The Idol (HBO Miniseries) Episode 1 Recap & Ending Explained: HBO’s new drama series, The Idol, starring Lily-Rose Depp and Abel ‘The Weeknd’ Tesfaye, follows the story of Jocelyn, a famous icon who, after her mother’s death and a mental breakdown, is releasing her first single and preparing for an upcoming tour.
The first episode takes us inside her world filled with the rigorous and tiring behind-the-scene of being a pop icon and how everyone in her life pushes her to be the best she can be in order to attain more success and recognition among her audience. While we witness the chaos unfold, we also see Jocelyn in a vulnerable space, uncertain about her latest single that her music label feels would be a game changer for her. This is where she meets Tedros, and things start to change.
Co-created by Sam Levinson and The Weeknd, the series made quite a noise after its two-episode world premiere at the Cannes Film Festival 2023. The HBO and A24 co-production aims to question what it feels like to be an icon with a fair share of stardom and how fast things can change in the public eye.
Referencing golden icons like Britney Spears and Sharon Stone, who were grilled relentlessly for their rising fame and mental health issues, the first episode tries to be a gritty and brutal depiction of how the pop music industry and stardom can get messy,
The Idol (HBO Miniseries) Episode 1 Recap:
“Pop Tarts & Rat Tales”
The episode opens with a chaotic photo shoot at Jocelyn’s (Lily-Rose Depp) house. Jocelyn is a famous pop star who seems to have gone down a rabbit hole due to her mental health issues. The intimacy coordinator on the set is worried about Jocelyn’s protection and the amount of nudity they can show through these pictures. We can see Jocelyn’s manager – Chaim (Hank Azaria), her record label executive – Nikki (Jane Adams), and Xander (Troye Sivan), arguing about how parts of this reimaging of Jocelyn is like glorifying her mental health issues. Nikki is adamant in saying that they are using her mental health as a tool to further her image of sexiness and that it is totally “okay” to portray her like this.
Since the intimacy coordinator is trying to change the direction of the photo shoot despite Jocelyn being comfortable with nudity, Chaim takes him aside. He locks him up in a bathroom, claiming that he is posing a threat to the production budget of the day. Just then, Destiny (Da’Vine Joy Randolph) appears on set and asks Chaim and Leia – Jocelyn’s assistant, to come aside and show them a leaked photo of hers with ‘cum’ on her face.
Suddenly, the tensions on the set amp up as all of them are trying to figure out how this photo – a selfie taken by Jocelyn herself, got out. Soon, more people chip in, worried about how to deal with the news or break it to Jocelyn. Her publicist (Dan Levy) breaks the news that the leak has allowed them to trend at number 1 on Twitter, and for now, it’s a good thing. Vanity Fair’s lead pop culture writer/profiler, Talia Hirsch, is also on the scene, and we can see the discussion between all these people. We learn that Jocelyn suffered the loss of her mother, which led to her tour cancellation. They also talk about her latest single and how it will change things for her.
Meanwhile, Jocelyn is rushing to join the dancers practicing in the sun and looks exhausted. Andrew Finkelstein (Eli Roth) of Live Nation – the person handling the sale of Jocelyn’s upcoming tour is also there, worried about the same thing. Feeling pressured in some way and visibly anxious, Jocelyn tries her best and nails the rehearsal the second time around. After completing the rehearsal, they all collectively break the news of the leaked photo to her. Upon hearing the news, Jocelyn is upset but puts on a brave face and distracts herself by going out to a club with her lead dancer, Dyanne (Jennie Kim), with her assistants tagging along.
At the club, the owner Tedros (Abel Tesfaye, a.k.a The Weeknd), notices Jocelyn and requests a dance with her. They instantly connect and head out to the stairway to make out. When Leia disrupts them, they sit down and talk about Jocelyn’s second thoughts about what she is doing with her new music. Tedros gives her a dose of positivity by saying that pop music is like a holy grail since pop stars allow people to dance and sing along with the idea of what they’re trying to say, and doing it is something extraordinary.
That night, Jocelyn sneaks back to her house, sits on the couch, and masturbates while choking herself. The following day, Talia and Jocelyn sit down for the interview about the new single, but they keep hitting a pause on the recording because Talia needs to tell Jocelyn that everyone, including her editor, is more interested in knowing about the leaked photo than anything else. Later at night, Jocelyn expresses her real issues with the new single and asks for Leia’s honest opinion. While Leia supports her new music, Jocelyn is not wrong about being nervous about releasing something different from the image she has created for herself. She also expresses that she wishes to invite Tedros despite his “rapey” vibe.
The Idol (HBO Miniseries) Episode 1 Ending Explained:
What does Tedros tell Jocelyn about her new single?
Tedros arrive at Jocelyn’s home. She asks Leia to make him wait while she takes her time to get ready and come down. Tedros fixes himself a drink, snorts some coke, and prepares himself with his “Hello, Angel” greetings. When Jocelyn comes down, they talk to each other over drinks, and she asks if he would like to listen to her new single and give her an honest opinion about it. Tedros asks what her music label thinks of it, but she says that being famous makes people lie to you and that she feels he will be an honest voice for a change. She then takes him to her studio and plays a bit of her new song – I’m a Freak.
Tedros is initially apprehensive, but being pushed tells her that the song needs to say that ‘she can fuck’ like she means it, and in its present state, it doesn’t feel that way. He also brings up her dead mother and covers her face with her robe, trying to either bring out a new side of her or push her further into her mental instability.
What is Tedro’s true intention? Seeing how we saw glimpses of something shady at the club when Jocelyn was there, we can assume that there’s more to his meeting with Jocelyn than we see.