The two friends turn on each other over a man’s affections, as the balance of power begins to shift in the second episode of Doll & Em.
After the opening episode’s exposure of the fine cracks in Dolly and Emily‘s relationship, this week splits them wide open. A party for Emily’s film shakes her confidence, while Dolly realises she’s not a total fish out of water after all.
Dolly finds her feet
Emily’s awkwardness throughout the party, with its endless glad-handing and hollow praise, is obvious. She would happily swap positions with Dolly, who is child-minding Susan Sarandon‘s son. But when a minor accident occurs, Emily hangs her friend out to dry when Sarandon’s diva strop forces her into a humiliating apology.
Nonetheless, Dolly finds solace in the company of flirty producer Buddy, ignoring her friend’s calls. They’re later joined by Sarandon, with whom she bonds over a joint and by sharing embarrassing stories about Emily.
When Buddy later invites the pair to share his hot tub, Dolly undermines Emily by revealing that she is 40. The pair engage in a game of one-upmanship over their dead fathers and the claws really come out when Emily ignores a prearranged signal to leave.
Dolly leaves in a huff then finds them kissing. Despite Emily’s subsequent apology, she exacts her revenge by spending the night with Buddy, leaving her boss to bed down on the couch.
A study of passive-aggressive behaviour
The complexity of female friendship is skilfully unpicked as the two women’s insecurities surface in the form of passive-aggressive barbs. Emily, insecure about her age and feeling remote from her family, welcomes some male attention, no matter how transparently shallow Buddy’s approach is. Dolly remains fragile after her own break-up and just wants to feel like she belongs in LA.
If the way the pair’s friendship dissolves so rapidly into spiteful cattiness is uncomfortable to watch – and it is – that’s in large part because it rings so true.
By the end of this episode there’s a significant shift in the relationship between the two friends. Emily’s fears chip away at her confidence, with the way she’s blanked by Sarandon the final straw. Meanwhile Dolly is suddenly declaring “I like LA” after her one-night stand.
Where the opening episode concluded with Dolly getting up early to fetch Emily’s precise coffee order, here it is Emily who has to specify how her friend likes her tea and then bring it out to her. Round two goes to Dolly.
The gloves are off. After a solid but quiet opening, Doll & Em hits its stride in this episode with its cutting observations about the nature of friendship.
In addition to Sarandon, Emily talks to fellow actress Chloe Sevigny (best known for her Oscar-nominated performance in Boys Don’t Cry and the HBO drama Big Love).
Buddy is played by British actor Jonathan Cake, perhaps best known for his stint as Detective Chuck Vance on Desperate Housewives. His character’s comment about Hollywood being a long way from Worthing (in Sussex) is a reference to Cake’s birthplace.