Throughout the four seasons of The Bold Type, one thing has always been true. Well, a lot of things have always been true: the unreasonable number of cabs, the cute clothes, the fantasy apartments, the fact that Jacqueline Carlyle has impeccable suits. But the most important piece of the pie is one that has made this show easy to love, even when it’s stumbled. The Bold Type always, always makes a point of saying, “hey, it’s okay if you feel this way.” It doesn’t always manage to achieve the level of nuance one might hope for—the Alex “Cat Person” storyline comes to mind—but empathy is always a priority. “Lost,” the show’s best episode since the marvelous season-one finale “Carry The Weight,” sets a new high watermark for that particular aim; it does so simply, gently, and with a lot of compassion for its characters.
Its argument—and it is an argument, by way of simple acknowledgment—is that there’s no one way to grieve. Grief comes in many forms; it arrives unexpectedly, and not always about the things you expect. So here’s a quiet little TV episode about three young women grieving different things in different ways, anchored by three very strong performances. It’s marvelous.
Written by Celeste Vasquez (who also wrote “5, 6, 7, 8,” the wonderful episode about Sutton’s bachelorette party) and directed by Crazy Ex-Girlfriend’s Erin Ehrlich, “Lost” is one of those episodes that does what it does so elegantly that it’s easy to miss exactly how finely it has been wrought. As is usually the case, each of our heroes has a problem of her own with which to contend. Jane, whose inconvenient crush on “Scottie Too-Hottie” (one of her writers) seems to coincide with the tentative return of her sex drive, is encouraged by Kat to give her body what it clearly wants. The pair revisit the double-dating app from The Bold Type’s early days and head out so that Jane can maybe give casual sex a try. Kat starts dealing with the practicalities of her new life, but can’t let go of any of her furniture, despite the fact that Jane’s apartment simply doesn’t have room, so she coughs up a buttload of cash for a storage space and starts thinking about a podcast. (The fact that these two threads not only coincide, but do so in a totally organic and stressful way, is among the cleverest tricks Vasquez uses in this hour.)
And then there’s Sutton, who emerges from “Snow Day” seemingly much less overwhelmed by the prospect of being a mother in under a year. Richard gives her a baseball-themed baby book (it’s not a gendered thing, he says as any kid of his, “boy, girl, non-binary,” will be required to love the Yankees) before they head to their first ultrasound, and it is very sweet and lovely. And then they learn that there’s no heartbeat; like many pregnancies, Sutton and Richard’s first ends with a miscarriage.
The Bold Type has done an admirable job throughout its run of directly addressing topics that people often hesitate or avoid discussing—the result of fear, shame, embarrassment, or stigma, and usually some combination of those things. These topics run the gamut from sexual assault to yeast infections, biphobia in queer spaces to the orgasm gap, the list goes on. To varying degrees, all three of these stories fall into that territory. But the most notable is Sutton’s. Miscarriage is something that simply often doesn’t get talked about, despite the fact that one in five pregnancies ends in miscarriage. The fact that The Bold Type elects to tell such a story is significant all on its own. But more significantly, the show gives the excellent Meghann Fahy a chance to play some really complex stuff, not only allowing for the fact that there’s no one way to respond to something like this, but that one’s response can often be contradictory.
Sutton is shocked, numb, sad, confused. She’s open with her friends in one moment and lies to them the next. She begins to have an emotional response to her own perceived lack of a response and deliberately puts herself in a situation—styling a kid for his kindergarten graduation—likely to provoke strong feelings so that she can follow the path she thinks she’s supposed to follow. Ehrlich, Vasquez, and Fahy approach this storyline together with quiet frankness. Nothing is overexplained. It’s quiet, thoughtful, strange. We’re given plenty of opportunities to see Sutton by herself, silent, trying to feel out her own reactions. It’s contemplative, solemn but not overwrought, acknowledging the complexity of her experience without placing anything over the top. It’s hard to say this is series-best work from Fahy, who is consistently great, but it’s certainly one of the show’s best-executed stories.
