Of all the delightful surprises in The Bold Type’s first season, the characterization of Jacqueline has been one of the most refreshing. She isn’t the mean boss found in a lot of magazine-set stories. She isn’t the ice queen that most female bosses seem to be on television. She’s firm, and she’s intense, but she’s fair, kind, and emotionally complex. Sutton, Kat, and Jane are appropriately intimidated by her, but they ultimately feel like they can go to her in moments of crisis. Because Jacqueline is an approachable, understanding boss. She represents ambition and power but without the corruption that sometimes comes with.
While The Bold Type’s brilliant season finale, I initially thought there was something off about Jacqueline’s behaviors. Intending to give her two weeks notice, Jane takes a meeting with Jacqueline and is suddenly derailed when Jacqueline accepts one of Jane’s first pitches ever: a profile of Mia Lawrence, a sexual assault survivor who is in the midst of an ongoing performance art piece where she carries two weights, never putting them down, only occasionally receiving reprieve from fellow survivors who carry the weights in turns. Eager to make the first story she wanted to write, Jane takes on the assignment and forgoes telling Jacqueline the news about taking the job at Incite. Over the course of the episode, Jacqueline relentlessly pushes Jane to do better with the story, unsatisfied by Jane’s work. She doubts her right off the bat, saying that it’s one thing for Jane to write about herself as she usually does and another to capture someone else’s trauma. At first, I thought maybe Jacqueline’s toughness on Jane was her way of trying to keep Jane around. Jacqueline seems to know about the Incite offer, and every time Jane tries to bring it up, Jacqueline brings the conversation back to the story on Mia. Then I started to think Jacqueline’s behaviors were inconsistent with her character. She’s a tough critic, but she isn’t usually so nitpicky when it comes to Jane’s work. Mia’s story is important, to be sure. But Jacqueline has never shown so much involvement in the writing process before.
Jacqueline’s behaviors aren’t inconsistent with her character nor were they just for the sake of making Jane’s transition to Incite, where she has been promised her own vertical and will seemingly have less editorial oversight, seem like an easier decision. After Jane officially tells Jacqueline she’s leaving Scarlet, Jane goes to the park to stand with Mia. The media’s and the public’s attention to Mia’s project has wavered since she began. And Kat, who hits the two million Twitter followers mark in the episode, pairs with Jane to try to help boost interest by live streaming the project for online viewers. But in this moment at the end, Jane thinks it’s important to show up in person. Kat and Sutton show up, too.
And then Jacqueline shows up and takes the weights from Mia’s hands, offering to carry the weight of her own sexual assault. Earlier in the episode, Jane expresses that she doesn’t think any words she could possibly write would ever capture the feeling of seeing Mia hand the weights to another survivor, something Jane witnesses during her first interview with Mia. Seeing Jacqueline take the weights captures that powerful emotional complexity that Jane struggles to grapple with in her story. That one shot says so much with so little. It’s almost more telling than the scene after, where Jacqueline tells Jane the details of when she was raped. In the course of the episode, The Bold Type gives voice to Mia and to her project, making the simple mechanics of how the performance art piece works meaningful and affecting. All it takes is us seeing Jacqueline take those weights in her hands for us to feel the weight of the scene, the weight of the project, which is a direct reference to the real-life story of Emma Sulkowicz and the Carry That Weight project.
The Bold Type‘s finale is a perfect example of how to tell a powerful sexual assault narrative without showing actual sexual violence. That makes it sound like I’m saying the episode tells instead of showing, when we’re constantly told television should do the opposite. But The Bold Type is showing instead of telling. That shot of Jacqueline accepting the weights is what showing versus telling means in a nutshell. The Bold Type shows Jacqueline and Mia’s frustration, their inability to put their trauma into terms that are easy to understand. Mia says she doesn’t feel normal, says that her pain doesn’t fit her body. Jacqueline says she doesn’t think it’s possible to ever be normal again, that you have to find a new normal. The Bold Type shows that while these women had different experiences, they both carry the weight of their trauma. They both know that justice isn’t something they will ever get. It’s important for television to acknowledge the realities of sexual assault and to give voice to survivors through narratives that center characters who are survivors. But television shows that depict sexual violence and rape are traumatizing, turning the violence into spectacle and making the misguided assumption that viewers have to see the violence in order to understand it as horrific. The Bold Type doesn’t use sexual assault as a plot device or as backstory. All the emotions that Jane finds hard to convey in her story are embedded in this smart, moving episode.
