First season finales are a tough formula to crack. There has to be just enough resolution to satisfy, a natural—if not conclusion, culmination—of some of the season’s central arcs. Tension and conflict building without any semblance of release and payoff leaves viewers floating. But, especially when a show’s future is up in the air, there also has to be the right amount of suspense. A cliffhanger or two that grabs viewers by the throat or heart. Season finales, especially the first, demand a marriage of resolution and momentum. And when it comes to this balance, The L Word: Generation Q misfires in both directions. There are moments of narrative/emotional wrap-up, but they are made in sweeping gestures that undercut some previous character work or otherwise sacrifice stronger storytelling for the sake of conflict. Then there are twists that are equally hollow and forced. It’s not a disaster of a finale per se, and there are little pockets that do work. But it’s almost like the seams of sewing together a finale are too visible, like the efforts to simultaneously satisfy and suspend have been written in all-caps—obvious and overwrought.
Let’s start with the things that get wrapped up. The push and pull between Shane and Quiara regarding the issue of co-parenting climaxes with Quiara’s miscarriage. In some ways, this is an important story for The L Word: Generation Q to tell; miscarriage and complications in a pregnancy are not a uniquely heterosexual experience. Miscarriage can cause deep grief, pain, confusion, and what does it all look like with the added lens of queerness? How does something like this play out when it’s a shared experience between two ex-wives? Unfortunately, The L Word: Generation Q doesn’t really engage too deeply with the emotions at play here for either Quiara or Shane. Instead, it becomes just a tool to rip the two apart again, Quiara accusing Shane of being relieved about the miscarriage even though there really isn’t that much evidence to support that other than, maybe, her body language?
Shane’s back-and-forth on whether she wants to co-parent with Quiara indeed looks very Shane today, but that’s the tricky thing about a character like Shane, who is so defined by her indecision and impulsivity. It makes it easy for the writers to make her flip-flop from episode to episode, and in this particular instance, there just isn’t enough done to make Shane’s indecision compelling. It doesn’t help that Quiara is underdeveloped. Their storyline in the finale allows for some candid conversations about miscarriage, but it’s almost too broad about it when really what this blatant grab at a twist-ending for the two of them could benefit from is a whole lot more specificity in terms of Quiara and Shane’s emotions and perspectives.
Bette’s mayoral run also gets wrapped up in the initial minutes of the episode, and it makes for a genuinely exciting starting point, even though her eventual loss is easy to see coming. It’s a cogent story choice to make her lose though. The campaign has been a disaster from the start, and the show didn’t really feel equipped to delve too deeply into political issues, so this frees Bette up a bit on a story-level. Bette also recently experienced a loss in her personal life when Tina made it clear that not only is she not coming back to this relationship but she’s further investing in the woman she left Bette for. Seeing Bette—a character so obsessed with control—lose control over most areas of her life over the course of this season has made for a compelling character arc, one of the strongest of the season.
The acting has been phenomenal across the board for this show, even lifting some of the clumsy writing at times. Jennifer Beals in particular is a standout, as she was in the original series, too. One of the best scenes in the episode is when Bette and Angie go on a hike and talk about the loss of Kit as well as Angie’s budding romance with Jordi. There’s tenderness and depth here. Sometimes it seems like Generation Q is better at writing non-romantic relationships than romantic ones. Bette and Angie’s dynamic—and the way it differs from Tina’s dynamic with Angie—is fully realized. Similarly, the friendships have been really well written on this show, which is why it’s a bit of a bummer that one of those strong friendships has morphed into one of the least convincing romantic relationships of the season, but more on that later.
In the finale’s most baffling reach at a story conclusion, Nat crashes Alice’s show—in the middle of an interview with Roxane Gay—to declare her love for her. On paper, this solves several things at once. It gives Alice the ratings she needs to save her show (although an unplanned grand romantic gesture caught on camera isn’t really a sustainable argument for another season…), and it also wraps up the ongoing tension between Nat, Alice, and Gigi in the wake of their failed attempt at a throuple and Nat and Gigi’s—unintentional but still hurtful—betrayal of Alice’s trust. There’s one major problem here though: Where the hell is Gigi? Gigi doesn’t really factor into any of this, and instead we’re forced into relying on the implied existence of off-screen conversations that pushed Nat to this conclusion. Her declaration of love for Alice comes out of nowhere otherwise. In fact, this season’s fast pacing—a lot of time passes between episodes!—has made it so that there are a lot of storylines that rely on off-screen developments to really land. It feels like most of Micah and Jose’s relationship, for example, has built off-screen, and we’re instead left to just accept the really grand declarations of love between them, too.
