Shondaland Is The New Narnia: Annalise Keating Is Bisexual, Grey’s Anatomy Returns With a Very Special Lesbian Episode

However high your hopes were for queer women on TV this fall, they were not high enough. Let me help you adjust them. Climb up onto this box, and now up onto this ladder, and now onto the top of this building, and get in this helicopter and ride up into the sky and board that high altitude jet through the trap door, and strap yourself into the extraction rocket, and shoot yourself out space. Okay, now your hopes are high enough.

Last night, Shonda Rhimes’ TGIT line-up — Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal, and How to Get Away With Murder — returned to ABC, and brought with it six lesbian and bisexual characters (one black woman, one Latina woman, two white women, and a pair of heartbreaking teenagers). It also featured nearly a dozen female empowerment narratives and, as usual, made the Bechdel Test look like asking a calculus professor to count to ten. That last thing isn’t surprising. ABC and Disney finally gave in this year and decided to market TGIT for exactly what it is: The most diverse, female-driven night of television in history.

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The extensive queerness, though? Well, that was a delightful shock!


Grey’s Anatomy

McDreamy who? The season 12 premiere of Grey’s Anatomy makes nary a mention of Derek Shepherd. Instead, it focuses on Bailey fighting for the job of Chief, rightfully getting the job, and smiling out onto the hospital while Mr. Bailey stands behind her saying, “Behold, everything the light touches is yours!” It focuses on Arizona returning to her full Arizona-ness and realizing she’s some kind of mythical legend among the interns; most of them think she’s immortal (and some of them think she’s faking being an amputee for the parking space). It focuses on Amelia and Maggie and Meredith tag-teaming to tear down a literal and metaphorical wall in their house/lives.

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Pinned ya!

Mostly, though, “Sledgehammer” focuses on Callie and two teenage lesbians who hurled themselves in front of a train.

When the teenagers arrive in separate ambulances, Callie notices right away that they have the same hearts drawn onto their arms. So, when Callie begins working on Jess, the one who is conscious, she strokes her hair out of her face and says, “Jess, I’m going to tell you something personal about myself, okay? I like men, romantically sometimes, and I like women, too. It’s a big, big part of my life. Can I ask you something personal about yourself? Do you like girls? Do you like Alia?” The look of relief on Jess’ face when Callie tells her she’s bi is so real and so wonderful. She tells Callie that she doesn’t just like Alia; she loves her.

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Don’t model your life after Jenny Schecter. There’s a better way.

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Who’s Jenny Schecter?

Callie: What were you two doing out there?
Jess: It’s not that we wanted to die; it’s just that this was the only way we could stay together, forever.
Callie: No, Jess. No, there are so many other ways. Killing yourself solves nothing.
Jess: My parents are sending me away to a camp. They come and get you in the middle of the night and they take you to this place. They change you. They’re going to make me change my mind about Alia.
Alex: No, they won’t. There’s no way. Those places don’t work. They never work.
Jess: Please don’t call them. Please, you can’t call my parents. Please promise me you won’t call them.

Of course her parents have already been called and they’re a real piece of work. Her mom is a nightmare, accosting Alia’s dad when she overhears him talking to Meredith about how his daughter is there because she got hit by a train, and accusing Alia of preying on and contaminating Jess with her lesbianism. “You keep your damn daughter away from our little girl,” is a thing she spits into Alia’s dad’s face. And: “They think they’re in love. With each other. They want to grow up and get married!”

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Big mistake. Big. Huge. Well, I have to go do surgery now.

It pushes Callie right over the edge, hearing this mom talk like that. She is halfway up the stairs to prep Jess for surgery, but she whips around and stomps back and tells the mom a thing or two about how sending your kid to conversion camp is child abuse, that it’s torture, and that her horrific homophobia is the reason her daughter literally stepped in front of a train. The mom just screams at Callie then, like she’s the maid or something and this mom is some kind of Upper East Side WASPmonster.

