DISCLAIMER: The following contains medium-level spoilers. Read at your own risk.
For anyone that's had the good fortune to watch Being Erica's season premiere (and what a premiere it was) and hasn't caught up on last season yet, the abrupt change in format "Battle Royale" presents may be a bit of a shock.
For those that have watched the first season, it shouldn't be a surprise that, after the mildly unorthodox "Being Dr. Tom", the show's writers have decided to return to the show's original format with what could best be described as a "classic Being Erica story"; in this case, revisiting yet another of Erica's failed relationships, this time with fellow camp counselor Malcolm Abrams (played by an actor that looks strangely like Ivan Franco from "Erica the Vampire Slayer", only more built).
The episode itself had a slow and rather frustrating opening (although after last week's dramatic first few minutes, anything would seem dull). The "Previously on..." sequence was paint-by-numbers at best, and the opening scenes with Ethan and Erica were cute but, aside from Erica suggesting Ethan move in with her, lacking in character and plot development.
Things picked up when the couple was invited to a family reunion at the parents', which was a convenient way to reintroduce us to some of the main characters. Erica's sister Sam (Joanna Douglas) married the irritating Josh (Adam MacDonald) last season, and a subplot from last season hinting at tensions between them has been swiftly resurfaced. We were also reintroduced to Erica's parents, Gary and Barbara Strange (John Boylan and Kathleen Laskey).
All seemed well until some of Erica's aunts and uncles began hinting at marriage and Ethan freaked out. The resulting conflict led to a visit from Dr. Tom, who promptly sent Erica back in time to try and understand why Malcolm dumped her for a fourteen-year-old (and why she promptly engaged in a back-and-forth conflict with him, culminating in Erica being sent home). Without giving too much away, the scene Erica was sent back to upon arrival in 1992 was brilliant, and one of the best moments of the episode.
The rest of "Battle Royale" was largely devoted to Erica and Malcolm -- Dr. Tom had a small cameo, but he had such a large role last episode you wouldn't expect anything else -- and culminated in a revelation that made Erica truly understand his side of the story.
All in all, "Battle Royale" was a good episode, and it worked well in establishing several major characters and their arcs for the rest of the season. The transition from "Being Dr. Tom" to a episode structure more in keeping with the show's traditions was a little awkward, but the show should be running smoothly come next week.
-"Till It Happens to You" by Corinne Bailey Rae was used very well, especially during the scene of Sam and Josh in the car and the scene of Brent and Julianne in the River Rock offices.
-The idea of Kai (who is this guy, anyway? I thought his name was Andrew!) being reluctant to discuss his therapy with Erica is interesting, but I got the feeling the actor portraying him hasn't quite found his footing on the show; Julianne suffered from a similar predicament in the previous episode.
-The subplot of Brent trying to get Julianne fired is a good one, although it isn't really apparent what damning evidence he has to go on. Perhaps a scene relating this was left on the cutting room floor?
-The counselor talent show (if that's what it was) in Erica's past was somewhat bizarre and didn't seem to add much to the episode, except for being a place where Erica and Malcolm could meet. Regardless, the sight of Erica trying to imitate her fellow counselors' moves was actually fairly entertaining.
-The scene with the "intruder" in the woods was a bit of a toss-up for me; keeping in mind the budget cuts CBC had this year, I wasn't even sure if the "intruder" would actually appear. The moment where Erica and Malcolm glance around desperately, panicking, was decently written and acted -- such scenes are the stuff of poorly-written slasher flicks, not a thoughtful show like Being Erica.
With such a drastic change in format from the premiere to the second episode, whether we'll get another episode like "Being Dr. Tom" -- or the rest of the season will continue in the same way as the first -- is anyone's guess.
With the first two episodes of Being Erica's new season, CBC appears to have won some sort of battle, but as of yet it's still unclear if they truly have, in fact, won the war.