The biggest surprise of this gay TV week was the return of Take My Wife! But that’s not all — there were plenty of queer shenanigans happening around the wide world of television and we’ve got updates on all of them!
Riverdale 214: “The Hills Have Eyes”
Written by Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya
This week’s episode of Riverdale is incredibly queer. For one, it’s pretty much an advertisement for the queer YA movie adaptation Love, Simon, and hey, I’m cool with that because I now can technically say Jennifer Garner has been on Riverdale and no one can stop me! But this week’s episode of Riverdale is also incredibly queer because it finally delivers what we have all been waiting for: canonically bisexual Cheryl Blossom.
At the top of the episode, Cheryl’s own mother tells her she has never known love. It’s a gutting moment, Penelope’s seething words bruising Cheryl. Those wounds worsen at school, when Cheryl assumes she’s invited to Veronica’s cabin with the show’s core four and Veronica tells her it’s a romantic trip for couples only. Cheryl’s loneliness has been brewing for a while on the show, and this episode brings that to a head.
So she lashes out, because that’s how she tends to deal with things — by lighting them on fire. She waits until Betty, Jughead, Archie, and Veronica are all comfortable at their weekend getaway/sexcapade and then calls up Jughead to tell him she saw Betty kiss Archie.
Toni overhears Cheryl’s mean phone call, but instead of calling her out for it, she asks her why she did it. She sees that something wrong, understands that there’s much more to this girl than her Shakespearean, quick-tongued insults and gothic-glam outfits. She attempts to comfort her, but Cheryl puts a wall up, shouting “get your Sapphic, serpent hands off of me!,” which is both one of the best Cheryl Blossom lines ever as well as seering evidence of how powerful internalized homophobia can be.
Later, Cheryl and Toni find themselves alone at the movies, and Cheryl lets her in a little more. They agree to watch Love, Simon together and get milkshakes after. For as in-your-face as the Love, Simon product placement is, it’s smart of the writers to actually have the movie play such a significant role in this narrative. Cheryl relates to the film’s protagonist and how repressing his sexuality has suffocated him. She entirely opens herself up to Toni and tells her that she used to love someone. Toni thinks she’s talking about Jason at first, but she isn’t. She’s talking about Heather, her best friend in middle school who she loved. When Cheryl’s mother thought they were getting too close, she called Cheryl a deviant and forced Cheryl and Heather apart.
Cheryl has always struggled with healthy relationship dynamics and boundaries. It’s easy to see where that stems from: Her parents straight up hate her, and her father killed her twin brother/best friend. Penelope Blossom’s hatred toward her daughter has always been a little confusing in how extreme it is. But Riverdale finally contextualizes that animosity as homophobia. Cheryl’s parents never saw her as the rightful heir to their maple kingdom because she’s queer. Penelope hated Cheryl long before Jason died, and by calling her a deviant, she planted the seed of internalized homophobia that has wrecked Cheryl’s perception of herself and ability to let herself really feel what she feels. The writing is thoughtful, and Madelaine Petsch turns in a bruising performance.
But it isn’t all doom and gloom. Riverdale strikes that delicate balance between acknowledging that coming out and embracing your sexuality can be hard and come with a lot of baggage but also not be completely tragic. Cheryl’s confession to Toni feels like a release. It’s hopeful, and I can’t wait for what comes next for Cheryl (kissing! girls! hopefully!).
Jughead voice Riverdale’s maple heiress had long surrounded herself with fire, but here Cheryl Blossom was now, drinking a strawberry milkshake next to a girl who thinks she’s sensational, the serpent’s soft touch melting her walls.
ANYWAY, some additional important things to note from this episode: During the core four’s cabin shenanigans, Veronica suggests that she should kiss Jughead in order to level the playing fields regarding the Archie/Betty kiss. Sure! Seems like solid teen logic! But then Veronica and Jughead kiss, and while Archie is pissed, Betty seems like totally into it? In fact, she kind of uses it as foreplay before having sex as Dark Betty with Jughead? She also talks about her cheerleading kiss with Veronica in a way that suggests she thinks about it all the time? I’m having a lot of feelings!
Legends of Tomorrow313: “No Country for Old Dads”
Written by Valerie Anne
This show is not messing around and I’m like 90% sure they’re setting me up to get my heart broken but I legitimately don’t care because I’m loving the ride.
We open this week’s episode with a MORNING AFTER BREAKFAST of french toast and flirting.