The Bold Type has accomplished a lot in its first season, infusing its fun and bubbly universe with dark, real storylines about cancer, sexual assault, immigration, and online harassment…and, in the process, dragging Trump more than most new shows have. The central themes of sex, fashion, politics, and feminism all interplay in smart ways. Just like Kat, Sutton, and Jane trying to find balance in their work and love lives, the show is about their ambition in their workplace but also their ups and downs in their dating lives. Sutton agrees to go on a date with Alex in the finale, but the two are caught kissing in the stairwell by Jacqueline, who insists that they meet with HR (and legal, so, Richard). By the end of the episode, Sutton ends up in an elevator with Richard, suggesting that that chapter isn’t quite closed. Jane is single and heading to Incite, a bold story move considering that one of the first things we ever learned about Jane is that she feel like she belongs at Scarlet.
And then there’s one of The Bold Type’s boldest accomplishments: the fact that the show has placed the relationship between two queer women of color at the center of its romantic storytelling. Sutton has her love triangle, and Jane has her on-and-off thing with Pinstripe, but Kat and Adena’s relationship has been the most layered and significant of the whole season. Even in episodes where Adena isn’t present, as is unfortunately the case in this season finale, the writers don’t let Kat or us forget about her. Adena is still very much on Kat’s mind. She flips through her empty passport, imagines a different life away from the social media world, of which she’s clearly growing tired. By finale’s end, she’s boarding a plane. The Kadena chapter isn’t over either. This slow-burn romance has been one of my favorite queer storylines on television in a long time. Even though Kat and Adena keep confronting obstacles to being together, they aren’t doomed. Their conflicts resonate deeply, tap into some of the show’s best emotional storytelling. The way the writers have placed this queer love story at the emotional epicenter of the show makes The Bold Type a very bold series indeed.
Ahem, let me end this recap on my soapbox: Freeform, don’t mess this up. Renew The Bold Type and let the beautiful story of Kat and Adena continue. This show has turned in a stellar first season, and it deserves many more.
Thank you for such strong, insightful, heartfelt writing about this surprisingly wonderful show this season, Kayla. It was a joy to read every week.
Thanks so much, Heather! I genuinely love writing about this show!
As I wrote on Twitter, I’d like to officially name the comments sections for these recaps The Fashion Closet
I second the motion.
I think we should just pass this resolution.
This episode was one of the best hours of television i have ever watched. I don’t cry watching TV often, and this episode moved me in a way that I’m still processing.
They’ve set up some very interesting storylines for season 2, especially with Jane’s new job and how that will change the dynamic of the three protagonists’ friendship. Here’s hoping it gets renewed!
While I think this show has swung and missed occasionally (Kat’s reaction to the police being one that really springs to mind) it’s done a lot of things really well and the way they handled a sexual assault storyline was one of those. It’s never a joy to watch these stories really but this was one of the best I’ve seen because there wasn’t anything, except showing women coping with it and supporting each other and it was wonderful.
I really hope FreeForm renews it, despite not stellar viewing figures because this is a surprisingly good show.
Thanks for the great reviews Kayla! This was a fantastic finale – I loved how it managed to tie up all the plotlines and reference events like Jane’s cancer scare and Kat’s harassment on social media, while still ending in some big cliffhangers. Really hope it gets renewed!
Thank you! I love this show so much!
