In its second season finale, The Bold Type heads to Paris and… makes some very weird story choices! I’ve had my issues with this season, but I’ve also overall thought that The Bold Type has really come into its own, playing to its strengths and providing even more of the lighthearted fun that makes this show such an irresistible summer treat. It’s serious when it needs to be, but it’s also sugary sweet, an escape that’s very pretty to look at and also makes you feel good. I love television that makes you feel good! We need more of it!
That said, this finale is all over the place when it comes to its confusing and occasionally unsettling messages about romance, love, and relationships. As it turns out, Sutton and Richard are endgame?! Who wanted this?! No one!!!! Sure, it has been implied all season that Sutton still longs for Richard and has been fucked up by how seemingly quickly he moved on with someone else. In the finale, Richard’s father dies, and Sutton and Jane go to the funeral. There’s a moment where Richard talks about appreciating life and taking bold risks, and Sutton sadly realizes he’s talking about his new girlfriend. And then when Jane overhears that Richard is meeting with a jeweler while Kat and Sutton are on a work trip in Paris, they all jump to the conclusion that Richard’s going to propose to the new woman.
I thought, initially, that this was heading in an interesting direction, showing just how devastating it can be when someone you used to date moves on with someone else. Sutton’s moment at the funeral feels cathartic, a resolution to move forward and try to heal. BUT THEN! When Sutton absolutely slays her job in Paris, she tells Oliver that she’s sad about her success because she has no one to share it with… an attitude toward relationships that seems distinctly anti-The Bold Type. So often, this show is about how the three friends have each other, and while romantic relationships can be fulfilling and fun, they aren’t wholly defining of their individual worth. Here Sutton is, LIVING HER DREAM, and she’s sad because her significantly older executive boyfriend (WHICH IS STILL PROBLEMATIC EVEN THOUGH SAFFORD HAS THAT DUMB POLICY) isn’t there by her side? That doesn’t feel like Sutton, and that doesn’t feel like The Bold Type. Wasn’t her whole reason for breaking up with him because she valued her dreams/career more?
But the really confusing part is how Oliver responds. He tells her to go get her man. He literally tells her to leave in the middle of her work trip to chase after an ex-boyfriend, which is so wildly unprofessional and not to mention goes against everything we know about workaholic Oliver? He tells her to never run away from love which is, frankly, bad advice. I hate when film/TV perpetuates the idea that love makes everything worth it, that people should do wild things for love. It’s just… not that simple! There are times when you definitely should run away from love! Like when it’s hurting you or other people (which doesn’t necessarily apply to Sutton and Richard’s situation, but I just needed to say it). Also, I immediately thought of Richard’s current girlfriend who was totally there for him during this traumatic death of his father, and then he just ran away to Paris to get back with his ex who dumped him?! WHAT! I sorta hope she sets one of his suits on fire.
Jane has a little love story of her own when she learns that her health insurance policy won’t cover freezing her egg and both Ben and Pinstripe make big plays for her heart by each offering to help her out. In this case, The Bold Type does take the story in a direction that feels more in line with the show’s ethos by having Jane write a column about how she doesn’t want a man to save her; she wants a more fair health insurance policy from her employer (Safford’s policy covers Viagra and vasectomies but not fertility treatments). After some hesitation, Jacqueline publishes her column calling out the board, which puts Jacqueline’s job on the line. And even though Jane writes what she writes, she still feels the pressure to decide between Ben and Pinstripe after the latter’s grand declaration of love. Jane faced a big decision at the end of last season, too, but this time, The Bold Type saves it as a sorta low-stakes cliffhanger.
Sutton gets her big (and honestly baffling) Paris romance, and Jane gets to go to Paris after all, and Kat… gets her heart broken? But first, she makes a wildly inappropriate choice to seek out Adena’s ex Coco and ask her why she doesn’t work with Adena anymore. Friends, do not seek out your partner’s ex without checking in with your partner about it first?! Adena has a right to be upset about it to be sure. And it’s not exactly the most productive conversation between Kat and Coco. In fact, Coco delivers the devastating news that Adena hasn’t been producing work since moving to NYC and then, just in case Kat didn’t come to this conclusion on her own, lays it on super thick by saying that it means Adena hasn’t produced art since they started dating. Ouch, Coco.
So Kat and Adena talk, and it’s revealed that Adena feels creatively suffocated in their relationship. It has long been suggested that Adena has never been in a monogamous relationship and also was often in long-distance situations, so she seems to associate a lack of independence with an inability to create. My heart broke for Kat. That is… a very tough thing to hear. And it also recasts the whole open relationship thing in a new light.
I’ve said all along that I felt like Adena wanted the open relationship more than Kat did. Even though it came about supposedly because of Kat making out with someone else and having a certain curiosity, Adena was the one who suggested it and even PUSHED it, outlining the new rules of their relationship with very little input from Kat but framing it as something Kat needed. Maybe she wasn’t being intentionally manipulative, but it still felt… manipulative. And this new development really drives that home.
It’s a confusing character choice for Adena, one that sort of calls into question exactly what Kat and Adena had together. There was always a sense that things escalated too quickly between them, that they didn’t build enough of a foundation together, which sometimes made it confusing why exactly they were together. At the same time, Kadena garnered so many shippers, and the writers seemed, at times, to play to that fan enthusiasm. I’m not saying that writers should bend to the will of shippers at all times, but there does seem to be an inconsistency with the way Kat and Adena’s relationship has been written. The biggest problem is really with Adena and how flat she has been as a character all season, existing only in terms of Kat, hard to pin down in her motivations.
The finale has its fair share of funny (Meghann Fahy has been killing it with the Sutton comedy all season!) and touching moments. I still love this show, I do. It’s just… a confounding finale in many ways. It tries to do a lot at once, and while a lot of it is connected to the characters’ season arcs, it still feels forced. There’s something in the air in Paris making everyone really bad at relationships and communication. Kat, Jane, and Sutton have each other at least, but that doesn’t even seem to be the core message of the finale. And the biggest “feel goodwp_postsmoment of the finale belongs to… Sutton and Richard?! Again, WHO ASKED FOR THIS? Also, I would like to restate that never running away from love is bad life advice, Oliver! And that’s coming from someone who loves romantic comedies and loves when The Bold Type plays around with rom-com tropes. But in this case, The Bold Type really does seem to be sacrificing cogent writing and character development for the sake of an easy, sticky-sweet romantic plot between two characters who are very hard to root for in this context.
And now Jacqueline might be fired?! The Bold Type, why you gotta hurt me?!