“The Bold Type” Makes a Last-Minute Finale Change, But Kat’s Storyline Is Still a Huge Mess

This week’s episode of The Bold Type starts off on fertile ground: Kat and Jane show up at Sutton’s apartment, hoping to rouse their recently separated friend from her bed. First, they try to lure her with food and the promise of coffee but when that’s met by refusal, they open the windows to let in the bright morning light. That doesn’t work — Sutton just pulls the blanket tightly against her — and so they move to Plan D: attempting to coax Sutton out of bed with calm, rational arguments. But that doesn’t work either so Kat and Jane are forced to take desperate measures: they torture Sutton out of bed with a rendition of the Golden Girls theme song. Before Kat can really get into her groove — both with the singing and the accompanying dance moves — Sutton is out of bed and rushes into the bathroom.

It’s hilarious, warm and fun. The relationship between these three young women has always been the show’s heart and The Bold Type is at its best when it centers them and their friendship. It feels as close to The Bold Type we all fell in love with than this show has been since Sutton’s bachelorette party. But starting the episode that way only makes what comes next — bad storytelling, out-of-character behavior — even more jarring. How is it possible that the writers can, in one moment see the heart of this show so clearly, and then, in the very next, distort the very things that made this show worthwhile?

While Sutton’s getting changed, Kat and Jane straighten up their bedroom and talk about their own problems. Jane laments that one of the writers for her vertical, Scott — or as I’ve taken to calling him, “Budget Penn Badgley” — has admitted that he has feelings for her. She plans on making it very clear that nothing can happen between them which, of course, means that a hook-up between her and Almost Dan Humphrey is definitely going to happen. Kat attempts to broach the topic of her burgeoning relationship with Eva but is met by resistance from Jane right away.

Kat: Since we’re talking about “problematic hotties,” what do you think of Eva? You have to admit, she’s kinda cute, right? In like, a gross kinda way?
Jane: I mean, I can’t separate the face from the politics and also, RJ’s her dad. For me, you can’t be hot enough to get past all that so it’s a no for me, dawg.

I should be happy about this, right? Finally, someone’s on this show is giving voice to the audience’s distaste for this relationship, but still, it grates. It grates because The Bold Type has a habit of having its white women lecture Kat on her progressive values (see also: Jacqueline in “If You Can’t Do It With Feeling”), as if they’re more likely to be progressive than a bisexual, biracial black queer woman. Beyond that, though, it grates because it’s done by Jane…the same Jane Sloan who, two seasons ago, on this very show, complained that a magazine’s efforts at making a diverse hire were tantamount to reverse racism. The same Jane Sloan who, two episodes ago, on this very show, said that despite Eva voicing support for hardline immigration, Jane couldn’t take her eyes off her. Instead of feeling like an affirmation for my disdain for Kat and Eva’s relationship, it feels like The Bold Type is re-emphasizing one of the things that makes the Kat/Eva storyline problematic: diminishing the show’s lead black character to bolster the bonafides of its white ones.

With Jane’s criticism still in her head, Kat’s a bit awkward when Eva shows up at The Belle later that night. But Eva flirts with Kat across the bar, Kat smiles brightly and the awkwardness recedes. But the next day — the launch day for Kat’s new podcast — Kat gets another reminder that Eva’s politics are troubling, this time from The Belle’s manager. While she’s happy that the podcast is gaining traction, she’s worried about the blowback from Eva’s appearance, both with the “online trolls” and members of The Belle. To mitigate any damage, the manager recommends a course correction: Kat playing host to a DNC operative for the podcast’s second episode. During her appearance, the operative takes a few shots at Eva, which Kat doesn’t bother to challenge. Later, though, she sees a clip of Eva being put in a similar situation — a television appearance with conservatives who are attacking Kat — and Eva defends Kat’s honor.

“Kat wants the world to be a better place and so do I. Now, our way forward may look very different but I don’t for one second doubt her intentions and for that she has my respect,” Eva says.