Which brings me to some of the cliffhangers that the episode provides. For Micah and Jose: a secret husband. At Jose’s art show, Micah strikes up conversation with a handsome stranger who very casually reveals that he is Jose’s husband. It’s such a cheap grab at conflict, a soapy trope that lacks the emotional stakes to really matter. I’m honestly not surprised that this is the place where we leave Micah and Jose, because the writing around their relationship has been all over the place from the start. They feel so often like an afterthought in the series, smashed into the narrative because of their physical proximity to other characters but never given enough development or scenes to flesh out their place in the story. It’s frustrating and doubly so since the hack twist feels like a desperate grab to give their relationship stakes.
Then there’s the finale’s main cliffhanger, the dramatic cut-to-credits moment that leaves Sophie’s choice between Dani and Finley up in the air. The thing is, the way that this storyline unfolds in the finale, it really does feel like it’s set up to be a high-stakes decision where there are no perfect answers—a literal Sophie’s Choice, if you will. But the writing of Dani and Sophie’s relationship has been hard to latch onto from the start, and the sudden smashing together of Sophie and Finley feels forced, too. So in the end, it’s hard to be invested in this cliffhanger because I don’t actually care who Sophie chooses. Perhaps she is choosing neither of them and is just taking herself on vacation or something, but even if that ends up being the case, it is a glaring problem that it doesn’t really seem to matter whether she goes with Dani or goes with Finley.
Perhaps even more so than the original series, The L Word: Generation Q loves infidelity as a plot device. Yes, cheating is a pervasive problem. People cheat all the time; people get cheated on all the time. I don’t think it’s always a lazy choice to use infidelity as a way to create conflict, but Generation Q has—with a few exceptions—failed to really engage with its cheating storylines in a way that feels honest or interesting. Alice’s sense of betrayal over Gigi and Nat sleeping together without her is the closest the show comes to an interesting storyline about boundaries and betrayal within a relationship, but even that loses some of its weight once the whole Nat/Alice finale moment comes into play.
When it comes to Dani/Sophie/Finley, every character is going through the motions of a dramatic infidelity storyline without any real time to let the emotions of it breathe. Sophie is acting on a combination of motives: Dani keeps pulling away from her, and at the start of her affair with Finely, she’s also experiencing grief. Plus, the show established she has a history of cheating on her partners to the point where Dani expresses her fear of being left for someone else. So yes, there is context. There are cogent character stakes. But again, Generation Q sort of spells them out without really engaging with them. Sophie and Finley’s affair is an unsatisfying conclusion for either of their arcs this season. Finley’s scene with Rebecca in the finale, in fact, rings with so much more emotional honesty and makes for deeper character work. Rosanny Zayas and Jacqueline Toboni are both strong performers, especially when it comes to the show’s humor, but even they can’t really lift the writing here, which sacrifices character for the sake of conflict.
There’s a breakdown somewhere in the setup-payoff formula here, and again, it feels a bit too much like seeing the seams of the story, which makes it harder to appreciate not only the complete picture but the individual threads. Finley has been a fascinating character all season, and the show has been smart in how it explores her religious and familial trauma. Similarly, the show has been smart in the way it looks at class factoring into some of the tension between Sophie and Dani’s families. But the deterioration of Dani and Sophie’s relationship—while steady over the course of the series—has little flesh to it. It’s inevitable that the relationship will end, but the execution is ultimately weak. The finale does have its strong moments, especially when it comes to the non-romantic relationship dynamics at play, but it’s almost trying too hard to be a satisfying finale, which paradoxically yields something very unsatisfying. It doesn’t grab so much by the heart or throat as it does by the hands, too overtly guiding viewers down a path of hollow twists and neatly wrapped conclusions.
- I might sound a little harsh in this review, but I really am impressed by this show’s first season and the way it has expanded the universe of the original series to be more inclusive when it comes to both age and race. I’m excited to see what comes of a second season and am hoping for better character development of Dani, Sophie, and Micah.
- Television too often overly romanticizes grand romantic gestures...especially bad ones! Nat’s is bad! Alice is DOING HER JOB! Roxane Gay is LITERALLY RIGHT THERE. She didn’t ask to be part of this! No one did! The Roxane Gay cameo, like the Rapinoe one, is fun, but I can’t believe she gets quite literally upstaged by this weird scene.
- Zayas and Toboni are absolutely breakout stars of the season.
- It’s a bummer that Tess’ arc this season is wrapped up so quickly and without much attention. She’s one of the more interesting secondary characters.