Netflix’s “Teenage Bounty Hunters” Is a Godsend of a Queer Romp

Warning: This post will have explicit spoilers for the first half of Teenage Bounty Hunters, though I won’t give away the whole season. I went into this show knowing someone got gay but not knowing who and I highly recommend that journey, but if you need more convincing than me telling you it’s a quirky comedy with queer teen girls, keep reading. If you’re already sold, go venture forth to Netflix and come back when you’re done so we can discuss in the comments.


With so many shows these days being retellings of the same old myths or remakes of TV shows from decades ago, it always feels like a breath of fresh air when someone gives us something brand new.

When I heard the name of Jenji Kohan’s new show Teenage Bounty Hunters, my first knee-jerk reaction was to mourn Sweet/Vicious. I was like, “Why would they bring back teen vigilantes and not be MY teen vigilantes.” But I was all of 20 seconds in and the pan of the fancy religious high school revealed a sign that said, “This school is prayer conditioned!” and I knew I was in for a totally different kind of show. And it sure is different. Brand spankin’ new.

The general premise is that twin sisters Sterling and Blair sort of… happen into the profession of bounty hunting. Blair is fast and clever and Sterling is logical and good with a gun and actual bounty hunter Bowser reluctantly takes them under his wing. They tell their parents they’re working at Bowser’s yogurt shop, when in reality they’re helping him hunt down skips and saving up money to fix their dad’s car that they crashed. They have to balance their double life as ordinary teenagers and bounty hunters, all while maintaining relationships with their parents, their friends, their love interests, and each other. The show is quick-witted and quirky and goofy but full of heart and feeling.

It seems that before the events of the show, things were pretty status quo for the Wesley girls. Blair was the rock star rebel who loved to scandalize people in her religious community by talking about sex (but never having it), and Sterling was the model student who never broke the rules. But in the first episode, Sterling takes a perfectly manicured finger and taps a domino and watches their carefully constructed world tumble around them little by little… and she kind of likes it.

Know who else she kind of likes? Her arch-nemesis April Stevens. April has a face like Gia from Full House but the energy of Mandy Moore in Saved. She is wound tight and has her own version of the Cordettes and is on a mission to take Sterling down because of an Incident in the fifth grade.

And April is not the kind of character I usually identify with (she’s stern and bossy and frankly a bit mean) but I ended up relating to her more than I would have anticipated as she started to open up to Sterling. You see, she always had…intense friendships with her female friends. In fact, Sterling thought she and April just grew apart, but April remembers the moment Sterling broke her heart at recess. But what’s adorable is, it sounds a little like Sterling was trying to make sure her best friend wasn’t sitting alone, so she introduced her to a new group of friends. April saw it as Sterling trying to pawn her off on other people, that Sterling didn’t want her around anymore.

Which is only the kind of thing you think and hold onto for years when you have a big lesbian crush on someone and don’t have the words or the tools to deal with such things because after you’re finished with your pudding cup at snack time the adults in your life tell you to pull out your book that very explicitly states that homosexuals will burn in the fiery depths of hell and you’re a good Christian girl so you hadn’t even dared consider that possibility.

teenage bounty hunters sterling april

Fight! Fight! Fight! Kiss! Kiss! Kiss!

Also one thing I love about Sterling and April as they figure out their feelings is that neither of them have really internalized the homophobia they are surrounded by. They have smartphones and the internet, they’re growing up in the era of shows like One Day at a Time, Euphoria, and The Bold Type. (I just realized I don’t actually know what teenagers these days are watching but everyone on the CW is gay so my point is, they’ve been exposed.) April is already fully aware she’s a lesbian by the time she is forced to confront her feelings for Sterling. But April isn’t ready. Not because she’s ashamed of who she is, but because she’s afraid of the backlash. They are at a Christian school in Georgia, not in Rosewood, PA; people are still have homophobic slurs comfortably woven into their vocabulary.

It’s all so well done, and between the intense female friendship conversation and a few other things I can’t mention without giving too much away, I felt like I was seeing aspects of my queer life I don’t usually get to see on screen.

sterling and april TBH

Fake it til you make it. Or out. Whatever works.

This show manages to touch down on so many of my favorite tropes (Sisters as best friends! Reluctant tough guy softened by plucky teenagers!) and flip some of my least favorite on their head (Christian girl saying “God made me gay” instead of fighting it!) and I enjoyed every moment of the ride.

But also y’all the non-gay parts of this show are WILD. They don’t shy away from conversations about race, and they touch on the conflict between being an open-minded teenager in a closed-minded Southern family. Also any and all gay feelings I had were crumbs compared to the feast of DRAMA in the last two episodes of the season. I was on the edge of my seat and I don’t get to say this enough about TV but I got GOT. And I love to get got.

And the writing is just so fun and quippy and smart. You can tell it was created by a woman (Kathleen Jordan), and that there are women in the writers’ room (and specifically queer women, like Lauren Morelli.) The sisterly chemistry between Maddie Phillipps and Anjelica Bette Fellini is so natural, and Devon Hales who plays April does so much subtle face acting it’s a delight to watch.

The finale set itself up perfectly for a second season of hijinx and I really, really hope we get it. I’ll even pray for it if I have to.

Just a TV-loving, Twitter-addicted nerd who loves reading, watching, and writing about stories. One part Kara Danvers, two parts Waverly Earp, a dash of Cosima and an extra helping of my own brand of weirdo.

Valerie has written 244 articles for us.

23 Comments

  1. I’ve been recommending this show to everyone. It’s fantastic and would still be fantastic even without the queer rep; that’s just the icing on the cake. It reminds me of Saved!, which is still one of my favorite satirical comedies.