They get a call from the Time Bureau telling them they have to save Ray, and a visit from Wally and Rip saying they can help.
Sara is pissed that Darhk is still mucking up their lives, and Ava goes to comfort her. They do a little non-verbal communicating and it’s sweet and gentle and pure.
Then the camera pans to Rip watching like a weirdo. But to get that out of our brains let’s go back to the kiss.
The director of the Time Bureau calls and says everything is in chaos and he has to stop Alexander Hamilton from seeing the musical Hamilton, and then he gets smashed to smithereens by Grodd, making Ava Sharpe the Director, effective immediately. And as much as I love this promotion, I feel like none of them reacted strongly enough to watching someone get BEATEN TO A PULP before their very eyes. But I guess they’ve seen Some Shit™.
After they save Ray, Wally West has to decide what he wants to do next. He’s worried he won’t fit in with the Legends, but Sara assures him that not fitting in is kind of their thing, so he decides to stick around. Which I’m excited about, I like Wally West.
As she bids adieu to Ava and the newly-instated Rip, Sara tells her gal pal to call her, referring to her as Director and giving her that Sara Lance smirk that could end a nuclear winter.
Once they’re alone, Rip asks Ava about her relationship with Sara. Ava looks down the hall where Sara just disappeared and calls her special, so as soon as she steps through the time portal, Rip has Gideon delete a record of some sort, saying the very ominous phrase, “Sara can never find out the truth about Ava.” The truth about Ava! What’s the truth about Ava?! It can’t be something too horrible or Rip would have made sure Sara knew and tried to meddle in their relationship. But what if Ava had something to do with Laurel’s death? Or the original boat crash that knocked Sara off the path of the spoiled socialite life she was born into?
I don’t know, and I’m stressed about it, and I’m also stressed because things look a little stressful for Sara in the promos, and HASN’T MY BADASS BISEXUAL BB BEEN THROUGH ENOUGH?! I mean she’s DIED on MULTIPLE OCCASIONS can she just get a damn break to enjoy being a Captain/Director power couple with Ava for like A MINUTE?!?! Sorry, sorry. Sara Lance has just become extremely important to me over the years and I just want her to be HAPPY, you know? Especially since I think she’s sort of given up hope that she can have a relationship, and I actually think she’d make a really great girlfriend. Fierce, funny, loyal af. So here’s hoping these two make it work, against all odds and mysteries.
9-1-1 108: “Karma’s a Bitch”
Written by Natalie
There’s something that happens in us, when bad people — the smug and arrogant ones, in particular — fall. It’s that feeling you get every time you read about Robert Mueller securing another indictment: that those who cheated, lied and bullied their way to the top have finally — finally! — gotten their comeuppance. We take a little joy in their downfall and shout, “karma’s a bitch,” at them on their way down. Such is the case this week on 9-1-1, as every scene that Hen visits involves someone getting a lasting taste of justice for the sins they’ve committed… and justice is eked out in only a way that Ryan Murphy could imagine.
First the crew shows up to the scene of a shooting and, immediately, Hen remembers having visited once before. The show flashes back to a year earlier when the crew responded to a call from a husband whose wife hung herself on a tree in their frontyard. Chimney scales the tree, in the pouring rain, to cut her down and, when she’s freed, Hen and Bobby (Peter Krause) start compressions. It’s futile ultimately and as the husband stands there, indifferent to wife’s suicide, Hen notices scars on her arms.
Then we get another flashback! A flashback within a flashback! It’s 9-1-1: Inception Edition! We flash back to the moment where the wife’s finally had enough of being her husband’s punching bag and pulls a gun on him. He dares her to shoot and, when he moves closer, the bullet whizzes by his ear and lodges itself in the tree. He grabs the gun, pummels her again, and assures her that the only way out of their marriage is if she shoots herself. She opts to hang herself from the tree instead.
Later, the husband learns that the tree is rotted and needs to be taken down immediately. Instead of getting a professional to remove it, the husband opts to strap explosives to the tree’s trunk and ignites it with a shot from his rifle. To my surprise, his plan sorta works, but to his surprise, it works a little too well, dislodging his wife’s bullet and sending it right into his chest. He’s alive long enough to call for help but the bullet proves fatal.
Next the crew’s called to Metro Fitness, where the manager’s stroked out while lying in a tanning bed. What cruel thing has this dude done to warrant being roasted? The day before he’d left his dog, Mindy, inside a hot car and when an employee saved Mindy by destroying his window, he fired her. Hen tries to do compressions to revive him but his skin clings to her hand like slime. So, so gross. It’s the grossest thing I’ve seen on television since… well… last week’s episode of 9-1-1.