I’m going to save you the long rant about how “our way forward may look very different” is a polite euphemism that allows us to pretend like locking kids in cages or subjecting gay kids to conversion therapy and not doing those things are equally worthy of consideration and respect when they are so clearly not. Instead, I wish there was someone in the writers’ room who could summon the words of Robert Jones, Jr.: “We can disagree and still love each other unless your disagreement is rooted in my oppression and denial of my humanity and right to exist.”

(Okay, maybe you’ll get a little rant. But at least it wasn’t long!)

The Belle hosts a launch party for Kat’s podcast and, though she arrives with Jane on her arm, Kat makes a beeline for Eva the first chance she gets. She admits that she saw the video of Eva’s TV appearance and asks if Eva meant everything she said. Eva confesses that she means everything she says which is not at all the comforting moment the show seems to believe it is. Kat admits that she had a similar moment on her podcast but she wasn’t as deferential as Eva had been. Kat concedes that Eva’s a better person than her (!!) but Eva assures her that not everyone can be perfect all the time. She expresses her support for the podcast and for Kat and the sexual tension simmers between them. As they both bite their bottom lips — the tell-tale sign that something gay is about to happen — Jane spots them across the room and realizes that her friend’s relationship with Eva is more than just a connection between a podcast host and her guest.

Kat: I’m so sorry, I wanted to tell you, I just didn’t think you would understand.
Jane: You’re right, I don’t. I mean, Kat, no offense, but she’s kind of toxic. I mean, I’m not the only one who thinks that, a lot of people in this room do.
Kat: Like, okay, yes, we have really different views but I feel like I’m learning from her…and there’s, like, something about her…and I don’t think she’s a bad person.
Jane: Look, obviously, you can go out with whoever you want to and I don’t have to like them but I don’t want you to get hurt.
Kat: Okay, well, I appreciate that…but, I mean, Jane, it just happened, I don’t even know if it’s going anywhere and if it does, every relationship is complicated. Everything in life is complicated.

Aside from restating my objections to Kat being lectured by Jane Sloan, I wonder what Kat — what the writers of this show — think constitutes a good person? Can someone be good while separating parents from their children and locking those children up in cages? Can someone be good while stealing land from indigenous people and using it for oil? Can someone be good while supporting a disproven science that’s caused decades of trauma for gay kids? Eva is not a good person, she is charming, she is beautiful and she has palpable chemistry with Kat, but she’s not good. You can’t believe in what she believes and also be good…and Kat, of all people, should know that.

Kat does not hear my lament as she spends the next night (day? what is time on this show?) in Eva’s bed. She sneaks out in the middle of the night to go back to Jane’s. When Eva follows up later with a text, Kat confesses that things between them are too complicated.

If the ending seems a little bizarre to you, given what Kat had just said to Jane, you’re right. In fact, that wasn’t the original ending. As first reported by Vulture‘s Madison Malone Kircher, the screener version of this episode — sent out to journalists, including me, in advance of its airing to facilitate recaps and reviews — had Eva questioning whether their relationship was too risky for her and Kat conceded that it was risky for them both. The original version left open the possibility that Kat and Eva’s relationship might resume if The Bold Type secures a fifth season but the version that aired last night seemed to shut the door on that possibility entirely. What spawned the last second change? Kat Edison’s portrayer, Aisha Dee, who on Wednesday posted a long letter detailing her feelings about the relationship between Kat and Eva as well as offering a broader critique of her time on The Bold Type.

View this post on Instagram

for us ♥️

A post shared by Aisha Dee (@aishtray) on

“The decision to have Kat enter into a relationship with a privileged conservative woman felt confusing and out of character,” Dee wrote about her on-screen relationship. “Despite my personal feelings about the choice, I tried my best to tell the story with honesty, even though the Kat I know and love would never make these choices. It was heartbreaking to watch Kat’s story turn into a redemption story for someone else, someone who is complicit in the oppression of so many. Someone whose politics are actively harmful to her communities.”