Totally had tears in my eyes for Kadena! We need and deserve more seasons. Thanks for the awesome recaps, Kayla :)
I’ve talked before about how I’ve never really understood Jacqueline, and felt she hasn’t been well-defined as a character in this show. But holy hell, this episode changed all that. Not that she’s now defined by her sexual assault (though she herself admits it irreparably changed her life) but more like I finally see her drive, her ambition, and the way she sees herself in the young women who work for her. She’s always been this kind of blurry, amorphous quasi-maternal authority figure, but I feel like this was the episode, for me at least, where she finally became real. The scene where she takes the weights from Mia is the best thing this show has ever done.
Props to this show for such an ambitious season finale. This was not an easy story to tell well, but then managed to do it justice I think. And also, it’s a very bold move (ha, irony) to have Jane leave Scarlett – I have no idea how that’s going to look moving forward, since that sort of cast shake up doesn’t usually happen until season 3 or 4 of most shows, and never lasts very long. It’ll be really interesting to see how the show incorporates, or doesn’t, Jane’s life at Incite in the future.
Thanks for your wonderful recaps Kayla! I really, really hope we get more of this show!
Woah man I did not expect this show to be so MOVING. The moment in the gazebo with Jacqueline, damn.
Also I have no idea how this happened but I kind of love Richard/Sutton. I am normally such a misandrist this is a very confusing experience for me.
i am having the same richard/sutton experience and it is completely baffling me! obviously i also ship kadena but WHAT IS GOING ON.
i don’t ship Sutton/Richard but I have a theory about Sutton, it’s like she’s got this adorable baby face that and big doe eyes that just make you want to make sure everything that happens for her is good, she’s like the Willow of The Bold Type.
Jane showing up to stand with Mia made me tear up.
Seeing Jaqueline get there.. stepping into the circle and taking the weights left me balwing.
this really got to me. seeing and experiencing that you are not alone – not only as a sexual assault and/or rape survivour, but also as in people, who didn’t go through the same, showing up, offering their support, believing you – creates momentum .. an opportunity to speak up, to stand up for yourself and to move forward. together.
i’m still a little overwhelmed.
i usually never cry about this anymore but seeing this episode made me want to reach out to my friends and feel this sense of community with them.
i’ve been carrying this with me for so long and it’s true, i think: you have to create a new normal. and after years and years of witnessing my new normal fall into place around me, i finally feel like i want to be part of the process??
focus on the *creating* and not just letting everything happen and be apathetic for the rest of my life.
i feel like this must sound ridiculous (having a therapy-like breakthrough over here while watching a tv show..) but seeing this actually helped me somehow and made me feel less alone.
This was some powerful episode. Refreshingly different.
Thank you for your reviews Kayla.
what a show.
As soon as Jacqueline said that stuff about “Where is the audience? This story has the potential to be really powerful,” I immediately thought, “Oh, they’re hinting that she’s a survivor.” Because that’s so familiar to me, the sudden intense caring about how a certain thing is presented, how it’s talked about, and that need to do more, fix more. And I thought for sure they were going to leave it at hints. When Jacqueline showed up in Central Park I was all on the edge of my seat like, “but she has to take them, right? She is?” and she did and I WEPT I FUCKING CRIED SO MUCH I CRIED LIKE I HAVE NEVER CRIED IN FRONT OF A TV SHOW
And it makes sense, it all makes sense, her compassion to her young female writers, her initial line about the difficulty of understanding someone else’s trauma. And then in the interview, how she’d worked hard for his professional respect, and how she didn’t realize how much weight was still on her shoulders, and how she didn’t want to end or define her career it amazed me. It AMAZED me. Because the Bold Type NAILED that shit.
And I am so grateful, because I have spent the last week being blown off by my university Title IX committee, and I spent today feeling so, so helpless. I had a pretty different experience, and yet this spoke to me in a way that no TV show has, ever. And Jacqueline was strong, Jacqueline made it, Jacqueline survived the despair and frustration and she survived to make a real fucking difference, on a big scale and on a small one. I feel the way about her the way I felt about Hillary Clinton last year: if she can be strong — if she, too, can serve — then so can I. But Jacqueline got to win.
So grateful for Autostraddle, so grateful for this show