It’s not smart. Nobody picks on Callie Torres.

While Callie is getting Jess ready for surgery, they talk about her relationship with Alia.

Jess: You know, Alia and I, we like to pass notes at school, the kind you fold in a million different ways. I kept them, every single one, in a box under my bed, so I could reread them when I had bad days.
Callie: Bad days?
Jess: Sometimes kids at school, well … people suck, you know? They like to tease us. Throw things. The other day I came home and my mom was in my room. She found my box of notes; she burned them in the fireplace.

During the operation, Alex and Callie talk about how they were bullied when they were teenagers, but they flipped it around and decided they only way to win was to fight back. “I didn’t look like the other girls, I didn’t act like them. I’ll tell you what, though, once you punch your first bully, the rest fall in line pretty quickly,” Callie says.

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JK Rowling obviously loves Gryffindors the best, I’m sorry.

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Well then why did she just tweet and say it’s the dawn of the Age of Hufflepuff?

Maggie, though, had a different experience with bullying. She tells Alex and Callie:

People like you used to call me little maggot, because I was younger than you and smarter, and because of my lisp. They had a field day with my lisp. Little Maggot Pierce. It wasn’t cute when I was begging not to be pantsed in the middle of the quad. Really think about that, my pants were literally pulled off of me in front of other people. Or when I was screaming for help in the janitor’s closet until the police found me the next morning because I was locked inside. Bullies bully because they can, or maybe because they get bullied at home, but people like me, and like this girl on our table, are alone and small and vulnerable. And pushing us around makes you feel better about your sad, pathetic little lives.

It’s a Very Special moment, but it’s a good one. It’s real and the emotional punch lands right in your heart’s eyeball.

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I just found out the interns think I’m a vampire from the dawn of time!

Ultimately, though, Maggie finds her fire and ends up slugging Jess’ mom right in the face. Callie calls Child Protective Services, which sets off the mom in a brand new way. This lady already assumed Maggie wasn’t a doctor because she’s black, and then she launches in on another homophobic tirade, and Maggie just wallops her! When Callie is bandaging Maggie up, she explains how to make a fist so you don’t break your thumb, for the next time Maggie gets into a fisticuffs with a bigot, and Arizona rushes in grinning with glee, talking about, “Is it true?! Did Callie punch a homophobe??” She tries to high five Maggie, but Maggie feels too guilty to celebrate. Everyone else high fives, though.

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And that’s how you get Apple Music off your iPhone.

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Thank you.

Jess’ dad bonds with Alia’s dad over how much they love their daughters and how much they don’t give a damn if they’re gay, as long as they’re alive. Jess’ mom doesn’t agree, and finally her husband comes unglued on her: “I don’t care if she’s gay! I care if she’s happy! I care if she’s loved! And that’s what you should care about! What is wrong with you that you don’t?” Jess overhears him yelling, and she knows it’s going to be okay.

At the end of the day, Alia makes it through surgery. Her dad comes to see her and he has a note; it’s from Jess.

“Dear my beautiful Alia,” he reads, and then he smiles at his lesbian daughter. “Oh,” he says, “I like her already.”

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Jess asked me to read you this Sparia fan fiction she wrote for you.

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Welcome back, early days Grey’s!


How to Get Away With Murder

Annalise Keating is bisexual! This is not a drill! I repeat, Viola Davis just became the first black woman to win an Emmy for Best Actress in a Drama for a character who has now revealed herself as bisexual! HOLY CATS, Y’ALL!

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Let’s take it slow, I exploded Wolverine last time I did this.

The plot of this show is way too intricate and topsy-turvy for me to try to explain the central mystery (and subsequent zillion cover-ups and double-crossings) to you in a comprehensible way, so for brevity’s sake, let me just tell you that Annalise used to have a boring ass husband who was also an asshole who slept with students, and now he is dead. Before him, though, Annalise had a girlfriend! A law school lover! Her name was Eve and she looked like Famke Jansen. Eve returns to Annalise in the season two premiere because Annalise slyly convinces the guy she was sleeping with (and then set up to take the fall for her husband’s murder) to hire her as his defense attorney (because she wants him to be exonerated). (I told you it was complicated!)

