The Bold Type isn’t always the most shocking show. It follows fairly predictable patterns, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing, especially since every once in a while, The Bold Type will deviate boldly from those patterns with something a little unexpected that goes a long way. I thought Jane would swiftly and easily walk back into her life at Scarlet by the end of the episode, but that’s not what happens at all. Jacqueline tells her she has some growing up to do, tells her to live in her failure instead of making choices out of fear. Suddenly, I’m very invested in Jane’s season two arc.
Because I had my reservations at first. I was harsh on Jane in my first two recaps of this season, but a lot of that had to do with my feelings about Jane in season one. Last season, it seemed that Jane was always failing up. She made stories about herself, fumbled, didn’t always listen. And yet she still became this highly sought after journalist for like a couple of blog posts. Watching her fail so much so early at her job at Incite made me think this season would bring more of the same. But The Bold Type season two has instead taken things in a much more compelling direction by giving weight to Jane’s failure, by forcing the character to evolve and learn from her mistakes instead of just having her plow through them or get lucky.
Jane Sloane is suddenly a classic example of someone who maybe peaked early, someone who found some success early in their writing career but hadn’t learned everything about how to be a good journalist yet. This happens a lot, especially in the age of social media when one blog post at a publication can go super viral and propel a writer to media industry celeb status. Now that Jane has that platform, there’s immense pressure on her to keep churning out good stories, to keep circulating her message of female empowerment. But she’s still young, and she’s going to mess up every once in a while — especially when it comes to making sure she isn’t just peddling White Feminism, which seems to be a recurring issue for her — and that’s okay, but there have to be consequences.
Jane spends this episode stress cleaning and staving off an unemployment-induced panic attack with an eye mask, and gee whiz it’s painfully relatable. And yeah, freelance life can be lonely; she misses her squad. But forcing Jane to live with this discomfort is infinitely more interesting than just having her waltz back into her life at Scarlet.
Oh, there’s also this little budding romantic plot happening between her and “Dr. Ben,” one of the guys from last week’s tragic #NotAllMen Scarlet photoshoot. I don’t have a lot to say about this yet other than that dancing-to-induce-pregnancy scene was painful to watch. I, too, would threaten to sue.
Kat and Sutton become embroiled in a little friendship tussle when Kat makes the extremely reasonable request for Sutton to consider hiring Adena for a low-lift accessories shoot for the magazine. For tenuous reasons, Sutton is hesitant, wanting to hire some rando Instagram photographer dude for the job instead — even after Oliver makes it very clear that anyone with film in their camera can do the shoot. Yes, he leaves her in charge, and yes there’s pressure on her to do it right, but the conflict between Kat/Sutton/Adena just isn’t the most organic.
The stakes are very high for Adena and very low for Sutton. Adena needs photography work in order to stay in the country, and Sutton is in a position to help. Thankfully, Jacqueline explains to Sutton that hiring friends is normal and okay and that taking risks is also important. But is Sutton really even taking that big of a risk by hiring Adena? Sutton keeps harping on the fact that Adena is an ~artist~ and probably can’t do a simple, straightforward, Scarlet-y shoot. The way she sort of pits Adena against the style and ethos of Scarlet is particularly troubling and even a little dog whistly. What makes Adena “wrong” for Scarlet?
Adena does come in with a slightly different idea for the shoot… she wants to crush the candy for the background of the photos instead of using whole candy. This slight change of detail makes Sutton FREAK OUT about how she isn’t being respected on set. But Sutton also went into the whole thing with the assumption that Adena would shake things up, and it clearly colors her perception of how everything goes down. Because, seriously, overreact much? It’s especially ridiculous on Sutton’s part because then she radically alters the shoot after she sees the candy photos and agrees that they’re uninspired. Sure, it’s ultimately her call, but for Sutton to be so dismissive and put off by Adena’s tiny suggestion only to throw the whole shoot out and do something else entirely is just immature and doesn’t even really seem to align with who Sutton is. All for the sake of conflict? It’s shoddy storytelling. Also, I’m just stuck on how Sutton doesn’t fully grasp just how significant and serious Adena’s visa situation is. For someone who once begged Oliver to take a risk on her, she isn’t willing to take a relatively small risk that could have a huge impact on a person’s safety?
The resulting photoshoot is admittedly great. I was a little weary of the show using Kat, Sutton, and Jane — who all have virtually the same body type — as the “normal girls” for this body positivity accessory spread, but the final photos are genuinely special, full of the normal body markings usually edited out of media, like acne, moles, and stretch marks. Every scene that purely hinges on Jane, Kat, and Sutton’s love for one another radiates. The episode also features guest star Tess Holliday, a writer and model who does a lot of work for body positivity and size inclusivity movements. It’s a fun little cameo, and it also makes The Bold Type‘s discussion of this issue seem authentic and informed.
A smaller but still intriguing subplot in the episode is this growing tension between Jacqueline and new board member Cleo, who has a very stringent and toxic view of what health and beauty look like. She disagrees with the body positivity angle of the issue and tries to shut it down with her fatphobic rhetoric. Jacqueline is great in a mentorship role, but it’s also nice to see a storyline for her that exists outside of the young ones. It’s clear that she’ll soon have to fight for what she believes in, which is a huge part of this show’s outlook. She finds a way to get her message across in a way that Cleo can’t shut down by reinstating Scarlet’s letter to the editor. Right now, Jacqueline and Cleo are all pleasantries and veiled criticisms, but their dynamic is heating up.