Hello and welcome to the first ever Autostraddle recap of Twenties on BET, a half hour comedy that’s sometimes also a satire about an aspiring young Hollywood writer with an all-consuming lust for her mean femme boss, who by the way happens looks incredible in high heels (relatable content).
I’m Carmen, your intrepid recapper. Fun facts about me include that I’m the Editor-in-Chief of this website (if you’re new here) and I got my start in this internet writing business doing recaps for the later seasons Orange Is the New Black, the first two seasons of Black Lightning (let’s go nerds!), and the first season of Vida. Sadly, the more I moved up the editorial ranks, the less time I have for a weekly tv writing commitment. But, in an extremely sincere and borderline corny ass way, I LOVE Black People. I love gay shit. And last summer the Autostraddle editors decided that we wanted to more firmly put out money where our mouth is: If we value QTPOC created content, we need to be better using our platform to cover it.
So here I am, feeling very much like it’s the first time. It might be a little musty, crusty, and rusty at first — but if you stick it out as I shake off the dirt, I promise I’m worth it (so is Twenties). One last piece of business before we get to it, it’s rare that we start doing recaps of television shows in their second season, so here’s a mini-recap of what you missed:
- As previously mentioned Hattie is an aspiring writer who is not so subtly a take on Lena Waithe (producer, writer of the series. A fun fact here is that Twenties was actually one of the first projects Lena shopped around, long before she was hired for Master of None, we actually started covering it in 2013!!)
- Hattie has two best friends Marie (engaged, a little unhappy, TV executive) and Nia (yoga instructor and aspiring actress, forever believer in #BlackGirlSelfCare)
- Hattie works for Ida B. (the aforementioned crush), a television mogul who, despite all the flirting, we weren’t quite sure was gay last season but turns out she is VERY MUCH SOME KINDA GAY NOW BABYYYYYYYYYYY
Last season, Hattie was building an emotionally intimate relationship with her boss and mentor that lead to a lot of lusty dreams for them both (including an impeccable shot-for-shot remake of Dustin Hoffman and Anne Bancroft in The Graduate that was *chef’s kiss), but then Hattie betrays Ida’s trust by giving one of Ida’s personal — not her usual TV cash cow — scripts to Nia, who in turn uses it to audition IN FRONT OF IDA and promptly gets Hattie fired.
But as a goodbye/thank you situation, Hattie leaves a script she’s been working on with Ida. And in a plot twist fit for the lesbian gawds, Ida shows up on Hattie’s doorstep looking all kinds of vulnerable and good looking. Then everyone gets the kiss we’ve been waiting for, eight episodes in the making, right as the camera fades to black.
My Narrator Voice: In general I don’t approve of workplace romances cuz they messy, and in particular when you get into the power dynamics of a Hollywood showrunner and a writers’ assistant who’s barely one step above an intern… you see what I’m saying here. But in the interest of not having to point that out every recap, we’ll be operating under an understanding of “everyone’s grown here” unless Ida does something outta pocket. Ok back to the sexy, already in progress
I assumed that Twenties would pull a time jump on us, but no m’am — we hop right to with Ida B and Hattie knocking boots to Etta James “Sunday Kind of Love” and then Hattie rolls over, completely sprung because much like Martin Luther King she has been to the mountaintop (yes I’m making a height joke, yes Sophina Brown has quite a few inches on Jonica Gibbs). After you sleep with the woman of your dreams, there’s only one right thing to do in that situation, which is to badly sing Anita Baker and also tell her you want to marry her.
…. just kidding that’s actually not what you do, because if you have sex for the first time with a woman and then promptly tell her “I imagined marrying you and all my cousins throwing flower petals down the aisle” on 100% she WILL hop out of bed like you have four heads and run to put her clothes back on. Which is exactly what Ida B. does.
