Queer Teevee! It’s really good this year! This week Carmen ran down her favorite gay moments of Grey’s Anatomy to celebrate the 300th episode, Valerie Anne recapped a heartbreaking episode of Supergirl, and Rachel reviewed Alias Grace. Here’s what else!
Fresh Off The Boat 406: “A League of Her Own”
Written by Heather
We’ve reached this place in queer pop culture where a lot of folks frown on Very Special Episodes about gay characters because they just want them to be there in the story doing regular stuff but also gay stuff and no one’s making a big deal about it — but I still have a soft spot in my heart for Very Special Episodes, especially coming out ones, especially coming out ones that feature teenage lesbians, especially coming out ones that feature teenage lesbians on broadcast network TV. When Nicole came out to Eddie earlier this season on Fresh Off The Boat it filled me up with such nostalgia because I was Nicole’s age at exactly the moment in the ’90s when this show is taking place, and watching her navigate Ellen’s coming out and Jodie Foster’s known-but-not-known sexuality felt familiar, but she succeeded in a way I didn’t, and that was healing to me in that time-traveling way stories work on our souls.
This week’s episode focuses fully on Nicole. She comes out once to her step-mom and Jessica at the Denim Turtle when she shows up to join the softball team and finds them there celebrating a real estate deal. The lesbians rally round and wait to see how Honey will react; when she wraps Nicole up in a hug, they blast “Come to My Window” on the juke box while Jessica tries to wrap her head around the fact that women can be gay too. (The show has had a few stereotypical gay male characters over the years, and Jessica has been mostly supportive of all of them.) Nicole says she keeps trying to come out to her dad, but she panics every time and ends up telling him stuff like she’s a Wiccan and that she needs a new tent and also a new guitar. He’s completely supportive of the fact that his daughter is “a musical witch who loves to camp,” so much so that he’s buying her all Stevie Nicks’ albums.
Jessica ends up accidentally outing Nicole but it works out just fine (closer to fine?) (I’m sorry) because her dad loves her no matter what (but is honestly pretty relieved she’s not a witch). I don’t want to spoil how the whole thing plays out because it made me clutch my heart and go “awwwwww” right out loud, even though I’ve seen every single coming out episode in TV history. It’s very cheesy and lovely. You should watch it!
The Walking Dead
Written by Stef
This week, there was this really nice gay couple who had this very sweet domestic life together and one of them was the recruiter who went around looking for people who were out on their own and brought them into their safe community and THEY KILLED HIS BOYFRIEND and then at the end they found a baby and gave it to Aaron like, “Okay, sorry bout your boyfriend, here is a baby for you.” I hope Tara dies next week.
Grey’s Anatomy 1407: “Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story”
Written by Carmen
300 EPISODES!!!!! I can’t believe we are really here! We did a bit of celebrating earlier in the week. Now we’ve arrived at the big show.
I usually save “Callbacks” for the Post-Op section of the recap, but honestly this entire episode was a callback in one way or another. There isn’t much that catapults us forward. Instead, it’s a love letter to the early years of the show.
The main case surrounds a runaway rollercoaster car (like the Shondaland logo. I see what you did there). I thought I wasn’t going to like the Cristina, George, and Izzie doppelgänger patients, and there were moments where I found them grating, but I was overall pleased with the resulting effect. Not!George has O’Malley’s big eyes and dopey smile, Not!Cristina snarks so well and cockily bosses everyone around, Not!Izzie is tooth-achingly perky.
Not!Cristina begs Meredith to pretend she’s Real!Cristina before she heads into surgery, so that Meredith will make sure she doesn’t die on the table. Not!Izzie collapses from a tumor. Alex picks her up and carries her just as he carried Real!Izzie after Denny dies. The new Grey-Sloan interns are hanging out in the hospital’s underground tunnels like our OG Seattle Grace interns did throughout the first three seasons. They even mimic some of the early dialogue! And the original credits played over the title card! I nearly screamed my head off.