At first, Annalise just takes a bite of a literal apple in Eve’s presence and Eve refuses to defend Nate, but then Annalise goes to Eve’s house in the middle of the night, crying about how she ruins everyone, and Eve confesses she’s been thinking about Annalise every single day since college. And so Annalise takes a bite of her metaphorical apple! They make out, do some scissoring, and Eve agrees that she’ll defend Nate after all — which means, among other things, that she’s going to be around a lot this season and probably smooching on Annalise some more.

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Let’s get Gal Pal shirts and wear them to court!

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Let’s finger-bang first; the Autostraddle store is open 24 hours a day!

I’ve always thought Bonnie was in love with Annalise. Now I think it more than ever.


Do you think Shonda Rhimes has a Time-Turner? I’m asking because how else could she do so much? And I don’t simply mean “so much” as in “make so many TV shows.” Obviously, that’s remarkable. I mean “so much” as in: How does she tirelessly, repeatedly shatter every boundary most showrunners in Hollywood wouldn’t touch with a 39-and-a-half foot pole? Fuck your token person of color. Fuck your token queer woman. Fuck the subtext. Fuck the tropes. And fuck the idea that Strong Female Characters are the unicorns of televisual Narnia. Shonda Rhimes writes Real Women. They’re not superhuman. They’re strong in the broken places.

Last night changed the way I’m going to think about TV from now on. I am 100 percent officially done forever with eating the scraps networks drops on the floor and try to pass off as acceptable meals. The most anticipated premiere night on broadcast crushed everyone in ratings, dominated social media, featured two black women headlining their own shows, and brought us six fully realized queer women.

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You’re next, patriarchy!

When I interviewed Jasika Nicole earlier this year about her time on Scandal, she told me:

I don’t think the movements for racial equality and sexual identity are necessarily the same fights, but I think they tread a lot of the same ground. You’re right that Shonda didn’t just start doing this; she’s been doing it for years. Thank God she’s finally getting the acknowledgment from other people. But you know what? Even if she wasn’t getting the recognition, she’d still be doing it. She’s doing it because she believes in it.

I believe, too! Shondaland feels like Narnia, but y’all, this is real life.

Heather Hogan is an Autostraddle senior writer who lives in New York City with her partner, Stacy, and their cackle of rescued pets. She's a member of the Television Critics Association, the Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and a Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer critic. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Heather has written 941 articles for us.

47 Comments

  1. I literally screamed with Annalise kissed Eve! I had a feeling, but I didn’t think it would actually happen. I’m so giddy about the new direction that Shonda is taking T.V.! The direction that it should be going in.

    • Why is everything turning to be a fay or lesbian thing? I’m sure God is so disappointed in how his children are behaving…and that’s in everything not just this. People wake up God destroyed a city over this type of behavior. This world is going to hell in a hand basket. This show is portraying just how off this world is.

  2. I had begun to sour on HTGAWM (obviously it’s anchored by an acting genius, but the rest of them… I’m iffy on?), but it’s SO back on the DVR now!

    (To give credit where credit is due, though, Shonda Rhimes isn’t the showrunner and isn’t involved in the writing of that series. It’s just produced by her company. Peter Nowalk is the creator/showrunner/headwriter.)

