“The Strength to Smile” is one of the better episodes of Bel-Air so far. My enjoyment from this episode comes from seeing Will’s self-destruct mode. He has lost his best friend Trey and doesn’t know what direction to go. This was a plot-heavy episode, but this show is like candy. At no point is there ever too much that I want to stop watching. Every storyline in this episode is deeply enjoyable and endlessly engrossing.
Hillary is struggling with the demands of living in the influencer house. She has to make a video by a specific time or lose subscribers. She’s also being antagonized by other members of the house. Then there is Vivian, who struggles with bringing her art back to be seen as an individual again. Plus, art curator Reed Rodrick (Michael Ealy) Definitely has more than paintings on his mind when it comes to Vivian’s work.
Carlton is dealing with the idea that his ex-girlfriend Lisa is her own person and doesn’t need him watching over her. And Will is trying to respect Lisa’s space by keeping away as Carlton instructed but is finding that hard during Lisa’s memorial fundraiser set up for her mother. Phillip is having issues with parts of his campaign being undermined by the local police. Lastly, Ashley gets the opportunity to reveal her feelings to her female friend.
Carlton has been a struggle from day one, and I constantly have to think about what he may be dealing with that the audience is unaware of. It was a little bit cathartic to see him have an anxiety attack during Lisa’s memorial because of all the hate he continually has in his heart. He couldn’t handle being everything for everyone anymore and didn’t really know how to control himself either because of Will’s relationship with Lisa.
The breakdown of Carlton is not what made that part of the episode special. What made that moment so pivotal to the overall story was the conversation Will had with Lisa about not liking her stepmother, who is pregnant with her half-sibling. Lisa hates that her stepmom doesn’t even value her actual mother, who passed away, and makes everything about her. I think it was essential for Lisa to have a storyline of her own, and it’s good in a way that this storyline correlates with Will’s sadness about having no father in his life. This gives the two characters something great to bond over where they can heal each other. I haven’t seen his show do that in a long time, and it was really rewarding to watch.
The storyline that hurt the most in this episode was the storyline involving Ashley and her friend’s crush on Will. This was absolutely devastating to see, given that she would trust her with a reveal of her orientation. This is a major for someone just entering adolescence, so it hurt even more when she was rejected. I hope she comes back stronger despite being knocked back. Overall, this was a fantastic episode of Bel-Air that gave the audience lots of drama they could sink their teeth into and a few further questions to look at into the future. I can’t wait to watch more.