Maggie, Amelia, and Arizona are each haunted by their own ghosts. Zola and her Aunt Maggie bond over having parents who’ve passed away too soon. Amelia treats a patient whose injuries are similar to those that ultimately ended Derek’s life, but Amelia thinks of Derek the entire time so she’s able to save him. Arizona is freaking out because Sofia is coming home (I. CANNOT. WAIT.!!!). It makes her think of Mark. Jessica Capshaw even treats us with a perfect imitation of Eric Dane. The final shot of Sofia and Arizona having ice cream in their kitchen as the camera zooms out, showing that infamous photo of Arizona, Mark, and Callie holding baby Sofia, now framed on Arizona’s wall, made my heart leap into my throat.
Meredith won the Harper Avery, which I think most of us saw coming. This was probably my least favorite scene of the night. I found it a little corny, but that’s okay. The heart was in the right place. And if you can’t lean into the emotional cheese during your 300th episode, then really when can you? I’ll give it a pass. Any opportunity to see Ellis Grey once again is always welcome in my book. And Cristina calls Mer at the end of the episode! Double bonus points!
If you will allow me to use this special occasion for a moment of sentimentality, the first time I saw an episode of Grey’s Anatomy it was background noise during a staff meeting in college. I thought little of it. Cristina and Meredith were running in a park. Cristina was pregnant with Burke’s baby, but she didn’t want to be. I didn’t get hooked on the show until months later, when Callie Torres’ face first flickered across my screen. I’ve watched faithfully for over a decade; I’ve seen the repeats on Netflix more times than I probably should share out loud. Grey’s Anatomy has been with me through four city changes, two jobs, and at least five apartments. It gave my life routine when I had little else available to ground me. It saw me through the depths of my depression.
When accepting an award from the Human Rights Campaign in 2015, Shonda Rhimes shared that she wrote as a child to combat her isolation and depression:
I don’t know if anyone has noticed but I only ever write about one thing: being alone. The fear of being alone, the desire to not be alone, the attempts we make to find our person, to keep our person, to convince our person to not leave us alone, the joy of being with our person and thus no longer alone, the devastation of being left alone. The need to hear the words: You are not alone…. You should get to turn on the TV and see your tribe. And your tribe can be any kind of person, any one you identify with, anyone who feels like you, who feels like home, who feels like truth. You should get to turn on the TV and see your tribe, see your people, someone like you out there, existing. So that you know on your darkest day that when you run (metaphorically or physically RUN), there is somewhere, someone, to run TO. Your tribe is waiting for you.
You are not alone.
The first time I read this speech, I was sitting by myself on a couch in an apartment I had just moved into, alone, in a city where I knew exactly no one. Hell, in a state where I knew exactly no one. I was grappling with a depression I didn’t yet have the courage to name. It felt like no one would notice or even care if I was breathing or not. I read this speech and I openly wept for at least an hour. It was another two years before I got the help I desperately needed, but this made me feel like there was better out there waiting for me. I just had to find it. For a moment, I felt less alone.
Grey’s Anatomy is probably not the best written show on television, or the trendiest, or even the most controversial. People make fun of me for still watching. But that’s okay, because Grey’s has provided me with such comfort when little else could. It was a light in my darkness. For that I will always be thankful. You have no idea how happy I am to be here and share this milestone with you.
+ Shonda Rhimes also wrote this personal reflection essay about Grey’s 300th episode. It’s definitely worth reading if you’re a fan of the show.
+ Longtime Grey’s writer and new show runner KristaVernoff summed it up better than I ever could in this tweet/ open letter to Hollywood:
Dear Hollywood :
— Krista Vernoff (@KristaVernoff) November 10, 2017
Hear, hear sister.
+ See you all next week for the fall finale!
How to Get Away With Murder 407: “Nobody Roots for Goliath”
Written by Natalie
Each season of How to Get Away With Murder has been just 15 episodes long. Usually, the show devotes the season’s first eight or nine episodes to “solving” one mystery which leads to another mystery, which gets “solved” over the remaining episodes. It’s a complicated format, one that necessitates that every episode is consequential, that every episode must move the storyline forward and be filled with those OMG moments that ABC likes to promote so much.
