The L Word: Generation Q is an old friend and a new friend wrapped up in a beautiful package. Now that season 1 has ended and the long wait for season 2 begins, I wanted to share some thoughts about the new series.
Back in 2013 when I began this blog, I wrote a series of 6 posts called “The L Word: Opening Credits.” My theory was that if you only saw up to the moment the opening credits ended with the director’s name, you would still remember everything about that episode. To this day, I can read one of those old posts and mostly recall what happened in an entire episode.
The L Word was such an important cultural touchstone that fans memorized all 6 seasons. A shared language built up around it that let people, especially lesbians – but others as well, communicate entire reams of information with a single phrase or image. Nothing more than opening credits told a whole story. The Generation Q team pays homage to those 10+ year old storylines by assuming that the audience knows what every reference to the past is about. And they do.
There have been shows with lesbian characters since then, but no ensemble casts depicting lesbian lifestyles among a whole group of interrelated women.
And We’re Back
When Ilene Chaiken and original cast members Jennifer Beals, Katherine Moennig, and Leisha Hailey announced that Showtime was having them back to produce The L Word: Generation Q with new showrunner Marja-Lewis Ryan, there was general rejoicing among fans. But also a lot of questions.
With those questions answered now, I wanted to talk about some things I loved and some things I thought didn’t quite work about the first season of The L Word: Generation Q.
Works for me!
Let’s start with the best surprise. Laurel Holloman came back as Tina. She appeared in episodes 6 and 7. After 10 years spent surrounded by oil paint and canvases big enough to cover an entire wall, Laurel Holloman put down her paint brush and showed up on Bette’s doorstep. “It felt very surreal,” she told THR about the return to acting. If she was feeling out of practice, it didn’t show.
Laurel Holloman and Jennifer Beals always managed to make Bette and Tina seem so in sync. They looked at each other in ways that said I know who you are. Even when they were fighting or not together, there was a baseline of connection between them. It’s still there. You see it in this clip as Tina drops a bomb and then peers under all the masks Bette is throwing up.
Holloman told The Advocate, “I think that it’s in our DNA to work together. We can kind of look at each other, and every moment is real in some way. I’ve never had a scene partner like that where it’s almost like we speak a different language. It was a gift to be able to step back in.”
As a fan, I thought it was a gift to have Tina back. I’m grateful Laurel Holloman could work it into her current life.
As parents of 16 year old Angie (Jordan Hull), Tina and Bette are still doing their best. Angie is living with Bette while Tina is off on location.
It’s triple good
It was wonderful to see how Leisha Hailey slipped back into Alice and Katherine Moennig slipped back into Shane. The returning characters are so comfortable in their parts. Kate Moennig seems finally grounded in a Zen Shane who feels calmer and more assured than the younger Shane. It’s like she finally grew into Shane’s skin.
Gigi (Sepideh Moafi) and Nat (Stephanie Allynne) were previously married. They’ve been divorced 2 years. Nat is with Alice now. Alice and Nat have an interesting relationship because Nat and Gigi have two kids. (I love that Gigi speaks to her kids in Farsi. Getting those diversity points any way they can.) Alice slipping into the mix as step-mom wasn’t working perfectly.
The co-parenting with Nat, Gigi and Alice leads to a threesome. Soon they call themselves a thrupple. They thought they could make it work as a threesome. I thought the threesome storyline was a good one, for as long as it lasted – a very hot minute. But I was rooting for Alice to get what she wanted. With many relationships on the brink of blowing up in the final episode, it was nice to see Alice in a good place.
Arienne Mandi as Dani and Rosanny Zayas as Sophie started off the entire season with hot sex. Just letting everyone know that there would be plenty of realistic lesbian sex as always. Dani proposes to Sophie and then promptly ignores her to run Bette’s mayoral race. Their relationship is typical of the soapy drama that The L Word always was.
Dani is so like Bette. Strong, driven, powerful – an alpha female.
These two are Latina characters, a great addition to the series. Sophie has a sister in a wheelchair, Maribel (Jillian Mercado), and a big traditional family. Another good addition.
Sarah Finley (Jacqueline Toboni), who goes by Finley, and Micah (Leo Sheng) are my favorite new characters.
Finley is a mess. Shame and pain inflicted on her by religion and parental rejection make her the representative of the damage religion can do. Jacqueline Toboni is brilliant at making Finley multi-faceted, and especially at portraying the shame, grief, and guilt religion inflicts on so many LGBTQ people.
Finley forms a relationship with Rebecca (Olivia Thirlby), who is a pastor of a church that welcomes LGBTQ people. I hope Rebecca makes it into season 2, because her kind of acceptance is needed by so many.
The T in LBGTQ
Micah is played by a trans man. I appreciate how much time and attention Micah’s story gets because I think we need more trans masculine characters on television. I especially thought Micah’s issues with his mom (Rosalind Chao) were realistic and well-done.
The original series made a mess of its trans character. The L Word: Generation Q has both Leo Sheng and Brian Michael Smith as Bette’s campaign aide. These men show that the new L Word can get it right.
The series also has Jamie Clayton playing Tess, the bartender. Tess is a woman. Full stop. No mention of transness. If you feel that any actor should be able to play any part, then this is a step forward. I read that Jamie Clayton suggested the idea herself, so there’s that.
Everyone from the youngest cast member to most experienced was so well chosen. The acting talent was wonderful from all of them. The characters were well drawn and given depth. The guest stars were great picks. I think the new cast is on its way to iconic, just like the original cast.
More to Like
I liked seeing Bette opposite a black lover, Felicity (Latarsha Rose). Jennifer Beals has played opposite so many white actors in her career. It sometimes seems like The L Word is one of the few places where her biracial identity is honored.
Shane was married! Can you believe it? To a famous singer named Quiara (Lex Scott Davis). Except there’s trouble in paradise because Quiara wants a baby. They are struggling. It’s a change to see Shane be the one struggling in a relationship.
Behind the camera
The all-women director lineup was filled by Steph Green, Sarah Pia Anderson, Allison Liddi-Brown, Jennifer Arnold, Logan Kibens, Marja-Lewis Ryan, and Erica Watson. Women did the producing, the music, the cinematography and much more. Even though this series isn’t the trailblazer for that kind of behind the scenes list, it’s still rare and noteworthy.
Does this track?
Bette decided to run for mayor because Kit overdosed on heroin less than a year ago. Bette thought the hospital intake service that didn’t ask about addiction was to blame. Why she needed to run the entire city of LA to change hospital policy is an open question.
I thought Bette’s sexy times with Felicity were lame. As Jennifer Beals once said to Mia Kirshner, “You have to commit.” Commit, Jennifer.
Tina didn’t come to Kit’s funeral because she and Bette had just divorced. That excuse didn’t make sense. She should have been there.
Tina’s story to Angie about how she needed to be alone to become a whole person didn’t work for me. Especially since less than a year later she’s ready to marry someone else. It was a great scene showing how close Tina and Angie are, but the content of the conversation didn’t track.
That overall feeling
You’ve figured out for yourself by now that I found a lot to like about The L Word: Generation Q and its twisty melodrama. I have very few complaints. I’m delighted the series was renewed for a second season. Long may it live!
Your turn. How did you feel about the series?