  2. I’ve been waiting for an article on this show!!! I’ve watched it two times through already. As a proud lesbian and Christian women this is some of the most true representation for myself ever!!! I loved it from the start but the moment (you know at the end of episode 6) that Sterling realized she liked April I was LIVING!!!!! Everyone should watch this show

  3. Loved the show, I really want a second season! Sterling and April gave me a lot of Paris and Rory vibes if they were southern and queer. My heart broke a little for April, I can understand her predicament.

  4. I started watching the show and was very excited for the queer content, but honestly could not get over the realization that the U.S. still have actual bounty hunters in this day and age. #GermanLawStudentProblems

    So I guess it wasn’t for me (for weird reasons), but I can see why so many people like it!

  5. I started watching and I really enjoyed the first two or three episodes. And then I was like…. this is too straight for a Jenji Kohan show, so where’s the gay?!

    And I was sure that it was Blair who would turn out to be queer so it was really confusing when she got an actual boyfriend that seemed to be her big relationship of the season. I decided to do a little research then, so I went to the tumblr tag and saw a gifset that literally made me go WHAT. Because I was not expecting them to go that way. But it was GREAT. I loved every minute of this relationship and really Sterling’s journey, it felt real and very well written.

    There must be a season 2, they can’t just leave us like this.

    • I was also sure it would turn out queer! I actually guessed April as soon as she said “straight-straight alliance” but I was amassing evidence for Blair! She dressed down for a date and couldn’t sit right in a chair etc etc! But I love being surprised haha

  6. First time making a comment, whoo! I actually watched all of this show as well, but one thing that caught me was that as a black person I actually felt that their acknowledgment of race, an important topic in Atlanta, was skated around. They pretty much pointed at things to say, “Yeah this is a thing,” but didn’t really critically engage with it in an honest way to me. Then the way they handled Blair’s black boyfriend, Miles, was also kinda fraught for me.

    • Also a first time commenter! I am a non-Black POC from the South and I agree with this comment. I felt like because the show was set in the South, they felt it was enough to show lowkey racist things without interrogating them. Although portraying the dynamic is important, I think a tv show like this should go a step further. I enjoyed the show and am hopeful that season 2 will do more!

  7. I just finished binging this show, and I love it. *SPOILERS*

    The Sterling/April relationship in some ways followed a well-wore tragic gay plot trope, but felt entirely fresh and realistic and not like it was subjecting the viewer to gay trauma porn, like a million queer movies I could mention. I loved that when the sisters’ relationships fell apart, it’s not because their girlfriends/boyfriends were being villainous or because of manufactured drama but because all the parties involved are still confused, immature teenagers who are still learning how to navigate relationships with other people. The depiction of the unintentional trauma that the mother’s strict Christian parenting caused in the early episodes re: Sterling drinking and having sex was spot on as well.

  8. We stumbled on and binged and starting recommending to everyone before we knew there would be a queer storyline. Sterling! She is so together and proud and lovely. I wish April was ready too but I also think it’s huge for April that she can speak her truth at all – even to just herself and Sterling is huge! This show is great.

  9. The April/Sterling relationship made me feel like at least one of the writers has read a good bit of Rory/Paris fanfic. Overall I was a fan though agree that the discussion of race was superficial. I was also distracted the whole time by the fact that Blair has brown eyes and both her parents have blue. Hmm….

  10. I love this show for many reasons including the Sterling April storyline (though it was heartbreaking at the end).

    And, I want to point out the perfect example of White Liberal Feminism in the episode with the Black woman cutting off confederate statues’ heads. How Blair is like “Okay well we can arrest her but I’m not gonna cuff her myself and I’m gonna get her snacks for her ride to jail.” Yikes. I wonder if the writers would have written that episode differently had they been writing it this summer rather than last. Or had some abolitionists in the writers room.

    • I think (or at least hope) that Blair and Sterling are supposed to have somewhat problematic “white suburban liberal” blindspots, especially when it comes to privilege and race. I really hope that the show forces them to confront their privilege more seriously in later seasons and allows them to evolve and grow, but the (several) ignorant statements that they make throughout the season felt like an accurate portrayal of the limitations of “wokeness” for white kids growing up in a segregated part of town and attending a segregated school. Maybe I’m giving the show too much credit, but a second season will tell.

  11. I’m absolutely living for this show and couldn’t stop watching! The chemistry between the characters, the quick and witty dialogues, innuendo and just about everything is absolutely amazing.
    I really hope we get a second season because God knows I can’t wait to see where the Wesley twins are gonna take us!

  12. I read this, INHALED the show, and am coming back to comment. This show was absolutely wonderful and I’m so excited for more of it to be made!
    I was really intrigued by the D/s aspect of Sterling’s discovery of her sexuality. She’s not just fantasizing about a girl- she comes thinking of April yelling at her and grabbing her arms. That sort of depiction that not all queer sex is vanilla was really excellent, even though I doubt it’ll be acknowledged more explicitly as a power exchange thing.
    Also Bowser’s relationship to masculinity (as well as his name) made me very much read him as a trans man (gotta grasp for those readings somewhere).

  13. This show is a gem. It stands alone for its witty dialogue, tongue and cheek poke at southern christians, and the cool twin relation between Blair and Sterling. I love when they “twin talk”, a great effect I looked forward to each in episode. The support cast is great. I can relate to Bowser more than I would like.I didn’t see the queer relationship coming but I do love me a slow burn. It hits the bullseye. Can’t wait for Season 2.

  14. I completely loved this show. I agree it was refreshing and surprising when April didn’t freak out when Sterling kissed her. She already knew she was gay. What a modern take on what can be a tired gay panic after an impromptu kiss trope.

    I also have to say the moment that April grabs Sterling’s arm and it leads to what it leads to…perfection. Thank you for a representation of a queer relationship that isn’t completely vanilla and opens the door to sexual attraction.

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