Photo: Freeform

Okay, I take it all back: The Bold Type is exactly like Game Of Thrones.

Yes, that’s a gross exaggeration, but it’s not without basis. These two very different series have two big similarities. First, each has a solid understanding of the ways in which costume design can help tell a story (to say nothing of a fondness for fabulous outerwear—more on that later). Second, and more importantly, both are at their best when they fill their fantasy worlds—one has dragons and magic and zombies, the other has chic apartments with adorably tiny showers and overflowing closets—with instantly familiar emotional struggles. The scale on that HBO program may be considerably more epic in scale, but the approach isn’t so different. We at home may not have dragon-children or a staggering budget for footwear, but we know what it’s like to be afraid you’re going to lose your job (or in some cases, your crown and/or head).

“The End Of The Beginning” isn’t without flaws. After all, it seems that Kat and Jacqueline manage to save all the jobs in editorial and fashion through the former’s focus group and the latter’s considerable powers of persuasion, and that seems like kind of a cheap out for an episode so rooted in familiar anxieties. But until Jacqueline waves her magic wand, this is an hour that’s admirably laid back and honest in its portrayal of an office in turmoil. Rumors fly, some question their abilities, others re-evaluate their goals. Fear pushes people to question the intentions and integrity of others and to interpret even the most innocuous comments as prophecies of doom. Someone flips out at the exact wrong moment. Someone else takes it out on the wrong person. It’s toxic and it can’t be helped.

It’s also a fascinating crucible in which to throw a friendship. Writers Justin W. Lo and Wendy Straker Hauser cleverly set the stage for tension and discomfort from moment one, infesting Kat’s fancy apartment with bed bugs so that all three of the main trio are staying in the same tiny space when the layoff rumors start circulating. When Kat’s told that her job is safe but the same can’t be said of many others, the tension escalates, and Jacqueline’s understandable insistence that no one else find out all but guarantees that there’s trouble down the line. Aisha Dee carries the bulk of the emotional load in this episode, and she’s more than up to the task, showing us a Kat who’s gradually stretched thinner and thinner. The lies come less easily every time, and her obvious need to blow off some steam leads to the exact situation she was desperate to avoid: being trapped between her friends and her career with her hands firmly tied.

Photo: Freeform

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As is nearly always the case on The Bold Type, the resulting argument resolves quickly and cleanly, but it’s still a rough one. The fact that the writers allow these young female characters to treat each other with decency and respect never fails to be refreshing, and it doesn’t diminish the stakes in a conflict in which everyone‘s understandably upset. Yet the best result of this argument is that Lo and Straker Hauser allow this outburst of anxiety and anger to unlock other doors for Kat, Sutton, and Jane. With all that fear expressed, with a reminder of the importance of friendship and empathy clear in their minds, all three women make discoveries. That, perhaps more than anything else, is what makes this episode feel so honest. When bad shit happens, or seems ready to happen, tension builds, and when it’s released, we find new strengths, new desires, new options.

If anything, it’s that element that makes the happy fairy tale ending mostly palatable. Kat admits she’s not brave enough to simply walk out of her cozy life, but discovers that maybe the yearning for something new can’t be easily ignored. Sutton realizes she’s a force under pressure, and that she can best fear, but also learns that she can’t wait for people to acknowledge her work. And Jane, she of “Scarlett is the big sister I never had” fame, is confronted with the possibility that she might be happier somewhere else. With all that discovery—plus the impending return of Nikohl Boosheri’s Adena,—an ending where one of these women loses her job might ring a bit sour.

Whether you’re down with the happy ending or not, it’s hard not to wish that we’d seen this presentation of Jacqueline’s. While taking the focus off the power trio would be the wrong move for this series, it’s hard not to think that The Bold Type is underusing Melora Hardin a bit. She’s had more than a few great moments, and not every episode should center on the Jed Bartlet of Scarlett, but if there’s a storyline tailor-made for a big, flashy monologue from Jacqueline, it’s this one. If there’s footage of this formidable woman convincing her board to not lay off a single writer on the metaphorical cutting room floor somewhere, I hope it winds up online at some point. You’ve got a hell of an actor there, The Bold Type. Let her do her thing a bit more. She’s every bit the queen that those women on that show with the ice zombies is, and she deserves similarly epic speeches.

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Stray observations

  • On the costumes: The great Tom and Lorenzo of tomandlorenzo.com released this terrific Game Of Thrones costume analysis today, the latest in a series that includes looks at the costumes of Outlander, Mad Men, American Gods, and other shows and films. It made me look at the costumes here in a whole new way, particularly in the three-way date scene (see photo above). Jane, thoroughly unimpressed by her date and as-of-yet free from job worries, is in a white, somewhat frivolous top, while Sutton (mourning her relationship with Richard) and Kat (missing Adena and under the weight of her secret) are both clad in all black. Other elements of interest: Jane, uncertain about her future in her job interview, wears a sky-high pair of wobbly-looking heels; Sutton, calm and prepared for the worst, aces her photoshoot in understated, sensible, but stylish clothes. I’ll be trying to look at these costumes with more purpose in the next two episodes, and if you’ve got thoughts, please share them (and I’ll share with others).
  • Thank you for indulging my GoT comparison. Believe it or not, I’m not two seasons behind, but sometimes you get a weird idea and you’ve just got to run with it.
  • The single most surprising thing about this episode is that no one uttered the words “pivot to video.”
  • “No, we don’t want to watch RuPaul’s Drag Race!” Tiny Jane, that was your first mistake. RuPaul’s Drag Race makes everything better.
  • So, if Jane takes this job, Alex will be pissed, right? We the audience know that she was approached by Insight (Insite? Because it’s a site? Haven’t watched with captions yet), but from the outside, it sure as hell would look like she told her co-worker to try to keep his job and then promptly applied for the position he was considering.
  • The silver boots were back! I’m pretty sure those boots should get bumped up from recurring to supporting next season.

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