As this is a review, there will be some discussion of plot points happening in this episode. It is probably best to read this after having watched the episode.
The Bold Type gives an assured start to its third season, advancing the existing plot lines and continuing to deliver us three-dimensional and realistic characters.
Season 3, Episode 1: The New Normal
Victor Nelli Jr.
Wendy Straker Hauser
Starring: Katie Stevens, Aisha Dee, Meghann Fahy, Sam Page, Matt Ward, Melora Hardin & Stephen Conrad Moore
I’m going to be honest: I think that The Bold Type is one of my favourite programmes right now. It never feels like a chore when I’m watching an episode, but instead like I’m spending an evening with friends. I find myself reacting to the character’s decisions as if I know them and bursting with pride when they achieve something that they deserve. It’s rare for a television series to move you through such well fleshed-out core character members, and is honestly a lesson for other programmes in how to construct realistic and likeable leads even when they have apparent flaws. This is probably due to the smaller cast that The Bold Type boasts, as well as the shorter episode counts. Perhaps there are many things that other programmes can learn from this format and how to construct their own shows, as I find the reason I tune in for the next episode is not for some story arcs or evil villains but is merely to check in with my friends and see how they are and what they will get up to next.
Another great thing about The Bold Type is that it isn’t afraid to be real. We ended Season 2 with a trip to Paris that saw all of the women experiencing changes within their love-lives. Richard (Sam Page) and Sutton (Meghann Fahy) finally got together after a season of obstacles; Jane (Katie Stevens) found herself caught between two men in the form of Pinstripe (Dan Jeannotte) and Dr. Ben (Luca James Lee); Kat (Aisha Dee) experienced a devastating break up with first girlfriend Adena (Nikohl Boosheri). It was a tragic turn of events for poor Kat, who had spent much of Season 2 getting to grips with being with a woman and making great strides in her relationship with Adena. However, ultimately, the fact that Adena felt uninspired and unable to produce art when being with Kat seemed like a fairly unavoidable road block and, sensibly, they called it a day.
It’s therefore great that we get to see in a TV programme a queer break-up storyline, in which Kat’s emotions are treated with just as much validity as a straight break-up storyline. It sounds silly, but it’s not often seen. That sort of realistic representation, without stereotypes coming into play, is rarely seen. Kat is forced to confront within this episode that despite the fact that it has been 5 weeks since her and Adena broke up, she still isn’t fine about it, regardless of what she might post on social media. Unpredictably, this falsehood is rumbled by the new Head of Digital Patrick (Peter Vack), who encourages her to be more real. I’m surprised that Kat wasn’t already on board with this, since she was obviously uncomfortable with the “face of social media” pressure that she wouldn’t be more honest with her followers and open the dialogue of not being over somebody. Kat therefore starts a social media campaign of #BeReal, and it’s wonderful on all fronts.
Meanwhile, Richard has asked Sutton to move in with him and already told Jacqueline (Melora Hardin) that it’s a done deal, which makes Sutton far from comfortable as she feels it’s moving very fast. It soon becomes apparent, however, that there are other reasons behind Richard’s proposal and it’s handy to know after a season of Sutton’s freak outs that Richard also has insecurities in the face of what other people think. In the end, however, Sutton realises that she does want to take the step with Richard and moves in with him.
Jane’s world is a bit more complex, as it always is with Jane. The thing I struggle with with Jane is that she’s so involved in other people’s lives she’s always so unable to identify how interfering and judgmental she can be. I don’t mean this as a criticism – as I say, it’s like seeing friends when I watch this show – I just hope that The Bold Type is aware of these flaws in Jane. Regardless, Jane is making it her mission to get new Head of Digital out, as she feels responsible for Jacqueline losing this job for publishing one of Jane’s articles late last season. Her bias leads her down a route that she’s convinced will expose Patrick for a misogynist but instead discovers that he stands up in a dramatic way to achieve gender equality. Meanwhile, she is also starting a relationship with Pinstripe (whose real name is Ryan). I say that inside the meanwhile because it’s not really touched upon too much, but hopefully there is more to come as the series progresses.
Kat’s storyline is probably the most compelling of this episode. Kat continues to excel professionally, of course – she’s the only one of the trio who is actually head of a department after all, and it’s not for nothing – and yet it’s surprising that she has to be pushed towards realising that being genuine on social media could be inspiring. I suppose it’s her own reticence to concede that she’s not doing okay to her friends is what holds her back from revealing this to the world, so that makes sense. This is played so adeptly by Aisha Dee, who always gives so much heart and authenticity to Kat. While she excels at the breakdown moments where she’s just on the brink of tears and falling apart, she’s also astounding in the quieter moments, where you can see a whole story behind her eyes threatening to bubble up to the surface. It’s tough that the queer representation relationship has fallen apart and could be seen as a step backwards, but I’m glad that Kat is claiming her queerness going forwards and trying to work out her place within the queer community considering that so much of her coming out experience was through her relationship with Adena.
Alex doesn’t have much to do in this episode, and in fact rarely does since his failed relationship with Sutton quite some time ago. He does however impart some valuable advice to Kat by saying that “there’s no expiration date on heartbreak”, and it’s nice for the show to give some validation to finding getting over somebody tricky – TV programmes are notorious for either couples being #endgame or characters bouncing from one bed to the next with very little forethought or justification.
I cannot remember the last time that Kat had a professional failing, but perhaps I’m viewing the show through rose tinted spectacles. I’m surprised that, considering she is the head of social media, one of the topics covered by The Bold Type isn’t the negative effects of social media. I mean, they have covered gun control and sexual harassment so far, so I’m surprised that such a large part of modern life is being overlooked.
To summarise, our journey back to the world of The Bold Type makes it feel as if we never left, and the compelling and heart warming female friendship is truly a lesson to other programmes in how to construct their leads to be three-dimensional instead of flawless beings.
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