TV Review: Ugly Betty, Channel 4, Friday 5 October, 9pm

I fell in love with Betty Suarez after her debut season screened on Channel 4 earlier in the year. America Ferrera was lovable in the central role as a fish out of water, or a Queens ugly duckling working at high fashion magazine Mode, and the colourful supporting cast of characters, scathing wit and rapid pace of the action added up to gripping first season. But now back for a second instalment, would the magic return and how would our girl cope with a whole new set of problems?

Magic – yes, Betty coping – no, not really. A few weeks after the close of season one and Betty is one seriously stressed out lady, trying to juggle home and work commitments and all the while fretting about Henry. She has not contacted her geeky love god since he jetted out of New York with his pregnant, but lying girlfriend Charlie and the separation is causing her visible pain. Still, being Betty she struggles on, trying to look after her nephew Justin, who hates his spell at summer camp and tending to big sister Hilda who has not emerged from her bedroom in weeks. All this and her job too – rather you than me, Betty.

Life at Mode is very different now under the guidance of Wilhelmina. She has taken the reins in the absence of the Meade children, with Daniel and Alexis both still hospitalized after their car accident. Daniel is recovering well, albeit temporarily in a wheelchair, but Alexis has been in coma for weeks. Daniel wheels over to her room everyday, but feeling responsible for the crash, is unable to go and sit at her bedside. The medical staff encourages him to go and sit with her, suggesting that his voice could make all the difference, but a tortured Daniel only watches his sister from afar.

This distance is also true of their mother, Claire, who having escaped from jail with her new prison chum, is secretly squatting at a socialite’s empty mansion. The media coverage of her children’s accident upsets her as she wishes to help them through their recoveries and remains determined to ruin the upcoming nuptials of her ex Bradford and Wilhelmina. Her attempt to do so, by offering Wilhelmina Mode magazine in exchange for cancelling the wedding fails, but she does earn the satisfaction of clocking the Mode diva.

Receptionist Amanda is still reeling from the news that former Mode boss, Fey Summers, was her biological mother and a confrontation with her adopted parents is far from helpful (she catches them swinging with another couple – ick!) The trauma has seen Amanda binge-eat, with her weight gain leading Wilhelmina to accidentally call her Betty. Marc suggests that Bradford could be her father, after his well-publicised dalliance with Fey and the two set about contriving reasons to snag a possible DNA sample from the suspected daddy. Amanda’s attempts were prone to failure, but after a yarn about Wilhelmina’s abhorrence of his ear hair, Marc succeeded.

The strain on Betty was beginning to show, with no amount of sympathetic phone chats with dad Ignacio (he’s still back in Mexico) helping. She lost her cool at a fashion shoot, an incident which prompted Daniel to leave the hospital and try to help Betty move on from the pain of losing Henry by burying all of her Henry-related possessions. The tender moment was not only of benefit to Betty, but helped Daniel realise that he should visit Alexis’ bedside. After weeks of avoiding it, Daniel finally made the journey to his sister’s room at the hospital, and what-do-you-know, after only a few soothing brotherly words, she was soon flickering her eyelashes and returning to full consciousness. Daniel was thrilled, but Alexis was confused: why did he keep calling her Alexis, her name was Alex. Eek – how do you battle apparent amnesia once you’ve been through a sex change?

Justin’s unhappiness at summer camp led him to skip off to Mode, where he impressed Wilhelmina with his fashion knowledge. Betty was lenient on the boy when she learned of his antics and invited him to participate in an internship at the magazine. But what of his mother, Hilda?

I had believed that her fiancée Santos had died at the close of season one and had prepared myself for a grieving Hilda amid a sea of tears and tissues. Friends of mine had been more positive, suggesting that Santos might have survived the shooting and it was with great trepidation that I awaited this unfolding plot. Hilda was introduced talking to Santos in her bedroom, and yet he was not visible. Was she imaging him and talking to herself? No, as a bandaged Santos emerged. I rejoiced – he was alive!

But then my suspicions became aroused. The couple refused to leave Hilda’s bedroom and the happiness and romance seemed too idyllic to be true. As Santos wooed Hilda with his scripted wedding vows, I began to suspect that we were being duped. Why do I always have to be right? The close of the episode saw reality intrude upon Hilda’s carefully constructed dream world, as we saw Hilda and her bedroom through the eyes of Betty. Hilda was hidden in the dark, cuddling a pillow and sobbing wildly. Santos was dead.

Though I knew the revelation to be coming, it still packed a punch. As a soppy romantic, I truly felt for Hilda and the sense of pain and loss was reflected in Betty. Will Henry return to her? When will Ignacio walk on US soil again and why does Wilhelmina only ever wear white? An action-packed start to the tricky second season Betty – keep it up!

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