And yet, “Nobody Roots for Goliath” doesn’t do any of that. It’s the penultimate episode before the winter finale and, ostensibly, we’re in the same place at the end of the episode as we were when the episode started: Annalise and Connor’s civil case is moving on, Bonnie’s still bitter and the Scooby Doo Gang is still intent on avenging Wes’ death by destroying Antares.
Oh, and Tegan and Annalise are both still hot, still queer and still not helping each other overcome their long sexual droughts.
See? Exact. Same Place. But let’s recap the circuitous way we ended up there, shall we?
Annalise shows up at Isaac’s office and explains to him that she’s getting another counselor. She implies that she’s developing feelings for him — she refuses to repeat the mistakes she made with Sam — but, really, she’s heeding the advice of Isaac’s ex-wife, Jacqueline. Isaac tries to persuade Annalise not to give up on the progress they’ve made.
“You’re gonna have a relapse, Annalise. If you walk out of here, that’s what’s going to happen. You’re gonna drink,” he says, just before he brushes past him. Jacqueline believes that her ex-husband is using again, but given his disproportionate response to Annalise’s departure, I wonder he’s addicted to her and the pain that comes from being triggered.
Afterwards, Annalise heads to court for the certification hearing for her class action lawsuit. The governor’s sent the Attorney General to represent the state’s interest and he’s brought a team of associates to squash the case before it starts. He challenges Annalise, first, on having an insufficient number of plaintiffs but is rebuffed when Annalise reveals that, thanks to the media stunt last week, she now has 79 plaintiffs.
The Attorney General goes on to challenging Annalise directly: her history of alcoholism makes her a bad choice to represent those 79 plaintiffs. When Annalise produces documentation of her sobriety, the AG responds with a picture, taken just two days ago, of Annalise with a bottle of scotch in her hand. Annalise tries to defend herself — she was just removing a bottle left on her car — but she knows the image is damning.
As she is wont to do, Annalise comes up with a quick plan to prove that the image was staged. She meets with Denver and they put aside their many differences to unite against a common, enemy: the sitting Attorney General. Any loss for the AG is a boost to Denver’s political aspirations so he selects a patsy to take the fall for staging the photo.
That night, when Annalise is in the shower, she hears someone break into her hotel room. She climbs out of the bath, puts on a robe, grabs a gun from the vanity and goes to investigate the disturbance. She checks under the bed first — a nice callback to when Phillip Jessup grabbed her in Season Three — and then in her closet. She makes her way towards the kitchen and discovers that whoever was in her apartment didn’t take anything but left her a gift: a fifth of vodka.
We’re supposed to believe that Bonnie did this — after all, she tells Nate that she knows the photo wasn’t legit because Annalise drinks vodka, not scotch — but, honestly, it feels a little too understated for Bonnie. Annalise suspects it was someone in the AG’s office but my money is on Nate, who, ironically, she runs to to escape the temptation of that vodka bottle. He’s still got someone that he wants to be part of Annalise’s class action suit but he won’t tell her who until she proves herself. This seems like a test from him and Annalise passes it with flying colors.
The AG’s not giving up on his effort to discredit Annalise yet. Thanks to a tip from Bonnie, he calls Isaac to the stand to salvage his attack. For weeks now, Isaac’s been questioning the wisdom of Annalise taking on this civil action, claiming that it presents a threat to her sobriety, but when the AG asks him that very question, he lies.
“Ms. Keating has demonstrated nothing but a complete commitment to her sobriety. And I have total confidence in her,” Dr. Roa testifies. So, now, on top of the mountain of professional ethics violations, we can add perjury to the list of things that Isaac has done to keep Annalise close.
In the end, the judge certifies the class action, giving Annalise a huge win and she eagerly shares the spotlight with Connor, something she rarely did with the original Keating 5. Our girl’s growing, y’all.
She leaves Connor to deal with the press and heads to Isaac’s office to find out why he perjured himself for her. He defends his actions, claiming losing the hearing was a greater danger to her sobriety than being a part of the class action, which is probably true, but Annalise is still skeptical. She asks if he’s using again and he flatly denies it and wonders if that’s why she left him. He sounds less like a counselor and more like a jilted lover.
