Daisy Jones & the Six Recap: Steel City Blues

Daisy Jones and The Six

Feels Like the First Time
Season 1 Episode 9
Editor’s Rating 4 stars

Daisy Jones and The Six

Feels Like the First Time
Season 1 Episode 9
Editor’s Rating 4 stars
Photo: Lacey Terrell/Prime Video

When I first learned that Atlantic Records was releasing Aurora as an album, I thought to myself, Self, who could that possibly be for? The answer, it turns out, is me.

I have listened to the Aurora album. I have purposely searched it out on Spotify and pumped it over the five speakers that comprise my home sound system. Do I like the album? It seems that I must, and yet I find this fact about myself a little ridiculous. The music on Daisy Jones & the Six sounds very little like the classic rock it’s emulating (“The River” comes closest). The imagery is deeply silly (“I put the man in the moon, I put the dial in the tone,” Billy boasts on “Look Me in the Eye” — what?). And while Sam Claflin and Riley Keough have lovely voices, they don’t reach out, grab you by the ear, and demand you listen (“Honeycomb” comes closest).

Still, here I am, a person who has listened to Aurora all the way through. I’ve listened to it enough that my 2-year-old asked me to put on “easy song” during breakfast (“Let Me Down Easy”). I don’t know what else to say, but we’ve been on this recapping road together long enough for you to know the truth about me.

And now the end of that road is in sight, and I’m feeling a little bummed. I’ve been sucked in by the heightened dynamics of the tour episodes, watching how what happens onstage between the band members can mend or exacerbate the problems between them offstage. Everything’s finally started to feel a little more gritty and magical. Daisy may not be sober in the aftermath of her overdose, but she’s clean enough that I didn’t spend “Feels Like the First Time” half-panicked that she would trip and fall into the pit. Here, Daisy and Billy are just two sad sacks discussing their rock-star ennui on the sober bus, which is somehow more relatable than their contrived little enemies-to-lovers dance.

But before we get into the will-they-won’t-they of it all, let us pour one out — preferably a Guinness — for Mister Daisy Jones. Nicky must have boomeranged to his wife’s side once he realized there would be no police investigation into her brush with death, but Daisy thankfully kicks him to the curb (or, as Nicky might know it, “the kerb”). “You’ll regret this,” he spits at Daisy seconds after Eddie, Graham, and Warren physically intervene to shove him off of his screaming wife and toward the hotel exit. I get it’s the kind of empty threat people make in situations of high drama, but it’s hard to imagine Nicky himself will regret this breakup. Who is this seething man sleeping on sweaty bus bunk beds, and what happened to the charming dandy in linen shirts serving tapas and dropping acid by the sea? Go live your best life, Nicky; rock ’n’ roll does not suit you.

Now, just because Billy’s granted Daisy admission to the sober bus doesn’t mean she’s actually, well, sober; instead, she’s set up an elaborate system of rules to help her manage her addiction, the tour, her impending divorce, and the reblossoming of her feelings for Billy all at the same time. (No Dexies in the morning; a bump of coke in the evening; a quaalude alongside her sleepy-time tea.) Still, Daisy’s exhausted after the OD and a husk of herself onstage. And yet she can’t let herself take a break from it because the alternative is even scarier. There’s no Nicky tailing her around anymore, Simone’s not answering her calls, and there aren’t enough drugs in the world to make her forget the unopened letter from her mother she’s still toting from city to city. Offstage, the spotlight is even harsher.

We’ve known from the beginning of the series that the band doesn’t make it much further than this, but the penultimate episode is the first to suggest reasons for the band’s implosion that have nothing to do with Daisy and Billy. Eddie proves himself to be the only band member prescient enough to see the Ramones coming ’round the bend to steal the Six’s lunch money. When that basement punk-rocker Eddie meets in a bar tells him his little sister loves Aurora, I thought of my own daughter begging to hear Daisy’s sad girl breakup anthem “again” and, when I suggested it was my turn to pick a song, “AGAIN!”

But that’s not right now. Right now, the band is swimming in Grammy nominations and sold-out arenas. When they play Saturday Night Live, Warren outkicks his coverage and takes home the episode’s movie-star host. Right now, there’s every reason to think the Six will be famous forever. Unfortunately, Teddy has a heart attack in the SNL greenroom, so we never get to see who makes out with Pete Davidson at the after-party. Instead, we spend that time with Daisy and Billy talking about the possibility of eternity in the hospital chapel. Daisy doesn’t believe in much after the night she almost died in Billy’s arms, but Billy insists he sees signs of God at work all around them. God sent him running into Teddy Price at the mini-mart and Teddy brought him Daisy and Daisy brought him the life he’s always dreamed of from the time he was a teenager. It’s unclear if it’s Nicky’s absence or Daisy’s (relative) sobriety that’s freed up the space for Daisy and Billy to get close again, but it takes less than an episode for them to careen past friendship and into some other more romantic posture. They sneak away from the band for burger lunches; they daydream about future albums the way new lovers name their hypothetical children.