And while I’m comforted that the writers of The Bold Type took Dee’s issue with the storyline to heart, I’m not convinced that just ending the storyline is the right answer. While The Bold Type‘s missteps don’t stoop to the level of shows like 30 Rock, Community and The Office which recently had to remove blackface episodes from streaming services, there’s a common thread between them: an avoidance of accountability. If “Not Far from the Tree” is the last we see of Eva Rhodes, how do we repair the damage that’s been done to Kat Edison’s character? How does the show hold itself accountable for the way it has romanticized a harmful discourse? If no one ever tells Eva Rhodes that she’s not a good person, what lesson is the The Bold Type leaving with its audience? Kat Edison deserves better, Aisha Dee deserves better and the audience deserves better…I hope the show gets another season to prove that it can rise to the challenge.


Aisha Dee’s letter addresses issues beyond this storyline…in fact, her comments about the storyline might be the least important part of her letter. She bemoans the lack of black writers in the show’s writer’s room and the lack of black talent behind the camera, including as department heads. She notes that it took three seasons to get someone in the hair department who knew how to work on her hair.

While Dee might be alone in voicing this frustration on the set of The Bold Type, her experience is painfully ubiquitous. After she and Samantha Ware shed some light into their experience on the set of Glee, Amber Riley started #unMUTEny, a social media campaign to “end black silence in the entertainment industry and hold power structures accountable for suppressing black experiences.” Shalita Grant, the out lesbian who starred for three seasons as Sonja Percy on NCIS: New Orleans, left that show after experiencing similar challenges with their hair department. Earlier this year, Vanessa Morgan and Ashleigh Murray both detailed their experiences as part of the Riverdale cast as being underpaid and deprioritized in terms of storyline, when compared to their white co-stars. In the wake of Morgan’s revelations, the black women of the CW rallied around her, in a showcase of true sisterhood.

“The level of care, nuance, and development that has gone into the stories centering white hetero characters is inconsistent with the stories centering queer characters and POC,” Dee wrote in her letter, echoing Morgan and Murray’s experience.

This week, Aisha Dee stepped out on a limb to voice her support “for us ♥️” and I hope her bravery is rewarded with love and unending support from us.

A black biracial, bisexual girl raised in the South, working hard to restore North Carolina's good name. Lover of sports, politics, good TV and Sonia Sotomayor. Spends her Thursday nights trying to make #Shonday happen.

Natalie has written 129 articles for us.

24 Comments

  1. Thank you so much for putting into words so eloquently the complete nonsense that has been season 4b of TBT. My mind has been reeling the moment Kat and the bootleg Meghan Mccain shared that unnecessary slow motion eye contact in the midseaon finale. Thank god for amazing writers such as you and all the others that have called out the show for what they were doing because I have been screaming into a pillow these past couple of weeks unable to process the bullshit this show has put me through.

    Also can we just take a moment to appreciate our lord and savior and goddess Aisha Dee for speaking out about the lack of diversity behind the scenes on the show and about her own personal feelings regarding the storyline. What a woman and what an actress to convey Kat’s attraction to this girl on screen because chile…

    A part of me wishes that the season wasn’t cut short so we could have seen where exactly the writers were going to go with this storyline for two more episodes. Because even though I believe that no matter the circumstances, Kat’s fling with Eva would have been a short term one, the evidence suggest the writers thought they made this star-crossed, epic, will they won’t they, endgame love (cough which they already have with Kadena cough). Like the writers really though they did something. And if Aisha hadn’t called it out they would have continued to think they were doing something.

