Daisy Jones and The Six
It had to end with Daisy and Billy making magic at the same mic. Even as Billy hemmed and hawed and self-flagellated through the episode about whether he was even going to be in the Six anymore, there was no other possible end. And I’m stoked about it. We watched over two hours of TV to finally land someplace electric. The chemistry between Daisy and Billy, which is to say, the chemistry between Riley Keough and Sam Claflin as they belt into each other’s faces, is what this show needed. Keough’s voice is unexpectedly forceful, and their push and pull feels risky even as Daisy acts the sweetheart.
“I was just going to say that I love the sound of your voice,” she tells Billy, who is already in the middle of dismissing the argument he imagines she’s about to make. Maybe it’s her big eyes or attitude, or maybe it’s simply that she’s not wearing any pants, but it’s urgently clear Daisy’s going to endanger his fragile hold on life just by existing nearby.
From the outset, this episode centers Daisy more than episodes past have. Teddy quietly listens to her demo tape as she sits across the table from him, moody and impatient to be praised. That she turns down his offer of a drink feels ambiguously coded. Is she simply nervous to hear his opinion of her song, or is she making it clear — after other bad experiences with other bad men in the music biz — that this is a professional relationship? Or maybe it’s the show drawing its own line between Daisy and Billy: Daisy knows when to power the party down.
The vice that Daisy can’t quit is her arrogance. For example, when Teddy asks the girl who’s written one (1) complete song what she wants to do next, she doesn’t hesitate: “I want to make a record, and I want people to listen to it over and over again until it breaks.” Then, when Teddy tells her she’ll need ten more songs that are even better than this one, she boasts she’ll be back in a week.
Now, Daisy’s a gifted girl, but writing an album doesn’t prove as easy as she hoped. Simone’s career, though, is taking off. A producer calls the apartment, interested in working with her; at a party, she makes a promising maybe-romantic/maybe-professional/maybe-both connection with Bernie, a woman who works at an NYC nightclub. But Simone exhibits a certain discomfort with her sexuality, which the episode connects to her career. The men who make albums expect a willingness from female artists. When we next see Simone in the studio, a sleazy producer forces her onto his lap, and I’m beginning to suspect she thinks she needs to keep her sexuality a secret to be a success.
Meanwhile, in Laurel Canyon, life has more or less paused for Billy to finish rehab. The record label canceled their deal, but the band worked odd jobs to keep the dream alive. Graham is keen for them to pick up their guitars, but Billy hasn’t even met his daughter yet. The singleness of purpose the Six had when they were leaving Pittsburgh has evaporated for him. Billy’s not a frontman anymore; he’s timid and quiet. He’s humiliated by the mess he made, and having to pick up the pieces in front of his mother-in-law doesn’t make the situation easier.
That said, Billy is wholeheartedly committed to his family and desperate to start making up for his wrongs even though Camila can’t bear to touch him. So he decides to quit the band and focus on staying sober, and sobriety is a montage: taking jogs, drinking juice, fixing things around the house. Eventually, Billy even floats moving back to Pittsburgh to address the problem of staying sober, but Camila makes it clear he’s not addressing the problem at all. You can’t stay clean simply by avoiding music. And you can’t protect your kid by keeping your distance. It turns out that Billy still hasn’t even held his own daughter.
The way Camila sees it — and generally, Camila is emerging as the voice of wisdom — Pittsburgh is just another way to run away from a fear that will follow him for the rest of his life, no matter where he goes. No matter if he drinks tomorrow or never again. It’s the universal fear that you’re going to fuck up your kid just by being yourself. But when Billy finally does pick Julia up, he starts to become recognizable again. He adores her, and watching him be someone new — a father to their child — opens up space for Camila to adore Billy again, too. He even starts writing music, in the background, on his own. By Christmas time, he’s hesitantly asking the band to listen to what he’s got — a guilty love song he wrote about a man in need of redemption.
By this point, though, The Six already have a new frontman. After shopping all the dire lead singers in Los Angeles, the remaining members of the group vote Eddie into the spotlight. He was probably the best option all along, but the rivalry between him and Billy has been so heavy-handed so far that it feels contrived. From the second Eddie takes the mic, it’s clear that Billy is going to wrest it back. Even when Eddie is keeping his childhood friend Camila company, he’s oddly positioned as a romantic rival. On Daisy Jones & the Six, it seems all the world’s a love triangle. Already we have Eddie-Camila-Billy, and now there’s a peculiar one emerging between Graham, Karen, and music. He’s falling for her, and she likes him, but she loves this rock ’n’ roll life she’s making for herself best of all.
Despite Eddie’s initial protestations, the band listens to Billy’s new track, and the Six, who had so recently become a foursome, become six again. Teddy agrees the song — called “Honeycomb” — is good, but Billy’s not the fresh-faced kid in town anymore. Before he had no friends; now he has enemies. Still, Billy also has something of a father now. When the label tells Teddy that Billy’s song isn’t worth the risk, Teddy books a studio on his own dime. He even recruits Daisy to work on the lyrics to help give it the edge that the label is looking for. A lot of bands sound like the Six now, Teddy warns.
Even more than 20 years later, Daisy and Billy can’t describe what it was like to meet each other. The memory of the recording session, fraught as we find out it was, just makes them smile. In the flashback, Daisy is almost a cartoon — skittish, inexplicably trouser-less. She asks a studio tech for a glass of milk and a whiskey; she asks for someone to turn the lights down; she asks the band, who have invited her to sing on their song, not to watch.
Billy is furious at the idea of her but agrees to try the song as a duet for Teddy’s sake. Meanwhile, Teddy just sits back and laughs while he waits for the depths of his subterfuge to reveal themselves. Daisy’s not here to sing Billy’s song; she’s here to sing the version of Billy’s song that she’s written. And Daisy’s version isn’t a love song to Camila anymore; it’s not the clarion promise of a better life with a better man. In Daisy’s hands, the song takes on the shadow of a doubt. The promise doesn’t feel absolute; it’s more complicated, more true to what Daisy knows of love:
How did we get here?
How do we get out?
We used to be something to see
But, baby, look at us now
Baby, look at us now
This thing we been doin’
Ain’t working out
Why can’t you just admit it to me?
Oh baby, look at us now
Oh, baby, look at us now
But to write love songs for Camila is how Billy has begun to square the problem of how to be a husband, a musician, and sober at the same time. He’s hanging on by a thread, and now he’s singing songs about the collapse of love — “we can make a good thing bad” — with a woman he barely knows. No fucking way. In the end, though, he does it for Teddy. Teddy reminds Billy that he loves him, and Billy needs Teddy’s love more than he needs to win this fight. They never even try the song his way, Billy remembers with a smile.
And how could they bother? For his final act of deception, Teddy tells Billy and Daisy there’s a technical problem, and they’ll need to sing into the same mic. They’ll need to stand closer. They won’t be able to avoid each other’s eyes. Their dynamic is intriguing: Daisy, in all her unchecked arrogance, immediately enrages Billy, but Billy seems to calm her down enough that she can stop rattling on about the milk and the lights and explain herself to fight for the song that she hears in her head.
When she gets home, Daisy tells Simone that the making of “Honeycomb” was the best day of her life. Billy reports to Camila that the experience was a nightmare, but it’s hard to say if he’s lying to her or also himself. He can’t stand Daisy Jones, but once she leaves, it’s her voice he punches above all the others on the mixing board.