  3. I’ve been waiting for this article all day, THANK YOU. So many feelings, so here they are:

    RE: Grey’s
    – Those baby lesbians broke my fucking heart. Thank you Shonda for not killing them.
    – Callie being an out and proud bisexual woman is everything I live for, but was I the only one disappointed that she didn’t actually SAY the word “bisexual”? I know she has in the past, but it seemed weird that she didn’t in the moment when she opened up to Jess.
    – Why is this bearded intern going to be living with Arizona?!
    – Did anyone else think the jump from “homophobic mother is awful” to “bullies are awful” seemed a little forced? The mom wasn’t being a bully because she could, she was being a bully because she hates and fears who and what her daughter is. It seemed weird to equate that with Maggie being bullied for her lisp. Not that that’s not terrible, and there are probably MANY more kids who get bullied for stupid insignificant crap like lisps or their clothes than for being queer, I just felt that angle took away a bit from what Jess and Aliyah were going through, that’s all. But Pierce punching out that mom was pretty awesome, if totally out of character for her.

    RE: HTGAWM
    – Unfortunately, I got a little spoiled for the “AK is bi” reveal, because I stupidly went on Twitter after watching Grey’s, but it was STILL excellent. They had really incredible chemistry right from the moment Eve showed up. And I especially like that the reveal of their relationship DOESN’T seem out of character for the Annalise we’ve come to know. It seems really organic, actually.
    – Can’t wait for the Keating 5 to find out about this, oh man. I wonder if Bonnie and Frank already know!?
    – Bonnie is TOTALLY in love with Annalise, but now I’m thinking, maybe they had a one-night thing in the past? Or MAAAAAYBE, Bonnie was a third for Annalise and Sam!? That would explain her attraction and loyalty to BOTH of them, and the super awkwardness of those relationships now!

    SO. MANY. FEELINGS. But mostly just total gratitude for Shonda and her team(s) for bringing these characters and stories to us, and to the mainstream tv-watching world. People ask me why I’m still watching Grey’s 12 years later, and all I can say is THIS IS WHY. I will continue to support this woman in everything she does.

  4. While watching HTGAWM I was practically screaming that they made Annalise bisexual. I didn’t think they would deliver, considering there was a kinda biphobic storyline (or at least handling) last season, but God it seems they got their shit together. I loved how naturally they treated all of this, like ‘just another ex’, no big deal about coming out, no big conversation about it, just another part of Annalise. Thank you, Shonda and Pete Nowak. I am so, /so/ glad this character exists.

    • Agreed! I’ve had a sneaking feeling that Grey’s was going to be folded into the Boob(s) column. This seemed to confirm it. And not that I don’t LOVE this column, I do! I comment every week. And if this is the happy medium that we have to live with, I will! You all work so hard, I am not in any way trying to put more pressure on you.

      But, all that said, I’m still hoping that the major network drama with actual adult queer women doing adult things will continue to get its own stand-alone recap in the way that the shows focused on teenagers do (I’m looking at you, “Faking It” and “PLL”). Please?

  5. I said to myself while watching HTGAWM, “Damn Annalise is to powerful, ruthless and hot! Please let her have some lady-loving moments!”

    And here I get to see Viola Davis make out with Famke Jansen on TV, I spilled my wine because I lost my shit and I’m still processing.

    Bisexual Awareness (day?) Week has been good to me.

  6. I was watching this last night and almost flat-lined. I didn’t see it coming until Eve started talking about how Annalise left her for Sam and then I thought I must have misheard her because there is no way they are trying to say these two were lovers. Then the kiss happened and I completely lost my shit for the rest of the night. I couldn’t even sleep.

  7. I’m coming back to get into all of this later (I promise!), but for now let me just say:

    (ahem, **cough cough**)

    ( **clear my throughout **)

    ANNALISE KEATING, BISEXUALLLLLLLLLL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    YAAAASSS!!!! YAAASSS!!! YAAAASSS!!!

    I want to write a whole think piece about how in black households, there is currently this holy trinity of “Empire”, “Scandal”, and “How to Get Away With Murder”(also, BET’s “Being Mary Jane”, but that’s not network tv)- where each has something like over 60% to 70% -in the case of Empire, nearly over 85%- of black households watching according the the Nielsen’s.

