Mood takes a daring dive into social media and womanhood

Lara Peake and Nicôle Lecky in Mood
Lara Peake and Nicôle Lecky in Mood

Mood’s frenzied opening scene sets the tone for what to expect from the British drama and its leading heroine. Aspiring singer Sasha Clayton (Nicôle Lecky) hazily goes from filming a music video to partying in a club to crying on the street to possibly committing arson. But how much of it is real and how much is just a nightmare? She wakes up the next morning with no memory of what happened the previous day, a half-eaten kebab plate next to her bed and her parents yelling at her to stop smoking. Her phone notifications relay that she called her ex, Anton (Jordan Duvigneau), more than 40 times in a drunken stupor, and she’s chaotically rambling in her Instagram stories. Within ten minutes, Mood establishes that Sasha is a mess. And it’s only the beginning.

Sasha, a 25-year-old struggling musician, wanders in a world where she doesn’t know how to fit in. As the only person of color in her family, she’s distant from her white mother, stepfather, and stepsister. Her boyfriend of a decade has broken up with her (for crushing reasons Mood won’t explore until the end, to its disadvantage). Sasha’s loneliness and abandonment issues consume her with rage, turning her into an expert self-saboteur. Her life changes when she meets an online influencer, Carly Visionz (Lara Peake)—through their common weed guys, no less—and gets drawn into her high-rise apartment and lavish world.

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All these complexities allow series creator and star Lecky to explore the unfiltered and dark side of social media, sex work, shame, and societal pressures. Mood’s brazen humor calls to mind other British shows like Fleabag and Chewing Gum (as well as I May Destroy You), especially since Phoebe Waller-Bridge and Michaela Coel also adapted those shows from their solo plays. Lecky has based Mood on her own 2018 one-woman act, Superhoe, and the six-part first season is full of caustic and layered writing, even if it’s quite melodramatic.

Mood strikes a chord because it doesn’t rush in its pacing. Sasha and Carly’s unexpected kinship unravels realistically, which is an achievement because it helps sell how Carly convinces Sasha to become part of her influencer tribe. Sasha is quick to see the benefits: She can make money, hang out with famous people, and ideally produce her songs. Soon enough, Sasha also jumps beyond regular social media to more secretive platforms like DailyFans (similar to OnlyFans), followed by prostitution in elite circles, forging an even stronger bond with Carly along the way.

The most daring question Mood poses is: Who the hell is in real control here? Is it Sasha, who seems to be making her own decisions, or is it Carly, who empowers (manipulates) her friend to do so? What about the dubious power dynamics at play with the men who pay Sasha? Or the expectations placed on her by family, friends, and peers? Perhaps—worst of all—the real control lies at the fingertips of her fans and followers as they constantly comment on her posts and determine her worth. Mood is both a fascinating and scary study of how women’s bodies are under scrutiny in the digital era.

The narrative has all the trappings of a typical sob story—and Mood is undoubtedly sentimental—but Lecky avoids several clichés because her script isn’t limited only to portraying the exploitation of sex work. Mood does that, but it’s far more interested in peeling back the layers that force Sasha and Carly into their jobs, and the different ways in which they approach it, without demonizing either. The show succeeds because of its empathy, further enhanced by Lecky and Peake’s extraordinarily raw performances.

Mood | Official Trailer | BBC America

Another reason Mood stands out is its earworm of a soundtrack. Sasha still pursues her musical passion while navigating her profession, often processing tough new surroundings through imaginary song-and-dance sequences. Lecky wrote and recorded the original songs (there are two or three per episode) that cover genres like hip-hop, rap, and R&B. These tracks shed an incisive light on how Sasha views herself, her upbringing, desires, and any events that occur, whether it’s learning her parents are expecting a new baby, or having a moment of self-doubt when a client is genuinely concerned with pleasuring her in bed.

Still, despite six tight episodes, Mood packs in some last-minute plot twists that don’t get enough breathing room, like why Anton dumped her after 10 years together. The finale reveals a crueler backstory for Sasha but doesn’t dwell on it too long. Instead, we are driven to look at how she copes with a past she couldn’t control, and the reckless mistakes she made as a result. Mood doesn’t tie it all up with a neat bow, and is quite bleak overall, but it’s nevertheless a resonant and hopeful story about finding your power. As a bonus, Lecky makes the journey euphonic for us, too.

Mood premieres November 6 on BBC America and AMC+.

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