I’m going to keep it all the way real with you guys. That scene. That sex scene. I don’t know how to write about it. I don’t know how to process a scene so graphic, but also brutally vulnerable, into words. My mouth sat ajar in front of the television screen, opening and closing on its own rhythm like a guppy looking for air.
Emma, in black lingerie, leans back across a kitchen island. She’s scratching the countertop, moaning as her sex partner for the night, a non-binary soft butch cutie who goes by Sam, SUCKS. HER TOES. LIKE. THEIR. LIFE. DEPENDS. ON. IT!! Yaaaaaas!
Sam (Michelle Badillo, who you might recognize as one of the queer writers for One Day at a Time!) gets off the floor and my girl Emma has her way with her. Against the kitchen isle. From behind. Slamming her to the ground and sitting on her face. You name it. It’s Emma’s world. It’s a world that is brutal and harsh and she’s still trying to find ways to crack the glass and break free.
I know this — these two aren’t just having sex. They’re fucking. Really, really fucking. Queer women don’t ever get to fuck on television. We aren’t allowed to be sweaty and naked and rough and in charge and brazenly seek our own pleasure on camera, away from a straight or a male gaze.
The most obvious comparison to this scene would be something from The L Word, even though I am very cautious bringing up The L Word when talking about queer women’s television. I have complicated feelings that it’s still the standard bearer nearly a decade after going off air. That said, it would be impossible to craft a timeline of groundbreaking gay girl sex scenes without it. That show fundamentally opened doors when it came to graphic and unapologetic depiction of queer women’s pleasure. If hard pressed to find a successor to The L Word in those terms, I’d most prominently point to the early seasons of Orange is the New Black. Alex, Nicky, Piper, and Lorna Morello put in work.
If those shows were carrying the metaphorical baton, then on Sunday night they handed it off to Vida and Tanya Saracho ran with it. She lapped them! She wrote a high femme bossy bitch top and her one night stand. She wrote them toe sucking, and Emma fucking her lover from behind, grounding her leg weight and using her knees to add extra pressure. She had Emma step out of her panties with a mother fucking purpose and then physically ride her lover’s face to ecstasy. All on camera. Bodies bare and open and not hidden in shadows. It is not an exaggeration to say that what aired on Sunday was once in a lifetime.
Also, in the aforementioned “milestone shows”, the queer women fucking were most often white. At the very least, the shows in question have been rightly criticized for the mistreatment of their women of color characters. Even more so than our white peers, queer women of color have been denied sexual agency on television — particularly within white spaces, but also in spaces of our own. Michelle Badillo told Vulture that before taking this role on Vida, she had never acted professionally before. When approached by Saracho, she had a realization; “I thought it would be so cool to be part of this tradition of powerful queer Latina sex scenes on TV — and then I was like, Oh wait, there is no tradition of that. So I thought if I can be a part of that, I’ll… do it for the history.” Do it for the history. Be brave. Create something bigger than yourself. That emotional honesty drives home throughout Badillo’s (and Mishel Prada’s) performance
Tanya Saracho agreed with Badillo, reminding us, “It’s a radical act to put two brown bodies on the screen already, but to put two queer bodies having queer sex like this is a political act.” It isn’t just about the hot sex — though the sex is very hot — it’s about creating spaces where Latinx queer bodies can feel ownership. It’s tearing down shame. It’s about saying that our love, our sex, our sticky sweat is valid. It’s about fighting tooth and nail for pleasure in a world that would rather us be criminalized for waking up in the morning.
My goodness, I love this show.
After the sex, Sam lounges around in their bed, breasts still bare. They want to turn Emma on to a new music group (a sly play to get Emma’s number), but Emma leaves with little more than a knowing smile and a few words. Sam, understanding that this won’t be more than a one night thing, calls out as Emma is leaving their apartment — “I hope it did the trick for you.”
Emma turns away, her mask of ice and control slowly collecting itself once again across her face. It’s pretty clear that she doesn’t do comfort. And whatever she’s looking for at the bottom of this fuck pile, she hasn’t found it yet. But at least for an evening, she was able to be more free.
Back at home, Lyn asks where Emma’s been. She pauses. She chews her cheek, deciding if this is the right time to “come out.” Then she saddles in close with her sister on the couch and whips out her Tindr app, wordlessly showing her a picture of Sam looking 100% a babe in a white tank top and black leather coat.
Lyn’s eyes grow to saucers!!! Her smile damn near breaks her face in two. “I knew it! I totally knew it.” Lyn has also played around a little in her past, and we all know about Vidalia of course, so she jokes, “maybe it runs in the family.”
