'My Brilliant Friend' Season 2 Episode 2 sees Lenu's trajectory of hope while Lila careens into despair
In 'The Body' we see how women's bodies and destinies are shaped by the men. Nowhere is this more evident than in Lila and Lenu's big fight. Lila, who is being battered every night because she refuses to give her body to Stephano willingly, is defiant in her every look and move. As Lenu realizes when Lila tells her that the idea of pregnancy disgusts her (in part because a child would be a symbol of her nightly degradation), Lila is waging a war.
The war that turned girls like her into women like their mothers who become shadow replicas of their violent husbands, unleashing the violence onto their children.
However, while Lenu gets what Lila is doing, she thinks Lila is being dramatic and "is exaggerating". She asks Lila to make "more of an effort" to please Stephano. If only she would stop rebelling, her life would be better.
When she realizes that Lenu is taking Stephano's side, it is an emotional betrayal that unleashes Lila's fury. Her voice takes on the timbre of a low guttural howl as she essentially tells Lenu to piss off.
Lenu's betrayal comes after Stephano takes her on a drive to take back Lila's photo in her wedding dress from the dressmaker. On the drive, he bares the "feelings" of a man who is battling a wife who is more like an evil spirit. As her husband, wasn't he supposed to have her body? He tells her how humiliated he feels each time the neighborhood's busybodies ask him indirectly whether Lila is pregnant or not.
Lenu is at first hostile to his words. But when Stephano praises her and asks her to intervene, she feels like she is being taken seriously. Like she is the calming, good spirit that will overpower Lila's evil one. She feels like an adult who has to get Lila to behave like a proper married woman.
It shows how Lenu, despite being relatively free of the daily oppression women in her neighborhood face daily (and nightly), also becomes a part of how patriarchy enforces itself. It sends in women to do its dirty work by giving a select few a false sense of superiority. Of giving women the job of herding other women into the "right" way of doing things.
Lenu, by the virtue of her study pursuits, is still experiencing "girlhood" with its make-out sessions, babysitting jobs and hanging out with people her own age. Lila, too, rebelling against Stephano, tries to recapture her pre-marriage days. But alas, Lila is now firmly lodged in the "woman" category — her body destined to be hammered and shaped by Stephano.
This comes out strongly in the end when Lila wins the bet about Stephano giving her wedding dress photo to the Solaras brothers for the new shoe store. Lila knows all too well that she now no longer has any agency as she tells Lenu, right after winning the bet, that she is pregnant.
She might have won the cynical bet that shows she has Stephano's number (that naive Lenu doesn't) but she looks like she has lost in life, as she looks bleakly at the sea. Her matronly dress is a sharp contrast to Lenu's red swimsuit. It is one more symbolic difference that shows how their lives will now grow in increasingly divergent directions.
'My Brilliant Friend' airs on Mondays at 10 PM on HBO.