Hi, this is TV Team Editor Heather Hogan! I’m gonna run down our weekly list of TV and Film posts in just a second, but before I do, two thank yous.
Number one, from the deepest place in my heart, thank you to Autostraddle’s TV Team for being the best in the business! These queers have completely changed the shape of TV and Film criticism over the years. They work impossibly hard, all the time, to try to cover every single gay thing happening in the world of entertainment, and every single one of them puts their whole heart into everything they write. They’re brilliant, compassionate, hilarious, sometimes rightfully furious writers whose powers, combined, have created the thing that I am proudest of in my entire life. I am so grateful to work with them to make sure TV and movies are doing right by our community, to keep y’all entertained, and to provide a safe place for all of us to discuss our stories.
Number two, you! Our TV Team thanks all of you for, once again, going on this wild ride with us for another year. Thank you for reading, thank you for commenting, thank you for sharing on social media, thank you for the hot tips, thank you for the occasional corrections, thank you for your donations and A+ memberships that keep this queer indie dream running, and thank you most of all for loving stories as much as we do, and believing in their potential to change the world.
This week, Heather recapped Che turning Miranda gay on And Just Like That. Valerie Anne wrote a love letter to the final season of Dickinson. Riese unleashed our list of honorable mention TV series that we loved in 2021. Kayla recapped another topsy-turvy episode of Yellowjackets. And Valerie Anne heard your pleas and wrote about Arcane!
Happy New Year, friends!
Notes from the TV Team
+ After more than a year away, Vanessa Woodfield is back in Emmerdale! I was surprised how quickly Emmerdale stirred up the drama: Vanessa arrives just in time to hear her ex, Charity, declare her love for someone else, only to later hear Charity admit that her current love doesn’t compare to what they had (!!). I was disappointed that Vanessa’s new relationship ended so quickly…I would’ve enjoyed watching a jealous Charity stomp around the Dales. — Natalie
Hightown 210: “Fool Me Twice”
Written by Natalie
I nearly added Hightown to my list of LGBT TV I loved in 2021. I wanted to tout the series’ improvement from its middling first season and swoon over Jackie Quiñones a little more. I had it all written out and was ready to add it to my honorable mentions. But then I saw this episode…and I immediately tossed what I’d written into the trash. Whatever goodwill Hightown had earned over its first nine episodes was squandered in its tenth.
What could’ve happened to make my entire view of Hightown‘s second season change? Oh, let me tell you.
Not wanting to take the heat for bodies that weren’t his, Frankie’s henchman immediately fingers his boss in Daisy’s murder, even telling Alan and Jackie where the execution went down. Jackie — who had has been wracked with guilt about Daisy’s death since she first suspected it — doesn’t show an ounce of sadness; instead, she boasts about finally taking down Frankie Cuevas in front of a wall stained with Daisy’s blood. In hindsight, that out-of-character moment should’ve been a warning sign about how the rest of this episode was going to go.
Jackie’s success brings Leslie back around: she invites Jackie out for dinner and drinks to celebrate. Over dinner, Leslie admits that Jackie was right: she was scared and that’s why she ended things with Jackie so abruptly. She claims that having this gay epiphany — at 35, after years of compulsory heterosexuality — freaked her out. Do I believe Leslie? Not even a little bit. Am I surprised when they hook up again after dinner? Again, not even a little bit, especially after Jackie’s run-in with her counselor from rehab. The counselor attributing Jackie’s success to working the program — the one thing Jackie definitely is not doing successfully — makes Jackie feel like a fraud and she wants the affirmation that a warm body can provide.
At work, Jackie and Leslie are assigned to transfer Charmaine to the women’s prison. Leslie’s reluctant but their sergeant insists that they use the trip to try and convince Charmaine to implicate Frankie in the narcotics bust. That order turns out to be the last one Alan gives, as Ray’s re-instatement forces him off the task force and over to homicide. Ray invites Jackie to be part of his task force to uncover Charmaine’s New York connect but things between him and Leslie remain frosty. Because Leslie only cares about Jackie insomuch as Jackie can boost her career — and Jackie’s a way to ingratiate herself to Ray — she steps up the seduction and Leslie and Jackie fall into bed together.
Back on the job, Jackie and Leslie play good cop, bad cop to try to get Charmaine to talk about Frankie or the New York connect. While Charmaine appears intimidated by the prospect of prison time, she doesn’t offer any information. But then Charmaine’s period comes on and she offers to give a statement in exchange for a tampon. Leslie insists that they not stop but Jackie suggests stopping alongside the road. Predictably, when Jackie undoes Charmaine’s cuffs, she escapes, dashing into the woods and across the highway. Equally predictable? When Jackie and Leslie return to the precinct and their lieutenant threatens an investigation, Leslie blames everything on Jackie and asks for a new partner in an effort to save her job.
The whole mess sends Jackie into yet another spiral. She drinks at Ed’s retirement party (apparently) and, later, calls Ray seeking advice on how to fix the mess she’s made. He offers to come to her but she declines so, instead, Ray tells her to go home and go inside. He assures her that everything’s going to be alright and she should just go inside. But little does he know that Jackie is currently outside Petey’s house, the drug dealer who wanted to trade drugs for sex with Jackie a few episodes ago. She takes Ray’s advice and goes inside.
What a frustrating hour of television.