Whatever warmth Emma was letting through, freezes in an instant. “Don’t”, she warns her sister. Comparing her to Vida is out of the question. Lyn just wants Emma to know that she has support. Their moment is sweet, but also sad. Emma and Lyn want to comfort each other, but can’t quite figure out how to get out of their own way and get there. They’re both searching for something, for love, but aren’t equipped to give it.
Meanwhile, Eddy can’t sleep. She tosses and turns, tears running into the crevices of her glazed, far away eyes. For the first two episodes, we’ve largely gotten to know Eddy through her interactions with Emma and Lyn. There’s only been glimpses of her life separate from the Hernandez sisters. Now Vida’s finally ready to explore Eddy on her own terms. Ser Anzoategui rises to the occasion, cracking Eddy’s grief and desperation wide open. Letting the emotions lay precariously on the ground like a live wire in a rainstorm.
That silent underwater bathtub scream? My GOD. Anzoategui is giving their everything to this role.
Emma paid off Vidalia’s predatory loan with her own money, and now she has to figure out how to make the building profitable until she can find someone else willing to buy it. “The Wife” — that would be Eddy, who Emma punctuates with a “Fuck her!” — still hasn’t shared any bookkeeping paperwork. So in the middle of the night, she breaks into the locked living room cabinet. And the books… aren’t great. There isn’t even enough money coming in to cover the most basic expenses.
Eddy doesn’t care what Emma thinks. She knows that Emma is just here to sell and leave. All she ever does is leave.
Once again, Anzoategui knocks it out of the park! They start the monologue low in Eddy’s register, eyes red with tears, voice steady and nearly a whisper. Eddy explains, everything was going ok, not great mind you, but they were getting by — until Vida got sick. And by then — Anzoategui ramps up to a crescendo, face red — who had time to “give a fuck about about pipes or mortgages or shit like that?? She was fucking dying!” Eddy storms away, back to her bedroom. Back away from these selfish young women. Back to mourning her lost love.
Eddy was there for Vida, even when it was just the two of them facing the world. She took care of her alone in her final months and days, while Emma and Lyn were off living their grand lives with no clue that things were amiss at home. I think it’s past time for the sisters to start recognizing and respecting that sacrifice.
The next morning Eddy prays in front of the ofrenda (altar) she’s set up for Vida in their bedroom, candles and incense burning, when a tenant bangs on the door. The sink in Doña Tita’s apartment is acting up again.
I can tell immediately, Doña Tita (Elena Rivera, who you may also know as the Grandmother in Coco) is the real unsung hero of this show. She’s eccentric. She used to be a shoe model and warns Eddy, errrr, excuse me, ahem, Eduina, never to marry a lazy man. Eddy’s smirk as she promises in return is PERFECTION — after all it’s easy not to marry a lazy man when you are never going to marry any man at all.
Anyway, Doña Tita loves a good cigar and a good story. She’s good with plants and life lessons. It’s hard not to adore her on first sight. Most importantly, she shows up right when Eddy needs her most, to help heal her pain.
La Doña tells Eddy that in our lives, we all die three times. The first time, when we breathe our last breath. Next, when they put us in the ground. And finally, when the last person alive who knows and remembers us, says our name for the last time. Eddy doesn’t respond, crying quietly in the kitchen. It’s then that I realize — Doña Tita might warn her little Eduina never to marry a man, but she’s not missing anything. She knows exactly what she’s doing.
Later that evening, it’s time to open up the bar. Carla, Johnny’s pregnant fiancée, comes barreling in looking for Lyn — who purposefully posted a photo of herself laying with Johnny’s naked arm, easily identifiable by his tattoo, on Instagram. Carla ultimately backs down, but out of respect for Eddy and her bar, Emma playing backup (it’s the first time she’s come to Eddy’s defense!) — not for Lyn.
Did I also mention that Lyn literally stole a credit card out of her dead mother’s mail? WHO EVEN DOES THAT? I guess we’ve found the Hernandez sister that’s hardest to root for. We need a new word for “The Worst.”
At the end of the night, Eddy finally finds some well deserved peace — on the roof of her building, smoking Vida’s old Cuban cigars with Doña Tita.
Vida was saving the cigars for a special occasion, and she died before she ever got to enjoy them. They had so many plans together — they wanted to remodel the bar, to tell the truth to her daughters about their relationship, to set things right with Emma. Eddy wonders, why do we do that? Why do wait for “later”? Later never comes.
Damned if Tita gets it. She knows that she’s old and her days are numbered. That’s why she touches every leaf, every petal, grabs the earth by the handful — and when she can, she grabs an ass or two while she’s at it.
Ok you guys, that’s it for me! Thank you for your patience with this recap being a bit late. You wouldn’t believe the week I’ve had! And it’s only Wednesday! But no matter what else life throws at me, hanging out with you is always a highlight.
I hope you have a beautiful, relaxing long weekend.