For most of her life, Annalise has been convinced that she hurts people. She fell in love with Sam, in part, because he persuaded her that she was wrong. But the deaths of her child, Sam and Wes have forced a regression and she’s back to believing that she’s responsible for other people’s pain, including Isaac’s.
Annalise asks if she’s triggering him and Isaac lies (again) and says no. He asks who told her otherwise and she resists. He pushes, asking if it’s Bonnie, and, while taken aback by his mention of her former right-hand, she doesn’t ask how he knows Bonnie was trying to hurt her, which seems a bit out-character for Annalise to be honest. Instead, she reveals that it was his ex-wife.
Meanwhile, Michaela’s trying to get back in Asher’s good graces but, at least initially, she seems much more concerned about him keeping the Scooby Doo Gang’s secret than actually repairing their relationship.
“Everything bad that happens to us happens because some of us get our rocks off by keeping secrets. Therefore, in conclusion, I’ve decided no more secrets,” Asher explains. It might be the smartest thing he’s ever said on this show, but it’s immediately followed by the dumbest prescription ever: they have to tell Frank and he’ll be the adult who talks them out of this stupid plan.
Michaela and Laurel give into Asher’s demands and, for a moment, Frank does appear to be the adult in the room. He urges them to give up on this joke of a plan, but Laurel refuses. Asher sides with Frank, telling Laurel that going forward with this ridiculous plan will put everyone at risk. Laurel’s undettered, reminding Frank that he’s done far worse, and all she’s trying to do is put her father away for his actual crimes. Eventually, both Frank and Asher pledge their fidelity to the Scooby Doo Gang and their plan to take down Anteras…for Wes.
Frank wants to devise a plan where no one gets hurt or arrested but, really, he only means a plan where they don’t get hurt or arrested. Oliver meekly suggests that they still take Tegan’s card to access the server room, but that they pin the stolen card on Simon, the obnoxious fellow Caplan & Gold intern, whose computer Oliver just got access too. The gang seems perfectly amenable to framing Simon since he’s a jerk and, given his attack on Annalise last season (remember the posters?), he’s probably a good patsy. That said, I find myself annoyed that they reveal that Simon’s a DACA recipient. Instead, the show’s name-checking DACA to create some sympathy for this otherwise unlikeable character and it feels crass.
Once Oliver gets home from plotting, he finds his boyfriend camped out in a makeshift tent in their living room.
“You let me be me, but you make me a better version of me. And I never thought that I could be this guy,” Connor says, gifting Oliver a twisty tie ring. “I don’t want to wait anymore. I want you. Marry me, Oliver Hampton. Marry me so I can spend the rest of my life trying to make you as happy as you make me.”
Connor is happy for the first time in a long time. He has a job that fulfills him, he’s reconnected with his sister and he has this awesome man who loves him. He’s happy but happiness does not live on this show…and so Oliver has to reject his proposal and reveal the secret that he and the Scooby Doo Gang have been keeping.
American Horror Story: Cult 710: “Charles (Manson) in Charge”
Written by Riese
Wow okay so! I’d like to start with an io9 headline for an article I didn’t read (Because critical purity) but despite that really enjoyed the headline: “American Horror Story: Cult Finally Revealed its Villain’s Ridiculous Motivation.” That sounds about right, I think. But also — I’m in the middle of a somewhat hectic move right now, so forgive me for this recap being especially scattered, brief, and perhaps NOT EVEN FUNNY. But you know what else isn’t funny? Men who mistreat women! Yah!
We open with a flashback to Winter and her Very White Feminist friends giddily watching the last Presidential debate, waxing about Hillary’s election being more important than Obama’s while Kai chomps at the bit/4Chan. There’s a moment of genuine insight, here, when Kai responds to their Hillary-centric celebrations to inform them they’ve got no idea what America’s really like right now, ’cause our “precious Obummer has shielded you from seeing what’s real out there.” Yup. What Kai was tuned into was bigger than so many of us knew, especially the White Feminists.