    But alas we are left with Kat, a character since s1e1 has calmly and fiercely stood up to a boardroom full of cis white men for issues she’s passionate about, who eloquently and respectfully checks one of her best friends on reverse racism, and has reevaulated her own biases with grace when it came to topics such as her own racial identity to pegging get reduced to an Angry Black Woman whose incapable of holding a civilized conversation with someone who doesn’t hold her world view. All of this to prop up a white conservative republican who can’t even answer Kat when she’s asked why she didn’t stand up for her own community when faced with homophobic rhetoric at a republican mixer even when she claims she wants to have nuanced conversations with people about the hard topics.

    Hopefully TBT gets renewed for another season because this can’t be how the stories of Sutton, Jane, Kat, and Jacqueline. Hopefully the backlash was a come to jesus moment for the writers to return the show back to what it once was.

  2. I’m glad Aisha Dee spoke out so publicly. She shouldn’t have even had to do that. I’m sure she objected to this storyline the minute she heard about it but the show STILL went ahead with it. They knew they were in the wrong and the only reason they are trying to save face now is because Aisha has spoken out to the point where her instagram post is making the rounds in the media. That paltry last minute change might not have happened otherwise.

    This isn’t even the first time this network has tried to do this type of storyline. They did the same thing on Good Trouble and that was with a white couple which makes far more sense since neither party has anything to loose in the matter. Liberal Black women are not dating Conservatives “despite their differences”. They would not. They are NOT. This is embarrassing.

  3. i do not understand the term microagression – every time i see a person of color relate the things that happened to them, the behaviors seem like agression-agression. white people certainly complain they are when we encounter situations that limit or reduce us, despite the fact that those experiences don’t result from social infrastructure.

    i love aisha dee, and imagine that after she acted her ass off and almost made the story plausible, the people in charge told themselves liberal v. conservative values was an important topic. maybe if BIPOC had framed the narrative that could have been the case.

    i really like the show and love how the three main characters relate. i look forward to it each week. that said – if a) Sutton gets pregnant [and b) there’s a ‘who’s the father’ storyline], that will be so disappointing.

  4. Thank you for this. You nailed the ways in which the storyline was absolutely absurbed and offensive. The Bold Type did real damage with this one. All I have to say is protect Aisha at all costs because there is no way you can tell me that TBT environment is safe for Black women. I want the TBT to get a season 5 if they can completely flip the writers room and get rid the stench of toxic white feminism. Otherwise just end the show and give Aisha a spinoff or a different show lead by people who actually understands and values not only Blackness but other identities and can write thoughfully and compassionately about it.

  5. Omg Aisha Dee really fucking spoke the truth. I’m impressed with her. Sometimes actresses say the most vacuous shit, but it’s clear she’s smart and progressive. Anyway I also noted that she didn’t list ‘straight’ in her list of privileges! Only cis! …interesting!

    I hope that season 5 happens cos this show is my absolute guilty pleasure and I look forward to it every week. But I need Kat to have some scenes where she reckons with what she’s done with Ava and how it was a slip up. I have a TON of good ideas about how it could be done because I’m also a queer mixed woman who has dated some questionable ppl in the past! The Bold Type please hire me as a consult! :))

  6. Yes, the showrunners went wrong with this storyline by trying to use Kat to “redeem” Eva or declare her “a good person” or whatever. They should have just let her be the republican scum that she is.
    But their characters had great chemistry and sometimes we do kiss a person that is totally wrong for us. Like Kat said between kisses “this makes no sense.”
    So, I admit I would have liked to see this relationship play out further. Like, Kat realizing the toxicity and that she can’t change Eva (like I’m sure she would have kept trying) and finally ending it. It could have been a valuable lesson to all the women who enter relationships with objectively “bad people” under the notion that their love for them will make them become a better person. Finding oneself in such a toxic, often abusive, relationship can happen to intelligent, strong women like Kat too.

    The harsh criticism (in large part coming from autostraddle which obviously has the influence and power to sway opinions in the queer community) surrounding this “love story” (long before A. Dee spoke out) though, it seems didn’t allow the showrunners to adjust and learn from their mistakes and show us a way for Kat to get out of this mess next season. Instead they obviously felt pressured to drop this storyline altogether with last minute changes.