Meanwhile, Angela Bassett had this response:
OOH LORD! Thank you for making me Black! I won't EVAH need a tanning booth!! #911onFox
— Angela Bassett (@ImAngelaBassett) March 8, 2018
Same, Angela, same.
Then, we meet a dentist who decides that antagonizing a lion is a good idea. He is, predictably, very, very wrong and when the lion escapes its enclosure — because, of course it does — the dentist ends up being lunch. Does throwing a few pinecones in a lion’s direction merit being eaten alive? Well, if you’re a dentist a la Walter Palmer who spends his free time poaching lions and mounting their heads on your office wall, then, maybe so (the use of Alanis Morrisette’s “You Oughta Know” here is especially great).
But the mistake that Hen makes this week on 9-1-1 isn’t reveling in the karma being served to all these jerks, it’s that she doesn’t see herself as one of them. Recall that last week, Hen cheated on her wife, Karen, with her fresh from prison ex, Eva. She admits her sin to Athena who urges Hen to tell Karen. Hen resists but the Queen Mother of Wakanda offers some sage advice:
“Your relationship is screwed up already. You don’t cheat on a healthy relationship. What you did is just evidence of how bad it is Now, your telling Karen is your chance at fixing it,” Athena says. “It’s only when secrets are revealed that we know how good or bad a marriage is.”
There’s no resisting Angela Bassett when she’s right (or even when she’s wrong, probably) so Hen goes home to tell her wife the truth, but since Karma is a cruel and fickle bitch, Karen already knows. Eva’s suing for custody of the son she once shared with Hen because the home he’s currently being raised in is unstable…as evidenced by the fact that Hen slept with Eva. I’m not sure how that logic works, especially when you’re fresh out of prison, but this is a Ryan Murphy show, logic don’t live here.
Hen tries to explain but Karen’s not having it. She goes to pack a bag for her and Denny, but first turns to Hen and says, “I don’t know what it is that you went there looking for, but I hope you got it. And I hope it was worth it.”
Life Sentence 101: “Pilot”
Written by Heather Hogan
Life Sentence flips Nicholas Sparks on his head. Not: How would you love with only six months left to live? But: How would you live if you found out you weren’t dying? But living isn’t the only surprise Stella Abbot faces off against in the CWs new drama. Surprise, her parents have to sell their house because her dad mismanaged their money paying for Stella’s rent and romantic fairytale trip to Paris! Surprise, her sister gave up a scholarship to Columbia to stay home and help take care of her and now she’s seething with resentment! Surprise, her mom’s a bi!
Let’s linger on that revelation because it’s a shock to Stella but it’s a revelation to TV too. Not that there’s queer characters on this show; CW’s practically mandating that at this point and Riese pointed it out months ago. The amazing thing about Stella’s mom, Ida, coming out is that she does it when she’s 50 on a family drama and, unlike most of the other handful of later-in-life coming out stories we’ve seen on television over the years, she doesn’t reach right for “lesbian.” She loved her husband and had a good life with him for a long time, and then she fell in love with another woman when her husband started lying about money and cutting himself off emotionally. She doesn’t know the lingo, she only knows it’s called “coming out” so when she confesses to her family that she’s pursuing a relationship with their longtime family friend (and Stella’s godmother), she blurts out, “I’m coming out! As a bi! … Is that how you do this?”
The only hand-wringing about it comes from Stella’s dad, who insists Ida can’t realize she’s sexually fluid after five decades and then gets drunk and starts saying “scissor-sisters” over and over at family dinner.
I really loved this pilot. Lucy Hale’s talent was wasted for a hundred years on Pretty Little Liars as she was forced out of the main narrative over and over and over to have boring/toxic storylines with Ezra. You could tell by season four that they were both honestly so over it, but what were they going to do? Networks and studios mandate what they mandate. Anyway, she’s great here as Stella. She’s sweet and self-deprecating and kinda selfish in the way a person would be if they’ve been fighting cancer for six years and their family has built a kingdom of lies around them to keep them from feeling any stress or discomfort. And yeah, the show is earnest, but it’s actually quite wry. It ribs Nicholas Sparks and all the tropes that go along with True Love stories, while leaning into some of them at the same time. It made me actually laugh out loud a few times.