“Nobody is turning out for that bitch,” he snarls. The ensuing spat leads Kai to slap Winter’s friend’s face, thus landing him in Anger Management, where he meets his counselor Bebe, who describes herself as an “OG Feminist” and Valerie Solanas’ last hope. But she’s also a huge fan of Donald J. Trump, my friends! What a twist! And why might that be? Because he has reminded women that they are mad. Because every catcall, putdown and pass-over at work has been building inside human females, becoming “the biggest bomb the universe has ever seen.” This bomb is FEMALE RAGE and Donald J. Trump is lighting it.
“With every tweet, with every eye roll, every pussy grab he is slowly releasing the fury,” she delights. And Kai, she thinks, has the charisma and anger required to lead this revolution, to be The Man to REALLY piss women off and thus instigate the scientifically unsound FEMALE RAGE WILL SAVE THE WORLD theory.
It’s bizarre and Kai’s character here is kinda inconsistent with other flashbacks, but it was also, you know, an interesting monologue to hear this week. A tip of the hat to you, Bebe, I wish you hadn’t killed so many people with knives back in the day.
First, Kai must admit he’s a turd, as all men are, and then he must agree to Bebe’s declaration that he has “but one purpose, to release the feminine rage and to use all your skills and passion and vision to break that dam to pieces.”
Any OG Feminist — hell, any woman at all — would know better than to give a man copious levels of power and expect him to use that power to help women. I MEAN.
But Kai’s not just drunk on power. He is — as Winter points out repeatedly throughout an episode where she battles for her brother’s soul before eventually being murdered by him while he sobs (Buried Gay #2) — also going legitimately psychotic from regularly downing handfuls of amphetamines and foregoing sleep, because he can sleep when he’s dead, like Nas. But his drug addiction isn’t woven in to any larger themes, or to his relationships with his Merry Band of Long John Silvers or any other characters. It’s his own thing, connected to nothing, and thus ultimately too lazy and empty to qualify as true character development. As a motivation, we learn nothing, and see nothing; from it.
There’s a rally this episode too, chock-full of prescient Nazis chanting nonsense while the liberals known within this program as the “Woke Warriors” protest on the grassy knoll, eventually leading to a violent brawl. Kai’s pleased to have incited violence on both sides (ugh), but this big strong man with all his ideas and anger becomes a baby the moment he’s faced with the specific pain of pepper spray in the eyeballs. He’s cradled by his homoerotic army, who spill milk over his face, splashing down his skin in slow-motion. It’s symbolism, get it?
There’s also the senseless brutal murder of Chaz Bono in a Planned Parenthood After Hours by Kai & The Killer Klowns. They leave Chaz Bono’s bloody body on the steps outside the clinic, seemingly to frame pro-choice activists as murderers of grown men. Small step from the wisp of a fetus to the carcass of a human, I guess. Big step for Kai, though, killing one of his most loyal followers like that.
“Women need to be grabbed by their pussies and led to the kitchen, preferably to make me a sandwich,” Kai says at some point. I think it was Kai. It’s in my notes but I can’t figure out when it happened. I just wanted to be sure to include it here.
Winter senses that Kai’s out of control, and thus she tries to send Beverly to Montana with a train ticket — but lacking Winter’s sense of privilege and entitlement, Beverly plays it safe and stays put, fearing a return to solitary confinement if Kai catches her before she can flee. Beverly’s lost everything too, now, but her unraveling is like a decomposition, like being beaten down again and again, while Kai’s is manic and Ally’s is cool and calculating and Winter’s is tentative and sometimes just mirroring.
Winter insists to Kai that she’s gotta hit the road, jack, if she’s ever gonna come back. “I need to leave you now so I can be there for you later,” basically. Kai lets her think he’s cool with that just long enough, then reveals he knows about the ticket she bought Beverly. Furthermore, he’s certain Winter’s the mole leaking info about their cult to the press. (She isn’t.) This is why he kills her.
Throughout, Kai’s haunted by the ghost of Charles Manson, egging him on. We’re also subjected to a re-enactment of the Sharon Tate murders in which Sarah Paulson shines but I had to look away.