    So, do we really want to see only healthy relationships for our queers on tv?
    And also, where does media criticism end and censorship start?

    • yeah, i can appreciate your sentiments about the relationship – the obvious chemistry and, again, Aisha Dee’ performance just blew me away – i really wish that i could support the effort. but i hated it, feeling manipulated instead.

      the problem for me is that they gave ava’s character abusive traits (hardline immigration, supporting her dad who was funding political interests that furthered conversion therapy even though she said she didn’t support it). traits that lead to issues that hurt people, exponentially. and then they tried to make ava seem the more reasonable one by helping/defending/supporting Kat and then having Kat ditch her after sexing her. making someone a sympathetic character in behavior but giving her a backstory rooted in harm, that’s a disservice. it’s a terrible narrative choice.

      it’s hard to make political conservatives sympathetic right now because their platform is so rooted in democratically corrupt philosophy and practice, but the writers didn’t even try to find issues for the character to talk about that didn’t make the story entirely implausible. an alternative, for example, would have been a discussion of the nevertrumpers/lincoln project. at least that narrative wouldn’t have given representation to vicious ideology, while allowing discussion about how the core conservative ideology has the current president as a logical conclusion.

      i appreciate your point. i also appreciate you making it. mostly i think we should let creators make their choices, skip the acrimony, and vote with our attention. but this is an extraordinary time, and in the same way that it still isn’t time to make room around #metoo for men who have been abusers, the left should not be being trying to accommodate hurtful narratives that sympathize rightwing ideology.

      • Hi, thank you for your reply. I agree with you and also with autostraddle’s criticism about how they portrayed Eva. Actually with “let her be the republican scum that she is” I meant that it was the wrong choice by the showrunners to try to make her sympathetic in any way. They should have made it clear to the viewers that no matter how pretty and sophisticated the voice of right-wing ideology is, it is wrong. There are no two sides when it comes to certain issues, like people getting hurt or killed or having their existence put into question. They should have exposed the conservative talking points as gaslighting instead of making them seen as something to actually take into consideration.
        If they had done that, they still could have told an intriguing story here for Kat in my opinion.
        For example, they could have shown Kat falling for Eva even though she knows it’s bad. But somehow Kat can’t resist, and so she tells herself that deep down Eva is a good person to justify her attraction to Eva.
        But while Kat is in a phase of denial, we the viewers as well as Kat’s friends on the show see clearly that Eva is abusive and their relationship is toxic.

        What I’m trying to say is that this whole storyline could have been really interesting if the show had handled it better. In the end it could have shown that there’s no reasoning with people like Eva, that they can’t be saved by the love of a good woman. The showrunners still could have done this in season 6 if they hadn’t decided to drop the storyline completely ( I doubt we’ll see Eva again next season).

        All in all though, you’re probably right, it’s not the time to give any platform to right-wing propaganda, not even in the form of a sexy woman on a tv show. ;)

        Though I am glad that it (finally!) is the time when actors of color can speak out about the mistreatment they suffer behind the scenes and from the networks.

        • appreciate the thoughtful response.

          looking at turkish’s reply below, i’m realizing that i should stop talking about how they could have made the story relevant. using an African-American character in this storyline was offensive and hurtful; if i were a better ally a person from the culture wouldn’t have to make the point at all, let alone twice.

    • “So, do we really want to see only healthy relationships for our queers on tv?”

      There have been plenty of unhealthy queer relationships on television. There is a difference between an unhealthy relationship and a show clearly pushing a “both sides” political agenda by pairing a liberal black woman with a white republican for controversy. It’s also just plain unrealistic. As I said in my earlier post. Black women are just not doing that. And that is based on my own nearly 40 years of lived experience as black woman with black women relatives and friends. Also, the political polls don’t lie. 96% of us were not for that bullshit, which is more than can be said for other demographics. This show chose Kat to tell this story for a reason. And her own actress was not a fan of it either.