Shows that are happy and don’t apologize for wanting to make their audience happy always get slapped around by critics, but the world is dark and light is precious and I’m adding Life Sentence to my DVR.
The Fosters 516: “Giving Up the Ghost” and 517: “Makeover”
Written by Carmen
First, I want to apologize for slacking on my The Fosters mini recap duties last week! Let’s catch up! Let’s talk about how amazing Lena Adams Foster (my favorite Foster) was last week? Mariana told Lena that Tess threatened her about not outing her to her son. Lena looked upset, but was willing to let it go. Then Mariana and Tess’ son — maybe I should learn his name? Let’s go with “Cute Boy Next Door” for now — came over to the house for a study session that was actually a make out session. Before they could get kissing, the teens overheard Stef and Lena fighting over Tess being a lesbian, which understandably upset Cute Boy Next Door and ruined the mood.
Tess showed up at the Adams Foster home pissed and ready to yell at Stef for accidentally outing her, but Lena answered the door instead. She went full on “Mama Lion” Lena! Her face was stern, her voice was raised, her beautiful curly Afro was bouncing and swaying in the wind, it was all just perfect. Lena told Tess to stop showing up on their doorstep and ensnaring the entire Foster clan in her personal family mess! Tess went away with her tail between her legs, and Stef came downstairs to thank her wife. They decided to go away on a meditation retreat together, so look forward to that! Hopefully it won’t happen off camera!
This week nothing explicitly gay happened, but if you’re on Ximena/Callie Watch 2k18 (which many of us on Team Autostraddle definitely are), I feel it’s important to let you know that while Ximena was dealing with her parents deportation hearing — which was heartbreaking in and of itself — she found time to tell Callie that any boy who wouldn’t wait around for her wasn’t worth her time. Ximena’s exact words were, “I’d wait for you forever.” The romantic music swelled up and I thought for sure they were going to kiss, until Brandon opened up the door and broke the mood. He had good reasons ultimately, but I’m still putting him back on my “The Worst” list. Out of spite.
Once Upon A Time 411: “Secret Garden”
Written by Carmen
Once Upon A Time focused this week’s flashback on the origin of how Robin Mills, our new queer fairy tale heroine, became “Robin Hood.” It’s a really sweet love story between a mother and her daughter, and forefronted how much of a tough chick Robin really is. The story picks up with high school aged Robin practicing spells out of the Mills family spell book. She’s been forcing her friends into a weak “coven” that practices after school for hours. The problem is that Robin is only a middling witch at best. She feels a lot of self-loathing for not living up to the Mills family tree. Her mother is the Wicked Witch for crying out loud! Her aunt is the Evil Queen! Her grandmother is the Queen of Hearts! Surely she must be able to do great things! Unfortunately, it’s just not working for her. She makes the saddest puppy faces!! I wanted to give her a hug and a cookie.
Robin eventually figures out a conjuring spell, which summons Mother Gothel (the witch in Rapunzel’s fairy tale? I don’t remember her). Mother Gothel tries to kill Robin as a ceremonial sacrifice. Zelena shows up at the last moment, and offers up her life instead. Just as Zelena’s life force is being whisked out of her body — it’s relatively gruesome — an arrow shoots through the air! Robin has picked up her first bow! And her first strike was to protect her mother’s life! Mother Gothel is defeated, but not dead, and Robin gets to save the day. Later, she confesses to her mom that’s a struggle being the “Blue Ivy” to the Mills Women’s collective Beyoncé. Zelena reminds her that there’s nothing wrong with being Jay-z instead, which is a little clunky — but also one of the kindest things a mother from a family of badass femme witches could tell her teenage tomboy daughter, you know? Be your own kind of hero.
Written by Carmen
If you haven’t heard the news yet, I am sorry to be the one to tell you. On Thursday it was announced that Jessica Capshaw, our beloved human rainbow Arizona Robbins, has been let go from Grey’s Anatomy. Capshaw, along with Sarah Drew, my personal favorite G.I. Jane of a trauma surgeon, April Kepner, were both let go based on creative decisions for the future direction of the show. Season 14 will be their last. Collectively, the Autostraddle television team had a lot of feelings about this, and if you also have a lot of feelings please share them in the comments section! I’ll be in there with you! Heather and I are already planning a proper goodbye for Arizona at the end of the season, but until then I want to leave you with this statement from Capshaw:
— Jessica Capshaw (@JessicaCapshaw) March 8, 2018
Thank you for ten years and nine seasons, Jessica. You did good work out there in the world.