The Bold Type is swinging big this season and hitting more than it misses. “The Domino Effect” continues the important conversation about sexual assault that the season one finale so boldly took on, digging into nuances about reporting sexual misconduct as well as reporting on it in a way that grounds this #MeToo conversation in the media industry setting of the show. “The Domino Effect” also showcases The Bold Type’s central three-way friendship at its finest and most inspiring, Jane, Kat, and Sutton all taking care of each other in equal measure as they grapple with different big moments in their lives. Every episode lives within the pure and unbreakable bonds between these three women, but sometimes there’s something a little extra special about the way the friendship informs the story, and this is one of those instances.
After receiving a prestigious journalism award nomination for her story about Jacqueline’s sexual assault, Jane decides to ride her own wave of success (per advice from Dr. Ben who is still…around) and make some calls around to editors (definitely a thing in 2018!). This lands her an opportunity to write a follow-up piece, which eventually leads her to a woman who opens up to Jane about how she was assaulted by the same man in the media industry as Jacqueline. Jacqueline never named her abuser in the original piece, but the details resonated with this source, opening old wounds and pushing her to come forward. Jane grapples with whether or not to include this in her story: On the one hand, this woman deserves to have her story told, too. On the other hand, it could seem like criticizing Jacqueline for not coming forward sooner, for not speaking out so that this man couldn’t hurt anyone else.
The Bold Type wades into some treacherous waters here, but it treats the issue with all the nuance and depth that it deserves. There’s balance and complexity here: The Bold Type recognizes that coming out about one’s own sexual assault could help others out without undermining Jacqueline in the process. It’s clear why Jacqueline didn’t say something sooner, and our patriarchal society at large is way too quick to question a sexual assault victim’s reasons for not coming forward. The Bold Type presents these issues as complicated and multifaceted, never once comes off as prescriptive or simplistic.
Sutton’s in a full downward spiral over Richard, partying all the time to keep up with Brooke who she’s still working as an in to the elite fashion world. Oliver’s worried; her friends are worried; I’m worried! There’s turmoil beneath the surface of all of Sutton’s actions, and Meghann Fahy very convincingly portrays someone on the brink of a total meltdown.
Kat’s in a weird place, too. While Adena’s still away, she decides to go to that fantastically large “NYC” lesbian bar, drawn in like a baby gay moth to the flames of a bunch of hot and flirty lesbians. Leila (the girl Kat had a sex dream about last week) explains that since the lesbian world is so small (even in NYC—which yes is true), a new face at the bar attracts…a lot of attention. Kat’s feeling herself. And she feels herself so much that she ends up making out with a hot girl on the dance floor while “Curious” by Hayley Kiyoko plays overhead. Is it just me or is The Bold Type a whole lot gayer this season?
So Kat and Sutton are both having personal crises when it comes time for Jane’s awards ceremony. That’s where the beauty of their friendship comes into play. Because when Jane sees that her friends are hurting and distracted but trying to rally for her sake, she very gently suggests that they shouldn’t come. It isn’t some diva moment; it’s her quite genuinely telling her friends to take care of themselves. And they listen, but when Brooke comes over and proves just how awful of a friend she is by complaining about how boring Sutton has become, Sutton rushes over to Kat’s and says they need to show up for Jane. And of course they do just in the nick of time. It’s just so beautiful how these women always try to prioritize each other, always try to lift each other up even when they’re going through something. They’re always there for each other, full stop.
The episode pushes Kat and Adena in an interesting new direction in the aftermath of the DFMO Incident (is DFMO a commonly understood acronym for Dance Floor Makeout or something just my friends and I say? lmk). Devoted Kadena shippers—myself included—will be slightly unnerved by the implications of Kat’s little dalliance at the lesbian bar and by the conversation that follows it. When Kat tells Adena about the kissing and the sex dream, Adena straight up just bounces. I’m not sure I totally buy that reaction; Adena is usually the more emotionally mature one between her and Kat. But then again, there is enormous pressure on this relationship because of her immigration status. So it was a lot of information to process.
When Adena’s finally ready to talk, she points out to Kat that because she’s the first girl she has ever been with, there are of course all these little curiosities blooming within Kat. Again, baby gay moth to the flames. The Bold Type doesn’t come up with any concrete answers for what happens next, which is strikingly realistic and, as emotional as it makes me, a really interesting story choice. The episode lets Kat and Adena hang in limbo at episode’s end, unsure of the future.
It doesn’t seem like they’re going to break up, but it does seem like the terms of their relationship are going to change significantly, and that can be very scary, but I’m hooked. Maybe they’ll open up their relationship. Navigating these things can be tricky, and The Bold Type seems committed to showing that relationships are hard and require a lot of work and compromises without completely undermining the Kadena ship or taking it in too heartbreaking of a direction. This doesn’t feel like drama for the sake of drama. It’s real and raw and highly relatable. The Bold Type’s queer storytelling is getting better and better.