This is a white and black image of a woman with her hand over her eyes, standing beside the trunk of a tree. This represents Lenu is "My Brilliant Friend" seaso 2 episode 5.
Kat Smith

The entire episode felt very sadistic and cruel somehow.

So much happened in the recent episode of “My Brilliant Friend” which was very unsettling to watch. One thing that’s consistent though is that the relationship between Lila (Gaia Girace) and Elena (Margherita Mazzucco) is irreparable. Lila is too selfish and Elena is too eager to please, so unless things change, their relationship will remain unbalanced.

In “The Betrayal” Lila went back on her word and jumped head first into a passionate relationship with Nino (Francesco Serpico) which was kind of surprising. As we know, Lenu is absolutely in love with Nino and has dreamt about being with him since she discovered his existence and just like us, Lila was also well aware of her feelings. Still, she kissed Nino and then decided to share that information with Lenu, knowing how it would make her feel. She said it almost as a deterrent for Lenu so that she would keep away from him. And although Lila promised to stay away from him too, when she got the opportunity, she relaxed into his embrace because it was the first time that she’d felt passion and pleasure beyond her painful interactions with Stefano (Giovanni Amura).

It was this reason that caused her to pretend that she couldn’t see how distressed Lenu was every time she spoke sweetly of the love between her and Nino, kissed or touched him. It was the ultimate betrayal. Not only was Lila asking Lenu to be OK with the fact that she was effectively stealing her love, but she was asking her to be complicit in hiding their secret, and even to help them be together. It was incredibly mean. She asked Lenu to help her sleep with Nino and to protect her from the judgement of her neighbourhood peers, all the while telling her, how fond she was of their friendship and how she’d hoped that one day she would feel what she felt for Nino. Her tone was condescending and self-righteous and so it outraged Elena so much, that it prompted her to take definitive steps to severe their ties and also to make a rash decision.

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She was so angry, she had her defences down. That’s when it happened. The most troubling and perplexing scene passed: Lenu slept with Nino’s father. It caused alarm but it was described as something she wanted and then regretted. In reality, he’d groomed her, pounced on the opportunity to use her insecurity against her, and crossed a boundary that he knew was wrong. He actually raped her because she didn’t make a knowledgeable, consensual, and informed decision, being that she is a teenager and as the adult, he knew better. However, the portrayal of that scene implied that it was a simple mistake like any other and it wasn’t. We can’t distract from the fact that Lenu was raped. Her agency was taken away from her and he violated the body of a child. He was malicious and abusive.

In fact the entire episode felt very sadistic and cruel somehow (this is a recurring theme). Lenu’s uncertainty and anxiety was exploited by everyone including her supposed friend. Her discomfort was ignored repeatedly. Nino overlooked Lenu’s clear demonstrations of her sentiments and coldly used her to design meetings with Lila. Even his friend crossed her boundaries when he forced himself on her and heavily pleaded for her to give him affection because he asked, despite her saying she wasn’t romantically interested in him. He’s an example of the ‘nice guy’ who can’t understand the violence in coercing women to do things they don’t want to do. Really, every man in this show mistreats women and it’s frustrating.

It’s even more depressing to think of how completely deranged Stefano was when he realized that Lila had cheated on him. What did he expect though? His idea of passionate love involved raping Lila, physically abusing her and commanding her, and yet he can’t understand why she’s not happy with him. He looked near to tears when she said she’d slept with Nino and for a second, he seemed human but his detached countenance on their journey home made things clear; he was now unhinged.

Regrettably, Lila isn’t likeable in “My Brilliant Friend.” Now, that the two girls have switched roles, Lila is disagreeable on top of being like Lenu in the previous episode, pitiful. After all, she’s going against the identify of the upstanding individual that she images herself to be and becoming something like the people she detests. But her life is sad so, maybe it makes sense that she would aggressively seek an indecent love in spite of her only ally and friend. Perhaps she was always the one who should have won our favour but her selfishness makes it hard to be sympathetic towards her cause. Still, I can’t help but hope that she will be able to escape Stefano, study, and finally become the woman that she so desperately wants to be. Then when she’s free, she’ll be kinder to the people around her. Of course it might be too late though. Lenu is learning her value. It took her being heartbroken, raped, and disrespected by her friend to get her there, but now that she’s decided to live for herself, image just how amazing she will become; she’s exciting.

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