There’s a direct correlation between how good an episode of The Bold Type is and how much Jacqueline (Melora Hardin) is in it. Unfortunately for us, this week’s fourth episode of the second season has exactly zero Jacqueline. We only have the three young leads — Jane (Katie Stevens), Sutton (Meghann Fahy), and Kat (Aisha Dee) — to focus on this week. And while the characters spend most of the episode together, their actual stories are pretty separate.
So let’s take them as such, separately, to parse them out. Each gives us a solid view of what’s working — and what isn’t — about our main characters this season.
Jane is the journalistic anchor of the season. Her stories have the most to do with being an actual writer and reporter, to the point where her romantic entanglements all directly relate to her professional exploits.
We get two such examples of work-related guys this week. Ben (Luca James Lee), the doctor Jane interviewed last episode, asks her out to lunch — something she desperately needs as she wallows in her unemployment. Meanwhile, her former workplace crush, Ryan (better known by his publication name, Pinstripe, and played by Dan Jeannotte), resurfaces in her life with an enticing new career path: gossip journalism.
Each potential relationship presents its own speed bump, but the key in understanding Jane is in which obstacle proves insurmountable. Ben’s a Christian, which annoys Jane, because she had a bad experience with faith when her mother succumbed to her cancer. Ryan, on the other hand, is too ethically murky in his work, which makes Jane question the person he really is. One is a distracting character quirk; the other is a grave statement about his character.
Jane ultimately cares most about her work. When a guy’s work philosophy is different than hers, that’s a dealbreaker. It’s a relatively unique way of showing relationships in a workplace dramedy, particularly focused on a female lead.
Sutton has her foot firmly in the fashion world now, a hard right turn from her primarily relationship-driven stories last season. She realizes that she’s not in the professional place she wants to be upon meeting an influencer that Scarlet is set to feature. This influencer exudes confident cool, and Sutton is immediately attracted to her style. She ingratiates herself in that circle — even when it means charging $500 worth of cocaine to her company card to keep her fancy new friends happy.
This is where I struggle with Sutton. I think Fahy is incredibly talented, with the pathos to keep Sutton relatable and the comic chops to sell every punchline with aplomb. (When the women are comparing how many people they’ve had sex with, and hers is the highest while Jane’s is the lowest, she counters Jane’s judgy “makes sense” with a perfect “yours too.”) But Sutton as a character makes consistently dumb decisions. No matter how much she wants a place in a fabulous circle of people, as Jill Zarin might call it, what she’s doing is professionally hazardous. Reaching the top echelons won’t matter if she’s thrown out of the industry entirely.
That said, I appreciate that even as Sutton makes bad choices, they’re all related to her career. Last season, besides a vague interest in switching to the fashion department, Sutton’s ambitions were mostly swept to the side in favor of her romantic plot with Steinem Publishing board of directors member Richard (Sam Page). Richard’s been mostly absent this season, which is a net positive; Fahy’s been able to flesh out her characters in ways that don’t relate just to a man. But Page is still a series regular, so we know that shoe will drop sometime. In the meantime, no matter how foolish she acts at times, it’s been nice to see a different side of Sutton.
Someone has to take up the romantic story slack, however, and this season that burden falls on Kat’s shoulders. It’s understandable why: Kat and Adena (Nikohl Boosheri) were easily the fan favorite couple after season one, and their very presence on TV as an interracial lesbian couple is remarkable. But too many of these stories boil down to “Kat’s learning how to be a lesbian!”, with Adena getting shafted on character development as a result.
This week’s story is emblematic of that: Adena gets invited to her old friend’s party, but wants to turn it down to spend time with Kat. Kat, thrilled by the idea of spending an evening with cool, artistic lesbians, insists they go. But seeing Adena welcomed so warmly by her friends — some of whom seem to be former flings — makes Kat jealous. Adena’s unwillingness to tell Kat how many people she’s slept with only exacerbates the problem.
Of course, Kat is being incredibly insecure, and pretty invasive, by questioning Adena’s past. For a woman who just three episodes ago couldn’t get up the gumption to go down on her girlfriend, she has a lot of judgmental questions, and infers the worst when Adena isn’t forthcoming in her answers.
My criticisms of Sutton’s stories apply in reverse to Kat’s. The lack of any professional story for her this season (even her short plot about her professional bio was more about how she personally identifies racially than anything else) has been such a reversal from her smart, dynamic stories last season. That’s not to say stories about relationships can’t be similarly smart — but to be frank, hers haven’t been. They’ve basically been the same character beat on repeat for four episodes. And Adena, who is one of my personal favorite characters, has been relegated to serving as a stimulus for Kat’s stories versus having a plot of her own.
I say all this not to bash The Bold Type, which I still enjoy every episode of greatly, but to flag some character concerns. As of right now, Jane is the only character who seems perfectly planted at The Bold Type’s intersection of work and play. If the writing can bring Sutton and Kat closer to her middle, the Freeform series will be all the better for it.
The next episode of The Bold Type will air next Tuesday, July 3, at 8 p.m. Eastern on Freeform.