An Ode to Stevie Budd, the Unsung Hero of 'Schitt's Creek'
When you think of Schitt’s Creek, the first characters that come to mind are probably the Roses. That’s reasonable. From Moira's (Catherine O'Hara) vast vocabulary and David's (Dan Levy) fashion sense to Johnny's (Eugene Levy) quiet sensibility and Alexis' (Annie Murphy) absolutely bonkers stories about her past (she and The Good Place’s Tahani Al-Jamil would get along), the Rose family is as memorable as David’s hoodie in the Season 2 premiere.
There is, however, one character who’s just as deserving of praise as the Roses — if not more so. Stevie Budd (Emily Hampshire) hasn’t had to learn to live without private jets and million-dollar mansions, but she’s undergone a journey all her own. Here’s why Stevie’s story is worth recognition, too.
An Unlikely Friend
Season 1 Stevie is the character at her most closed-off; she’s spent her entire life in Schitt’s Creek, and she doesn’t do a whole lot outside of aiming well-thought-out zingers at those on the other side of the motel reception desk. She doesn’t take chances with her relationships, her job or her wardrobe, and although she doesn’t relish small-town life, she doesn’t believe a better existence is possible.
Then her unlikely friendship with David (Dan Levy) helps her open up, and although the romantic aspect of their relationship is short-lived, their close companionship spans the series to date. He and the rest of the Roses drag her into a variety of uncomfortable situations — sometimes accidentally, sometimes on purpose — that bond them all together, and while the family learn about basic human decency, Stevie starts to break out of her shell.
She’s ripped from her comfort zone when she’s left the deed to the motel after her aunt dies, and although it’s overwhelming at first, she manages to get the business booming with some help from Johnny (Eugene Levy). No, she’s still not comfortable with being in the pictures on the motel’s new website and sticks to her tried-and-true plaid button downs and jeans, but she starts to take control of her situation. She opens up to others besides the Roses, too, beginning a relationship with a motel reviewer who ultimately breaks her heart. Despite that, she doesn’t regress to her former self; there’s an air of quiet confidence about her that wasn’t there in “Our Cup Runneth Over.” From where she began, it’s a heartwarming transformation.
Stevie’s development is quieter than that of the Roses, but it’s the relative ordinariness of it that makes it extraordinary. The lack of fanfare makes her relatable, and cheering for her feels like cheering for a friend. Her character’s progression is what makes her performance in the town play, Cabaret, so inspiring. During her solo, it’s easy to stand up and applaud along with the audience. As Moira says, she is very cool. Stevie was never not cool; But come Season 5, she’s letting more people in on how cool she’s always been.
Something Better Out There
Simply put, the deadpan motel assistant grounds the Roses’ riches-to-rags hilarity in something more real. Let’s face it: In a situation similar to the story of Schitt’s Creek, most of us would be Stevie. Most of us have never had a floor-to-ceiling portrait painted of our families, owned over a dozen wigs or struggled to cope with the loss of billionaire status. Most of us have struggled with the doldrums of everyday life, dealt with relationship troubles or had to find our way out of feeling stuck.
Maybe that’s why hearing her muse about whether there’s “something better out there” for her in the final season’s trailer pulls at one’s heartstrings. It’s a question that plaid-clad girl behind the motel desk in Season 1 wouldn’t have dared to ask, a question borne of self-assurance and confidence. That single line is as cheer-worthy as her Cabaret solo. There is something better, Stevie! Go find it!
We’ll have to wait until the finale to see whether her story ends with finding her way out of Schitt’s Creek, but Stevie’s already found her way out of the labyrinth that was her self-doubt and emotional isolation. And even if the final episode concludes with her behind the desk at the Rosebud Motel, that’s a triumph in its own right.
Schitt’s Creek, Tuesdays, 9/8c, Pop TV