Pete: Hey, I found this old-school comb under there. Dibs, if that’s cool.
Alex: Anything you find under the house, you can keep.
The purpose of “Smitten,” other than to give us and update on the burgeoning attraction between Pete and Alex, is to contrast their personalities. Pete is the kind of person who would keep something cool he found under a house. Alex would rather not think about what’s under the house at all.
“Opposites attract” is one of the oldest tropes in fiction, and with good reason. It’s entertaining to watch two contrasting personalities butt heads and eventually find common ground. Of course, the more mundane reality is that “likes attract.” But that would be far less fun to watch, so it’s hard to fault Bent for sticking with tradition.
In Bent’s case, that tradition has generated two interesting but very different personalities. Alex prefers a well-ordered world. She’s organized, and she likes to compartmentalize. Pete, on the other hand, thrives on chaos and disorder. He has a breezy attitude towards disorganization, which allows him to maintain his cool.
In the pilot episode, we saw that Alex’s penchant for compartmentalization left her blind to her daughter’s struggles with stage fright. In “Smitten,” we see that Pete’s breezy demeanour can be equally destructive. He allows his ex-girlfriend Natalie (excellently played by Diora Baird) back into his life, thinking he can handle the chaos she leaves in her wake. But he can’t. With one of his father’s juvenile funks occupying much of is attention, Natalie is just one extra thing in his life that he can’t handle. Luckily, because of a misunderstanding, Natalie removes herself from Pete’s life, bringing things back to normal for him.
Thus, we get a sense of what might have driven Pete to gambling in the first place. With the chaotic elements of his life spiralling out of control, gambling was something he thought he had power over, at least until it consumed him. It was a coping mechanism; a devil-may-care attitude can take one only so far.
Now we’ve seen the ways in which both Alex and Pete can be destructive. But can two destructive personalities cancel each other out, or will they merely amplify each other’s effects? We’ll have to wait and see.
For more information on the Bent rewatch project, please click here.