      “And also, where does media criticism end and censorship start?”

      Who is censoring them? This whole censorship thing is a fucking lie and conservative straw-man talking point. Nobody forced them to change their storyline. Hell, nobody stopped them from getting as far as they did with it in the first place. Not even the initial objections of Aisha Dee. They have a right to make whatever they want and we as an audience have the right to say this storyline is ignorant and change the channel. It’s obvious to me that they made the last minute change because they saw how negatively people reacted to it. Particularly women of color. You can’t blame Autostraddle’s “influence” for that. They weren’t the only ones talking about this storyline.

    • While I appreciate the suggestion that I have the power to sway large swaths of the queer community and compel showrunners to bend to my will, I don’t think that’s what happened here. I imagine if the showrunner, Wendy Straker Hauser, was that concerned about the criticism, the finale screener that went out to critics (myself included) wouldn’t have included the “risky” text messages between the Kat and Eva (according to Vulture‘s reporting that version ended up airing in Australia). The suggestion that media critics are censoring this show doesn’t hold water.

      What’s more concerning to me is that, according to her statement, Aisha Dee had been having these conversations with the show’s writers and producers (and executives at Freeform/Universal TV) over the last few weeks…if they heard Aisha’s concerns and felt that this was the way to go, why wait until the last minute to change the story? Why’d it take Aisha making a public statement for them to do anything? They weren’t reacting to me or other critics…or Aisha, even…they were reacting to being called out publicly.

      Truthfully, I never expected them to make in-season changes to the storyline; The Bold Type‘s Montreal set has been shutdown since mid-March, after all. If anything I expected the show to do what it did after criticism of the first season: learn from it and incorporate it in stories for the next season. The text change, and the timing of it, suggests they didn’t learn anything and I’m disappointed by that.

      More broadly, though, you asked if “we really want to see only healthy relationships for our queers on tv?” And the answer to that is a definite no. I grew up watching daytime television and one of the unwritten rules of daytime is that happy, healthy couples get no screentime…because that doesn’t make for good TV. As such, I’ve got more of a tolerance for drama than most people. I think there was a way for this show to tell this storyline well but, for whatever reason, the show didn’t go that route.

      • Thank you for your reply, I really appreciate it. It would certainly be interesting to get to know what ultimately made them do the last minute changes. The whole thing doesn’t sit right with me though. Like you, I’m concerned it’ll only be a cop out for them. A fast fix instead of doing the hard work of learning from their mistakes and do better in the future. We’ll see what the next season brings, I guess.
        As I said before I think there was a way to tell an intriguing story here. It’s a pitty they failed to do that.
        I hope they’ll listen to Aisha Dee and writers of color (assuming they hire a more diverse writing team) in the future, especially when it comes to Kat’s storylines.

  7. thanks for writing this! i love this cheesy, soapy show and have been so frustrated by how dirty they’re doing kat (and the manager of the belle?? her lines in this episode are ridiculous. i have a hard time believing not one, but two Black women would have fought for Eva to be the first guest of a podcast and then get called out for it, responding “woops, we have to do damage control”) its disappointing to say the least.

    I was also thinking about that quote by Robert Jones Jr. (“Son of Baldwin,” He is actually the one who said it, not James Baldwin, if you wanna make an attribution correction! https://twitter.com/SonofBaldwin/status/1157664513031901184)

    thanks again for putting this to words!!

  8. I just cannot understand what is so offensive about portraying a relationship that makes someone question themselves. It is never helpful to start viewing people who are different as less than or the enemy. Even another comment in this thread refers to Ava as “republican scum”. Dehumanising someone, even a fictional character is never a good thing. Imagine she was a minority character and it was a group of conservatives saying these exact same things. It wouldn’t be acceptable.

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