back the layers to each of them. As we learned last episode, Emma’s hardened exterior is the result of a vulnerable place inside her, a deep-rooted self-hatred and feeling of rejection from her own family and community. And Lyn isn’t just a free spirit. She’s actually kind of a monster — a complicated monster, but a monster nonetheless, unable to see beyond herself.
This episode doesn’t hold back in its portrayal of Lyn’s tunnel vision or her unwillingness to take responsibility for her actions. She shows up at a yoga class that Carla’s also at, and even though she says she didn’t come looking for drama, Carla doesn’t believe that for a second, and I don’t either. There’s something truly sinister about the way Lyn looks at Johnny in her room, as if he’s some prize she has won. With this story line, Vida complicates and undoes the idea of a “soulmate.” Lyn has become so convinced that she and Johnny have something special, and maybe they do. But that doesn’t excuse her destructive, manipulative behavior, and it doesn’t make it okay for her to destroy Carla’s life. Television often romanticizes situations like Lyn and Johnny’s, but Vida doesn’t make us root for their love story. Instead, it shows something more real, and it makes sure that Carla is a fully developed character with stakes in all this.
Emma and Mari’s paths collide again in the episode when Mari comes across Emma making arrangements to sublet a house in the neighborhood. Mari throws her usual accusations at Emma, calling her a coconut and a traitor. It escalates until they’re physically fighting each other, but before that even happens, the white realtor has her phone out right away to call the police merely because she sees two brown women raising their voices. “You and I were the same to her,” Mari reflects after they’re arrested, and Emma silently agrees.
As they argue in the holding cell, it gradually becomes clear that Mari’s rage toward Emma isn’t merely based on Emma’s elitism. It’s more deeply rooted than that, a subconscious expression of Mari’s frustrations with her brother and Lyn. When Emma says that Johnny cheating on his pregnant fiancée is disgusting, Mari lets out a quiet, sad, “Yeah, it is.” Chelsea Rendon excels at playing the different dynamics of her character and making Mari so much more than her activism.
Both Rendon and Mishel Prada nail their scenes together here, whether their characters are at each other’s throats or quietly connecting as they do over their banged-up knees. Mari says she never shows her legs because her tomboy scars are embarrassing, and Emma pushes back. “They’re maps of who you are,” she says. “Like tattoos you didn’t choose,” Mari replies. On a lesser show, their words might sound like mere platitudes, but Rendon and Prada sell it as a genuinely poignant moment. Emma and Mari are the two toughest characters on the show — at least on the outside. But they’re more sensitive, more feeling than meets the eye.
The close-up of Emma crying at episode’s end is powerful, as a result of strong emotional storytelling throughout the season. And it’s telling that Emma’s emotional release comes after she fails, again, to orgasm while masturbating. Emma’s sexual frustrations, internalized homophobia, and grief are all wound up in each other, a mess of emotions that Vida doesn’t and shouldn’t untangle. Because this stuff is indeed very messy and not a problem that can be resolved in the scope of a few episodes of television. Vida lets its characters live in their mess without trying to fix everything.
The real beating heart of the show, though, is Eddy, who is so pure and tender she might just be the only real hero Vida has. Even when she’s pissed at Emma for putting up rent-hike notices, she pushes that anger away the second Emma asks to borrow her car. “Whatever is mine is yours,” she says, and her eagerness to help Emma even in this small way is moving but also crushing because of how oblivious Emma seems to be about the underlying message: Eddy wants them to feel like family. Eddy seems to treat everyone in her life like family, supporting her community in so many ways, whether she’s just keeping Doña Tita company or trying to talk some sense into Johnny.
Her scene with Johnny is yet another instance of Vida’s organic, riveting character work. Their friendship feels authentic, and it’s immediately clear that there’s history between them. Vida does an excellent job of acknowledging its characters’ histories, of making them feel like they existed long before the events of the show, contextualizing them, making them dynamic and dimensional. “Remember when I chased my own Vida when she was pretending to be straight?” That line — and Ser Anzoategui’s delivery of it — says so much with so little about not just Eddy but Vida, too.
Eddy ends up snapping at episode’s end, drunkenly accusing Emma and Lyn of being emotionless about their mother’s death in front of a group of people who have gathered in the bar to remember Vida. She tells them she used to daydream about them all being a family together. “I think that’s what Vida always wanted, so that’s what I wanted,” she says, again revealing a lot about herself and about Vida with that simple sentence. As with all the characters on this show, there’s depth and dimension to Eddy. She’s queer and religious, and Vida strikingly doesn’t present those parts of her identity as contradictions.
All season, Eddy has gradually been unraveling, her grief fully felt in the way she talks, moves, yearns for connection with the sisters. Emma and Lyn are too consumed by their own lives to see this woman in front of them, to see her as more than just the wife they didn’t know about. She has been drinking a lot, something the show has been revealing in small doses up until this. “To the after Vida!” she exclaims after taking another shot, this time joined by Lyn. But it doesn’t feel like the release she desperately wants it to be. It feels like Eddy letting go in the wrong way, letting herself slip further into her grief. She takes care of everyone else, but who takes care of her?