Freddie goes home, calls Karen a whore, skateboards around some more, and then chases Effy to a park where she has walked on water to an island in the middle of the lake. He phones her; she doesn’t answer. He hears her phone. He turns. She holds it up. And they go crashing into the water after one another, and this scene could not be any more glorious if it was filmed by God’s own camera crew in heaven’s favorite lake.
OK, I am going to tell you something and you can take it or leave it. You can apply it to Freddie and Effy here, if you want. You can apply it to Naomi and Emily in the next episode. Or, you know, you can close your browser and shake your head and mumble about how you have had it up to here with me. All acceptable options. All thoroughly understandable.
[Rophy says: Not acceptable. Not understandable. Don't you dare
leave Heather Hogan in your beds again close your browsers.]
There are about a dozen character actions that are just full-on orgasmic for literature professors (and students of narrative deconstruction). One of those things is when a character gets soaked in water. It can be a lake or a bathtub or a stream or an ocean, but when a characters goes for full submersion — assuming they don’t drown — you can go ahead and call that a baptism. A new birth.
Loads of scholars (including Thomas Foster of How to Read Literature Like a Professor) say the rebirth thing doesn’t even have to be intentional on the part of the writer, because writers tend to subconsciously dial into collective cultural memories or texts — in this case, the pervasive story of Noah’s flood from the Biblical book of Genesis (in general) and the baptismal theology of the early Christian church in the Biblical book of Acts (specifically).
So, if you are going to apply the baptism symbolism to Effy and/or Naomi, here’s the idea: a character who purposefully submerges herself in water wants to be made new again. It’s willful submission.
In the case of Naomi, she has spent years of her life pushing Emily as hard as she can without actually breaking her. And in the next episode, she physically strips herself down on purpose, after all the other bits and pieces of her have been stripped away by other things. And so she’s standing on the bank of the lake with a choice: stay there and piece her armor together again, or jump in with the full knowledge that her life will never be the same.
For Effy it’s even more instantaneous: the fact that she can’t not jump is everything you need to know.
And, see, baptism is always about how your old self isn’t capable of attaining the deepest, most desperate desire of your heart. And so you have to become a new person. And the new self has the means or the courage to do the thing the old self never would have done. It’s not magic. It’s symbolism. In the case of both Effy and Naomi: The only thing I want more than the safety of me is to be with you.