Ally, meanwhile, is still terrible but also single-minded and calm. Everything’s about Oz now, although also, where the fuck is Oz? Maybe he’s babysitting Angelica. Winter tells Ally she really loved Ivy, and doesn’t think she’d leave Winter without saying goodbye and knowing her brother that could mean he killed her you know? And also she’s sorry she let things “go so out of control.” Ally tells Winter that she’s still outraged that Winter used Ivy to drive her nuts and wonders if Winter is capable of really taking responsibility for anything, ever. Eventually, Ally looks her dead in the eye: “If something did happen to Ivy, what makes you think it was Kai?”
Bebe shows up to castrate Kai for abandoning her cause, yelling, “It wasn’t complicated. Two steps. A to B. Unleash female rage. Incite the american woman’s desperate and patriarchally contained anger. Give them no choice but to cut up every man they see.” Kai retorts that he was never gonna be a martyr for “some dead bitch’s cause.” Bebe, enraged and full of the ghost of Valerie Solanas, is about to shoot him dead when Ally shows up behind her and shoots her dead instead. (Buried Gay #3). She’s proving her loyalty to Kai, I guess, because of Oz, I guess, but it’s still hard to stomach.
Ally’s transformation from hyper-paranoid uptight white liberal Jill Stein voter to no-fucks-to-give, cool-and-calculated lesbian avenger is absolutely the story’s most intriguing character development — and Sarah Paulson is magnetic, deft and clean — how we reclaim a feeling of control over our lives by lying to our abusers, making deliberate uncharacteristic moves to elicit delighted surprise, just as we knew we could. It’s barely something, but it is something.
I want Ally to be the last woman standing because I loved Lana Winters as the last woman standing, to have a lesbian be the one who lives when the rest of them die. I’m curious how all this will wrap up. But I’m not sure it ever really held itself together, although it gave some incredible actors a lot of challenging and fun work to do, so, there’s that.
Shameless Episode 801: “We Become What We… Frank!”
Written by Riese
I fell in love with this show between seasons, I guess — I started watching it with my ex in 2016 and finished up at the top of ’17, and it’s one of my favorites of all time now. It’s never been noted for its exalted treatment queer female characters but it’s also pretty equal opportunity in that regard, kinda like Skins was before its final series. Everybody’s a little gritty, you know? Season Eight’s bringing us a new lesbian of color, Nessa, played by Jessica Szohr, who lives in the building Fiona just bought. She’s handy with a hammer and also a marijuana joint and also she’s an accountant who loves bitchy women who’re mean to her. Also, Vanessa got Svetlana thrown in jail, which is not what i wanted, I wanted them to see each other and not be able to resist doing the horizontal mambo on the pool table one last time. For more on Vanessa & Svetlana, read Erin’s bit in this roundtable. Also, Ian’s trying to get back with his trans ex-boyfriend, played by Elliot Fletcher, a talented young man who has also played “somebody’s first trans partner” in The Fosters and Faking It. Also, Nessa and her girlfriend are showing up in a lot of press pics. Svetlana is in all the cast pics so she’s gotta get out of jail right? I need her. I won’t be recapping but will likely write something up at the end of the season.
The Girlfriend Experience 201: “Leverage”
Written by Riese
Season Two of Starz’ The Girlfriend Experience includes two shows, which will air concurrently and have nothing to do with each other. One of them, Erica & Anna, will follow an escort, Anna Greenwald (Louisa Krause), who ends up getting into a messed up lesbian relationship with Erica Myles (Anna Friel), a high-powered political consultant, after leaking info to them obtained from one of her clients, who she hates ’cause he’s a misogynist asshole. The first episode, which involved a lot of subdued wide angles, men talking about lobbyists like House of Cards style, and heterosexual sexual activities that made me feel weird about watching it on my iPad at the gym, showed Erica trying to get her ex-girlfriend to stay for a drink instead of leaving her key and telling Erica to get out of her life. I will be so very surprised if anybody besides me even watches this show because I will watch anything about sex work! Season One was critically acclaimed but Season Two has gotten bad reviews, ymmv! I may or may not ever talk about it again, who knows!