If I have one major criticism of The Bold Type’s first season, it’s how it seemingly always forgot that Kat (Aisha Dee) was multiracial.
There were occasional moments where the character’s mixed heritage was mentioned, but always rather arbitrarily. The worst moment was during an episode where Kat and Adena (Nikohl Boosheri) are stopped by the cops. Kat, a black woman, has no concerns about police harassment, which narratively draws an exaggerated difference between herself and her Muslim girlfriend. It was baffling to watch, particularly while police shootings of unarmed black Americans seemed to dominate the news cycle.
The second episode of The Bold Type’s second season, “Rose-Colored Glasses,” goes a long way toward rectifying this. Scarlet’s social media director is on the rise, and needs a professional bio to accompany it. She struggles when fellow black Scarlet employee Alex (Matt Ward) suggests she add her race to her bio. Kat chafes, not wanting to put a label on herself. We soon meet her parents — white mom, black dad — who also resist labels. But a few well-placed questions from Adena make clear that this is a bigger internal issue for Kat.
She confronts her parents about why they always deemphasized race to her growing up, with her mom admitting other moms never believed Kat was actually hers. They apologize for any negative impact it had, and Kat, newly empowered, adds black to her bio. It’s not a revolutionary story, but it’s a relatively underrepresented one on television. Moreover, it’s a tip of the hat to the show’s odd handling of Kat’s race so far, and a course-correction for the future.
Sutton (Meghann Fahy) once again gets the simplest story of the episode: She knows people think she’s sleeping her way to the top, and is so nervous about it that she starts drawing inward. It affects her job performance when she has to style a set of ordinary men for a Scarlet spread, and she can’t get them out of their shells.
Some tough love from editor Jacqueline (Melora Hardin) helps Sutton shake it off, and she goes back to kicking ass at work. I’m hopeful Sutton starts getting some bigger stories soon; Fahy is my personal best-in-show pick in the cast. Her comic timing is unbelievable, and she’s able to turn from light-and-funny to emotionally invested on a dime. She deserves only the best material.
Jane (Katie Stevens) has a trickier plot this week, a continuation of the cliffhanger we saw during the season premiere. After her editor at Incite changed her thoughtful reflection on millennial menstrual cup company CEO Emma Cox into a scathing exposé of one of Cox’s lies, Jane is shaken. She goes to her editor to ask why the changes were made without her knowledge. The answer: “This isn’t Scarlet.” Nuance doesn’t play at Incite, and Jane is made aware in no uncertain terms that she failed.
This is, unfortunately, a growing truth in online media. Incite has a strategy that I’m personally familiar with: Tell the story that’s going to get the biggest emotional response so as to prompt engagement on social media, instead of the fairest or even the truest story. I understand Jane not realizing this; a lot of similar publications will hook young, talented writers with promises of doing great journalism, only to quickly redirect them toward click-hunting.
That said, Jane makes a couple of major mistakes in a row. She calls Emma Cox to apologize, and leaves a voicemail explaining that her story was changed without her consent. This opens Incite up to a whole new wave of bad publicity, as Emma predictably leaks the voicemail online. Jane then has to go on live TV to do damage control (dressed up in full Vice writer drag, no less), but veers off message to deliver a monologue about the dangers of sensationalizing stories for the sake of clicks. Is she correct? Absolutely. Is she implying on live TV that that her publication — at which she is still very much the new girl — is ethically dicey? She sure is.
A lesser show might’ve played Jane’s moment of on-air honesty as a chance for her boss to see things through her eyes, to realize the error of her ways and give Jane a new chance. But The Bold Type, for all its occasional whimsy and inspiration, is brutally honest about the industry it depicts. Jane gets fired from Incite for opening the brand up to further criticism — and it’s tough to deny just how justified the decision is.
It’s clear that Jane will find herself back at Scarlet; the only question is how long it will take. You can bet good money Jacqueline won’t make it easy for her, either.
The next episode of The Bold Type will air next Tuesday, June 19, at 8 p.m. Eastern on Freeform.