Then of course, at that same moment, Chuck, Marie’s fiancé, screams for Hattie to help bring a very drunk Marie in the house from her birthday party. Which is how Ida finds out that the bed they just had sex in?? Not even Hattie’s bed! It’s Marie’s! (Ida, thoroughly horrified: “Are you homeless?” My free advice to Ida, if that’s a concern then maybe you should try paying your assistants more sis). Hattie, feeling dejected, hardens quickly and encourages that if she don’t want her business in the street, she might want to try escaping via the back door.
Now the race is on. Hattie rush cleans up Marie’s bed to try and cover her sex tracks. But she misses Ida’s red lace bra (Marie: “Is that mine?” Chuck: “No, too small, by a cup and a half at least”) and that my friends is how Hattie ends up, once again, ass out on the street.
Hattie shows up at Nia’s front door with all her possessions in a trash bag that breaks (I am so thankful to never go back to my twenties) and promptly tells her bestie that she had no choice in the matter of desecrating Marie’s marital bed, one simply CANNOT make love to Ida B. on a futon. And you know what? Fair.
Nia wonders out loud if Ida B. is “gay or maybe she’s bi or maybe she’s one of those late in life lesbians, I saw a documentary about that” — which is some peak allyship, but when Hattie asks Nia if she has any of that fancy weed with lavender and grape flavored rolling papers, Nia responds that she only has CBD oil aka Diet Weed, which, of course, is not.
Now it’s the next morning and Nia is up bright and early, “greeting the sun and finding my center” because “we have to normalize Black women doing whatever they want whenever they want.” Amen.
Today is Nia’s first day acting on Ida’s show and before her table read, she fits in a quick prayer with Hattie (Nia: “My God is a she.” Hattie: “Say less.”) and then heads off to the studio lot.
Nia’s walk on set is filmed in black and white and has a jazz music overture like an old Hollywood studio film as Nia imagines herself as Diahann Carroll and I love the reference… in Season One it sometimes felt like Twenties was trying too hard to prove it was artsy or “different” from other Black comedies, but this comes across organic (well, for a satire), threading the needle, and it works.
Meanwhile, Marie’s day at the studio involves some unnecessary commentary about whether or not Black stories should have trauma in them? Which felt like a pretty dated clapback on some (arguably, fair) online discourse that Lena Waithe has often found herself in the center of, both after Queen & Slim in 2019 and Them earlier this year. It’s a distracting low point in an otherwise extremely fun episode, and honestly I’m not sure what it added?
The fact that all three best friends work in/or around Hollywood definitely allows for some moments to capture larger conversations — and listen I love a good, smart meta moment. But instead this conversation between Marie and her Black co-worker felt like it was missing the point. The plain truth is, Black stories don’t have to center trauma or violence to be good. Trauma is not the only thing that’s important. In fact, Lena Waithe’s best work doesn’t focus on trauma at all (case-in-point this otherwise DELIGHTFUL episode). So I’m going to do the charitable thing here, and skip merrily right along.
BACK TO THE FUN PART: HATTIE AND IDA, SITTING IN A TREE, T-E-X-T-I-N-G
Hattie, sitting at home positively sweating it out remembering ice queen Ida slowly taking off her red underwear last night, her cherry red lipstick, the way her chestnut curls frames her face, settles on texting: “Hey, how’s it going? I’m sorry last night ended like that. I’ve never made love like that before. You’re lips are God’s most perfect creation.”
Ida, strutting into work in an all white suit, texts back: “It’s your.”
(Did I mention, we love a mean femme.)
Later, after her table read, Nia meets Ida in person, and I think in trying to make a personal connection with her boss — she goes in for it, laying on thick: “You’re glowing this morning. I don’t know what your nighttime routine is, but it’s working.”
Realizing that Nia is talking about Hattie, Ida stops dead in her tracks. Long pause. Her stare down withers.
My Narrator Voice: Please note, this is now the second time Nia has stepped all the way into Hattie and Ida’s situationship, maybe we… don’t do that? To our closest friends? Once again, just here to give free advice.