I don’t mind that Jackie’s ending isn’t a happy one or that Jackie and Leslie don’t end the episode together. As Maya Angelou said, “when someone shows you who they are, believe them” and Leslie has shown herself to be an opportunist. I mind that Jackie — the cop that took down Frankie Cuevas! — isn’t the least bit skeptical about Leslie’s intentions.
I don’t mind that Jackie relapses, again. I mind that Hightown can’t think of anything else to do with this character. I mind that, in two seasons, Jackie’s still the same person she was when we met her, while everyone around her gets to evolve. I mind that Jackie’s addiction gets rehashed, ad nauseum, while Ray’s depression and near suicide have been magically cured by Renee’s return. I mind that Jackie knows and has successfully scored drugs from lots of folks in P-town and yet ends up on Petey’s doorstep. I mind that the show’s lesbian character is reduced to trading drugs for sex with a pervy old man, despite the fact that there’s been no indication that Jackie’s broke.
The episode was cheap, gratuitous and gross. Jackie and Hightown fans deserve better.
Claws 403-404: “Chapter Three: Ambition” and “Chapter Four: Loyalty”
Written by Natalie
Desna Sims likes to wear a necklace with a BOSS emblem in the middle…and this season on Claws, she’s doing everything she can to secure her boss status. But this time, Desna’s not letting anyone steal her dream out from under her — or burn it all down, as it were — so she’s asserting as much control as she can over her future, no matter how many people she alienates.
After Uncle Daddy and Not-So-Quiet Ann sabotaged her outing at the country club, Desna’s looking for a new way to get her product out to the masses. She discovers Lusty Souls, a multi-level marketing company that sells adult products (a la Pure Romance), and sets up a party to learn more about how the pyramid scheme works. Once she hears all the details — most notably the fact that the founder turned a $100k loan into a $30M empire in just five years — Desna is sold: she adapts Lusty Souls’ business model for her burgeoning pill business.
Putting up everything they own as collateral, Desna and Jenn secure a $100k predatory small business loan to fund their expansion. They recruit a handful of “Claws Up Consultants” to hosts salon parties and sell nail supplies, hand creams and polish bottles filled with oxy. While I appreciate the ingenuity, I worry about bringing all these new people into the fold — selling vibrators is one thing, selling illegal drugs is another — and my concern proves warranted. Soon after starting their business, Desna’s forced to resuscitate someone who overdosed as a “Claws Up” party while Jenn’s forced to lean — hard, per Desna’s insistence — on a client whose abusive husband keeps stealing the money her parties generate.
Desna pushes too hard to get their money back and alienates the client (who goes back to her abusive husband) and her best friend. Jenn laments, “You’re right always. Huh? Ain’t nothing new here. And don’t you dare tell me how much we have riding on this, because I know. And if you don’t let go, you’re gonna end up holding a steaming bag of shit by your damn self.” Later, Desna reminds Jenn that she can’t survive in this game trying to be everyone’s friend. She can be a friend or she can be a gangster but she can’t be both.
Meanwhile, Ann has found a home within Uncle Daddy’s organization and is filling Roller’s shoes as Uncle Daddy’s right hand, much to Bryce’s chagrin. To prove himself, Bryce tries to secure a buyer for the fentanyl patches he brought in but he ends up selling them all to a doomsday cult. Worried that the patches will trace back to them, Uncle Daddy, Ann and Bryce make their way back out to the commune but they’re too late: they have to pluck the patches off the cult’s dead bodies. The mishap pushes Uncle Daddy to reduce Bryce’s responsibilities until he and Ann can teach him “how to be a real business man.”
Ann knows what Desna and Bryce don’t: when you really need something done, when you need some people you can trust, you call in the lesbians. She recruits her old prison softball team to serve as their new corner boys. The team’s former infielder, Cherry, wants a bit more from Ann than to be selling patches, though…but Ann’s reluctant to hook up with anyone so soon after Arlene’s death. One of the most unexpected parts of Claws‘ new season is the friendship building between Uncle Daddy and Ann and, learning from the loss he’s experienced, Uncle Daddy pushes her (and himself) to get back out there and find someone to be with.
“Come on now, Arlene wouldn’t want you to be all alone, hurting and celibate like some drug-dealing nun,” Uncle Daddy says. “I know that Toby and Brenda wouldn’t wish that for me.”
Ann takes Uncle Daddy’s advice and flirts while playing pool. Just as they’re about to kiss, though, Desna storms in and interrupts. She accuses Ann of stealing her pills and selling them under her own label but Ann insists that she had nothing to do with it. They trade barbs — Ann calls Desna controlling, Desna accuses her Ann of being jealous — and nearly come to blows but Jenn steps between them. Though still suspicious of Ann’s involvement, Desna leaves to deal with an attempted break-in at the salon.
Alone, Ann questions Jenn about their friendship: Jenn insists that they’re really friends but her partnership with Desna makes it complicated. She reminds Ann that she’s not innocent in this — she stole from them — but, for Ann, that just clarifies with whom Jenn’s allegiances truly lie. Later, Ann decides there’s too much going on in her life right now to involve Cherry in it. She puts the kibosh on their flirtation and promises to keep their relationship strictly professional.
Back at the salon, Desna discovers that the break-in was orchestrated by Bambi, one of her Claws Up consultants. Desna, Virginia and Jenn meet up and confront Bambi at her husband’s auto shop. She tries to apologize but Desna isn’t having it and insists on a more severe punishment. But as things are wont to do in Palmetto, everything goes awry and poor Bambi ends up dead.