And it all leads to a conclusion that’s appropriately messy and honest: Sutton grieves, but her grief is also all mixed up with shame, and as she weeps in the arms of her two best friends, she confesses that she feels relieved. “Lost” doesn’t work this well without “Snow Day,” because “Snow Day” establishes exactly how much reasonable anxiety Sutton has about how she’ll juggle being a mother with this career that she loves and a husband she adores. But it’s not just that Sutton doesn’t want to have a baby, which is why that baby-book scene is so key. It’s both. She weeps, and they are not tears of relief, but she’s relieved all the same. In that scene, The Bold Type displays a lot of compassion for its characters and for anyone who’s ever had a complicated emotional response to the loss of a pregnancy, or to any major loss. There’s no one right way to grieve. There’s no model. Loss is loss, and it affects every piece of your life—and that means there’s a lot more to it than sadness.
If that were the episode’s sole focus, it would still be something of a triumph, but Jane and Kat each have some grieving of their own to do. Each, like Sutton’s, is a continuation of a discovery made in the mid-season premiere: Jane realizes that, post-surgery, she’s no longer comfortable in her body, and while her sex drive may have returned, the first time her very charming date places his hands on her breasts, she recoils as though wounded. Some good advice from Scottie Too-Hottie leads her to write about her experience in hopes of turning it into community; Kat says she’s there for anything Jane needs, and Jane responds gently but firmly that this is something that neither Kat nor Sutton can help with. What she needs is people who’ve been through it. (She also acknowledges that she hasn’t dealt with her breakup with Ryan—again, it’s messy and complicated.) So we see her sitting with a bunch of teacups on a table at
The Wing The Belle, waiting for a group she’s afraid will never show up. But they do, and she begins to get the help she needs.
Sutton’s experience is far more commonplace than it might seem—not a universal experience, but a loss that affects millions of people. Jane’s is far from rare, but also much more specific—she’s a young woman with the BRCA mutation who’s opted to have preventative surgery and is now dealing with the trauma resulting from that. Kat’s is likely to be incredibly familiar to many people, and despite the fact that her loss is on a much smaller scale, The Bold Type extends her the same compassion. When her attempt to start a podcast at
The Wing The Belle leads her to seek out Alex’s podcastin’ advice, her decision to store all of her stuff runs directly up against her need for some decent microphones, and she realizes her bank account is overdrawn. A commonplace occurrence but a very stressful one, especially for someone unaccustomed to it. But when Alex suggests she sell her furniture, she says she can’t—it’s just one loss too many.
That The Bold Type allows Kat to grieve for her wobbly table and her beloved couch is really pretty remarkable. That it allows her to move through it in service of, you know, paying her rent and stuff is equally so. This storyline is particularly resonant at the moment because there are loads of people out there grieving a way of life to which we may never return. People have lost jobs. People are lonely. People who are healthy and employed and secure can still be grieving old routines, familiar faces, the luxury of going to concerts or seeing movies or having a drink at a local dive. Yes, you can grieve furniture. No, it is not on the level of having a double mastectomy or losing a pregnancy, but that does not mean it is not valid, and it certainly doesn’t mean it isn’t hard.
Three storylines about grief, none going where conventional wisdom would say they ought. Three terrific performances from Fahy, Katie Stevens, and Aisha Dee—Fahy in particular. One big message: there’s no right way to feel. One optimistic ending to all three stories: Help, in the form of a friend who’ll help you sell furniture, a community who’s been down your path, or the arms of those who love you, is out there.
- Hello! We’ve moved to drop-in coverage of The Bold Type, which typically means premiere/mid-season premiere/finale and that’s it. But sometimes we get to cover especially good or significant episodes, and that’s what this is. See you next month for the end of season four.
- Erin Ehrlich is also a terrific writer, and as good as the direction of this episode is, I sincerely hope that The Bold Type manages to snap her up for the writers’ room as well. Regardless, bring her back!
- While it doesn’t resonate as hard as the storylines of the Big Three, the Jacqueline subplot is also pretty great. Also, Melora Hardin is very good at smiling!
- This is the second review in a row in which I am firmly pro-Alex! The show has often seemed to struggle with that character, but four seasons in they seem to have figured it out.
- Look of the week: Some great options but Jacqueline’s stripey blouse with the extremely fringey epaulettes? Its only flaw is that it would be terrible over Zoom.
- This episode gets an A- and not an A because of the dearth of Oliver. Not really, but... not not really.