Teddy’s hospitalization, despite being bad news for Teddy, generally brings people closer together, including Daisy and Simone, who perhaps haven’t spoken since Greece. Daisy doesn’t even know about Simone’s record deal. It’s all Simone’s ever worked for, but it’s contingent on her keeping her sexuality and Bernie a secret. In the end, she packs a mournful suitcase and chooses music over love. Simone’s new life in New York is falling apart, and yet she has the grace in that hospital corridor to head off Daisy’s tearful apology for the disaster that was Hydra with a reassuring embrace. For his part, Teddy at least attempts to stick to his doctor’s low-stress and high-kale regimen, though we know it can’t work for too long because there aren’t any Teddy interviews in the documentary.

But the official beginning of the end starts in Pittsburgh. “Pittsburgh” has always been this band’s rallying call, the pledge they make to each other every night before they step onstage. They join their hands in a circle and call out their hometown, maybe to remind themselves of how far they’ve come or maybe to remind themselves of who they really are. And this is the first time we’ve seen the Six return to Pittsburgh as hometown heroes. They left with nothing; now, Graham’s bought his mom a house on the nice side of town where she’s hosting a giant welcome party — even that doofus Dr. Chuck Loving, D.D.S., shows up to see his old bandmates. Unlike her sons, who can be aloof or cold, Mrs. Dunne bundles Daisy into a warm hug the second she sees her.

The subject of parenthood has come up intermittently on Daisy Jones. In Mrs. Dunne and, to some extent, Camila, we see women who raise their children without the steady help of a man. Camila is the idealized mom, eager and attentive; this week, we learn she’s ready for more kids. Daisy is, perhaps, the reluctant mom, who doesn’t want to be a mom because she’s afraid she can’t do it, though she always seems to bask in the attention of young girls, from Julia to her littlest fans. It’s her own mother’s angry neglect that’s poisoned her against even trying.

In this episode, we learn where Karen and Graham stand on parenthood. Karen is pregnant and horrified. She wants to be a touring musician, and, at least in the mid-’70s, you might be able to get a separate sober bus but not a baby bus. And even then, it’s not clear that Karen would want to be a mother. Not even Graham’s ecstatic reaction to the news seems to soften her perspective. As always, Camila takes on a wise and, yeah, motherly ability to discern who needs what and when. “You are all sorts of things you don’t even know,” Camila tells Daisy as she doubts whether she’d be a good mother. But when she learns Karen is pregnant, all she says is that she’s sorry.

And then the Six go play the hell out of Pittsburgh. They left Hazelwood as four nerds and one hot groupie in a beat-up van, and they’ve returned triumphant. The band is totally giddy for this show; Daisy and Billy sing through toothy smiles. They’re on top of the world, and then, in a matter of minutes, the dominoes start crashing.

The first to fall is Eddie’s ego, when Billy — eager to show off for his hometown crowd — steals Eddie’s big stage moment, one of the few, I imagine, a bassist has to stand out in the entire set. And I get why he’s pissed. It’s Eddie’s hometown, too, and Billy’s stingy with him. How long can Eddie back up a dude he plainly despises? More crucially, how long until he bubbles over with the secret that he’s slept with Billy’s wife?

The next domino is Karen and Graham. Camila accompanies her friend to get an abortion before Karen makes it explicitly clear to Graham that’s what she’s chosen to do. Even if it’s the right decision, it’s hard to see how they’ll move past it. How long can Graham play guitar standing six feet from the woman he loves but doesn’t share a vision for the future with?

And finally, the next morning, in the afterglow of bringing down Pittsburgh, Daisy declares her feelings for Billy … again. Billy handles it well, if not perfectly. He’s firm that he’ll never leave his wife but also assures Daisy that he wants to be with her. On the one hand, it must be validating for Daisy to be reassured that her love isn’t unrequited, even if it will be denied. On the other hand, there’s a special kind of pain reserved for the dreams that almost come true, the nearest misses. “This is what we’re supposed to be,” Billy promises Daisy. For the next 20 years, they’ll write and sing together; they’ll take the pull they feel toward each other and turn it into the music they always wanted to make.

It’s a nice idea that there are lots of ways for two people to commit themselves to each other. That romantic communions aren’t the only meaningful ones. That there are many ways to anchor yourself to other people, and those relationships aren’t necessarily threatening to each other. You can be in love with your wife and in love with your soul mate, and it will be enough for everyone.

It’s also really fucking naïve. That arrangement has caused Daisy pain in the past, and it’s torturing his wife right this second, in the very moment he’s suggesting it to Daisy with his forehead pressed to Daisy’s forehead, his hands greedily cupping her face. Camila glimpses them on the sun porch when she walks into the house, and the memory is still troubling her later that day when they board a private jet to the next gig. And watching Billy worry over what’s eating at Camila is upsetting Daisy on the same flight.

And then Rod sounds the alarm. The doomsday clock is hurtling toward zero. This particular PJ is headed for Chicago, the site of Soldier Field and the last Daisy Jones & the Six show ever to be played.

At least before the dream came to an end, The Six got to go home and pinch themselves.

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Daisy Jones & the Six Recap: Steel City Blues