Warning: This article contains spoilers about Minx season 2, episode 6, "This Is Our Zig."
Shelly (Lennon Parham) is discovering the feminine mystique.
On Friday's episode of Minx, Shelly and Joyce (Ophelia Lovibond) set out for Vassar, Joyce's alma mater where she was anticipating a heroes' welcome, particularly from her favorite professor, Doreen (Melinda Page Hamilton). But it's Shelly, not Joyce, who finds the empowerment she needs on the trip.
We learn that despite Joyce's view of her sister as a housewife with little ambition and nothing better to do than follow Joyce around, Shelly went to Berkeley for a semester before dropping out to return home and help raise Joyce after their mother died. It's a fact that Joyce has been too self-consumed to remember, which puts Shelly's sacrifices into even sharper relief.
"I don't think she knew that Joyce was so unaware or disconnected from the sacrifices Shelly has made for her," Lennon Parham tells EW in an interview conducted prior to the SAG-AFTRA strike. "It's a big surprise to her that Joyce didn't even know that she went to Berkeley. That's something that she carries as a point of pride and to feel written off by her sister feels bad. When you realize the person hasn't ever considered you in that way, it's upsetting."
For creator Ellen Rapoport, it's all part and parcel of Shelly's journey toward defining herself as more than a wife and mother. "I don't think Shelly is necessarily resentful of what she did [for Joyce]," clarifies Rapoport. "She's resentful that she's never been thanked for it, or there's been no acknowledgement for it. In the room, we always referred to Shelly as 'sister Mommy' because she is really filling that role for [Joyce]."
Part of Shelly's epiphany in this episode is realizing not so much that Joyce isn't grateful for her sacrifices, but worse — she's not even aware of them.
"It's not dissimilar to a lot of moms I know," says Parham. "We're trying to keep every candle lit and everybody sheltered and fed and safe. There's not a lot of acknowledgement of the work that's happening. I might have retroactively thanked my mom for my great childhood, but not until I was a mom myself and realized [all the work she did]."
"But when you have given up your whole life, your chance at finding yourself, and got married and started to have kids so you could take care of someone, you would think that [that someone] would do their due diligence," continues Parham. "But it's built into Joyce's character that she doesn't really examine that."
Things take a further turn when Shelly and Joyce's professor, Doreen, form a clear connection (and Doreen scarcely remembers who Joyce is). The two not only end up sharing a meal and conversation, but later, Joyce walks in on them having sex.
"I don't think it's payback or anything," says Parham of the twist. "Shelly goes there hoping to connect with Joyce, and then ultimately, Joyce is on her own ego kick, and Shelly's like, 'Well, f--- it. If you're not gonna be here to hang with me, then I'll hang with this woman who's making me feel really valued.' It just happens to be her professor and she happens to be great at sex."
John Johnson/Starz Lennon Parham in 'Minx'
Rapoport echoes this, saying that it's not that Shelly does this to intentionally hurt Joyce so much as that her frustrations with Joyce mean that she doesn't think twice about hooking up with Doreen. "This was supposed to be a sisters' trip," she explains. "Joyce has really made it all about her and ignored Shelly since she got there. [She's also] the only one in the office that doesn't know about the swinging and the sexual experimentation and who hasn't realized that Bella is Shelly. I don't think that Shelly sleeps with [Doreen] because she wants to get back at Joyce, but if there's a thought in her head like, 'Oh, Joyce might not like this,' it's like, 'That's too bad. You don't get to call dibs on your college professor.'"
The showrunner also stresses that Shelly and Doreen's connection is a genuine one, fed by Shelly's hunger to be seen as an intelligent person. "It's the first time that Shelly has really felt accepted or valued by people who are academic and intellectual," Rapoport adds. "Her being asked to be a guest lecturer in a college class is something she never dreamed would've happened to her. So, she is really attracted to her and she does it because she wants to."
This encounter leads Shelly to finally confront Joyce about her selfishness and the unevenness of their relationship. "I'm sick of putting my life on hold to talk about yours," she tells Joyce, eviscerating her sister's egoism.
"I'm getting chills thinking about it because it took a little work to get there," says Parham of shooting the confrontation scene. "For the first time, Shelly is saying 'I'm important too, and what I want matters, and I'm not just going to spin my wheels with you as you try to figure out why nobody loves you here or why no one's obsessed with you. I'm living a real life out here and you're living it in theory.' We took our time with that scene and had the space to find where it was emotionally going to live and how far it should go. It is the first time that Shelly has said to her, pointedly, 'You're a narcissist in a lot of ways.'"
Shelly also decides to stay on in New York for a few more weeks with Doreen, exploring this blossoming relationship. "This is a crossroads for her," says Parham. "This is probably the first time that she's ever seen a woman living a lesbian life that is viable. She feels like an equal with this woman. There's a connection, a spark, and there's an opportunity to stay in a hotel room by herself for a little while and not have to make sure that everyone's fed. [She can] follow her own joy."
"It does definitely feel like leaping off [a cliff], but she feels like she's earned that with Lenny," she continues. "She needed a break. And finding out from the truth of how little Joyce knew about her own life, that resets you internally. It's like, 'If the people that I'm working so hard to take care of here have no idea the things that I'm doing, then I should maybe do whatever the f--- I want instead of taking care of them.'"
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