    As we just saw at the Emmys, Taraji and Kerry and Viola have sort become a trifecta for black women representation on television. Which is in and of itself a FIRST that I couldn’t even dream of before now. But then to have one of that trifecta- and the Emmy winning one at that- come out as queer. Man, it is SO IMPORTANT. SO SO SO SO IMPORTANT. WORDS DO NOT EXPRESS IMPORTANT.

    I’ll be back later to fangirl of Grey’s, I still can’t even process that. But for now,

    ANNALISE KEATING BISEXUAL 5EVER!!!!!!!

  8. I haven’t read the whole article because I didn’t have time to watch HTGAWM yet, but ANNALISE KEATING BISEXUAL was the best spoiler I’ve read in years.

    After 12 seasons Grey’s has managed to make me cry (understatement – I was a sobbing mess) within the first 10 minutes.

    Long live Shonda!

  9. okay, so I got spoiled for the Annalise thing (because I came on here right before I watched the episode lol) but I’m so so happy! the show is a Really Big Deal for representation anyway but now it’s led by a bi woman of colour? an identity that rarely gets the time of day (at least not in a super trope-y sense)? to quote the meme, IT’S LIT.

    also, i’ve had the bisexualbonniewinterbottom.tumblr.com URL saved since…like…the show’s third episode so if Bonnie’s not in love with Annalise (she’s already said that she wasn’t interested in Sam kissing her, so Annalise’s theory that Bonnie’s just mad Sam could never love her seems super odd to me) so i’m hoping that that twist happens too!

  10. while people are defining things like “Lesbian Episode” or “gay scene” or “gay kiss” the hate and bias will never disappear. All I saw were episodes with people and human. This is it.

  11. Heather, it gave me chills that you singled out those lines from the Grey’s episode to quote. Folks, please take a look at this essay and tell me what you think. Thanks and huge respect to Shondaland!

  12. At first I was like

    Then I was like

    because ‘oh look another amoral bisexual from which the content of my character will be judged’

    But then I was like

    because ‘oh wait I forgot I eat sheep for breakfast, IADGAF’
    Welcome to the coven Annalise.

  13. Heather, this was so great and Shonda Rhimes’ shows are so great and just all of this is so great and important. I don’t think I could have ever imagined such a brilliant night of representation when I was a kid. Seriously, these shows are amazing.

    The only accomplishment you forgot to mention is that Shonda Rhimes also gave us the eternally wonderful Dr. Izzie Stevens.

    • “eternally wonderful”
      ahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha
      I think that’s probably the first time I’ve ever heard ANYTHING close to that used to describe Izzy fucking Stevens. She’s the Jenny Schecter of Grey’s and I’m so glad that Queen Shonda realized that fairly quickly and kicked her off, although it probably had more to do with Katherine Heigl being insufferable on top of Izzy being insufferable.

  14. – That was a near perfect episode of Greys. So good that I won’t even complain about the Owen kiss.
    – Arizona is immortal but can’t afford to live on her own. Weird.
    – You go Maggie! And I like Sister House. Yes, that’s what I’ll be calling it.
    – Loved the Calzona high five
    – Loved the Lion King reference.
    – Loved Shonda for sparing the baby gays. Thanks for that
    – Fitz is such and asshole. He shot a plane full of people and has the nerve to talk to Mellie about the bus? Fuck you, Fitz. Liv can do much better. #TeamJake
    – I gasped loudly when Analise and Eve kissed.
    – Shonda Rhimes is my dream Autostraddle interview

    • SO MUCH YES to a Shonda Rhimes Autostraddle interview! Think she’d agree to it if we all tweet at her?

      And yeah, the plot contrivance of Arizona needing a roommate seems really weird, and I don’t trust this bearded intern guy. Where are they going with this?

  15. A quietly awesome thing that HTGAWM did that got way overshadowed by Annalise Keating bisexual- they called out PReP by name, with the medically suggested wait time. I was so, so impressed.

    Greys was old school amazing tonight, I hope the new interns stay background characters for a while.

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