Hattie pops by Marie’s office to let her know that she’s finally getting her professional act together, sending her script around to other writer friends, the Brownlist, and a few other programs. Do you see what loving a mean femme will get you? To quote the incomparable Natasha Rothwell:
Adorably, Hattie is still very much not over her little you’re/your problem, murmuring to herself the spelling of each version, depending on which one Marie is using throughout their conversation.
Whew! We’re almost done! Now back at (ughhh, not Hattie’s) home!
Hattie brings back some quality junkfood (no disrespect to Nia, but she couldn’t eat anymore cauliflower puffs and seaweed snacks) and prys for more information about life on Ida’s set. Nia somehow conveniently does NOT mention that she alluded to Ida that she knew Ida fucked her friend the night before, but she does give this perfect description of the studio exec:
Nia: She was Icy, yet warm. Relaxed, but very much in control. And even though she made me feel like I was the only person in the room, she still kept me at arm’s length.
Hattie, wistfully: That’s her speciality.
And that brings us to our grand finale…
This is where I stood up off the couch, paced circles around my living room, promptly SCREAMEDDDDD INTO MY ELBOW, and then rewound again, and, again, and again.
Hattie waits for Ida in the parking lot of the studio. It’s important that you know, she looks goodt. Since we are getting to know each other on this journey, and we will be back together every week, it is also beneficial for you to know that I have what we call… a type. And that type is a stud with deep dimples who loves books. Hattie is my type. My knees quite simply go weak. I cannot help it. And the Lorde saw fit to bless Jonica Gibbs with those dimples, and here she comes working them for every inch of confidence and swag that she has.
Jonica’s talent is magnetic. Most of the time Hattie is sweet and goofy in that way that lovable butches often come across on television, but then when you least expect it BOOM — no more jokes. It’s drawers dropping time.
Ida, still hot over Nia spilling the tea on their almost-relationship at work (well, more like alluding to the tea, but sure), tells Hattie she doesn’t want her business in public. She has a brand to protect.
Hattie asks if Ida thinks she is “young and dumb”
Ida responds that Hattie doesn’t even know the difference between “you’re” and “your”
Hattie knows the difference! She just was typing too fast.
Ida says that’s the problem, she’s too eager.
They get closer.
C l o s e r.
Just when Ida finally breaks and leans in for the kiss, Hattie backs away.
“Careful now, we’re in a public place. You’ve got a brand to protect.”
And that’s how I died.
+ These recaps will publish Thursdays moving forward! Yesterday we published our roundtable, On Blackness and The L Word: Generation Q which took up the majority of my day. If you haven’t read it yet, you absolutely should.
+ I haven’t yet figured out how to best incorporate the BET Twenties Aftershow into these recaps? But for now I want to say that BET’s past transphobic treatment of non-binary host B. Scott was a really formative pop culture moment for me when I was first coming out, and seeing B. Scott, in a full crown and scepter and sparkly grown, finally get their due, moved me to my core. Between Jonica, Lena, and B. — there was Black queer joy in abundance. When B. greeted with their traditional, “Hey Love Muffins”? That shit was healing.
+ If you’re new to conversations around BET and homophobia and exactly what makes change moments like this so special, may I plug my own essay? Queen Latifah and the Black Queer Kids BET Never Loved
+ ICYMI we nominated Season One of Twenties for Two Gay Emmy Awards
+ I want Hattie’s Nina Simone sweatshirt
+ Too early to declare Jonica Gibbs and Sophina Brown for chemistry of the year or nah?
+ Amount of times I thought to myself that Hattie would be a mistake I’d gladly make: 2 (“Your my angelllllllllllll” and “careful now”)
+ Amount of times I thought to myself that Ida would be a mistake I’d gladly make: 1 (THAT STARE DOWN TO NIA)
+ Quote of the episode: “Why be ordinary, when you can be legendary.” — B. Scott