As if by magic, nearly every concern I raised about The Bold Type’s second season in my last recap instantly resolved itself this week. Do I feel partially responsible, despite my understanding that these episodes were written and shot months ago? Yes. (No.)
Unfortunately, there’s still very little Jacqueline (Melora Hardin) this week, and the episode itself is kind of messy. But the mess is because the show is delving into something particularly difficult: white privilege, and how Jane (Katie Stevens) fails to recognize hers.
Still unemployed, Jane gets an interview with a Bustle-esque women’s news site. She and her interviewer hit it off, and she’s convinced she’s getting the job — until she finds out, no, she’s not getting it, because the publication is in the midst of a diversity hiring push. She louldy complains about this to Sutton (Meghann Fahy), and Kat (Aisha Dee) — the latter of whom is particularly perturbed to hear her best friend come out against diversity hiring when it means she loses an opportunity.
Coincidentally, Kat is in the middle of her own hiring (giving her the professional plot I was missing from her stories this season), and is frustrated by the amount of Ivy League-educated, blandly qualified candidates crossing her desk. She talks with staff writer Alex (Matt Ward) and fashion director Oliver (Stephen Conrad Moore) about her problem in Scarlet’s kitchen, in one of my favorite scenes of the series. Oliver mentions he got hired while working as an assistant because one of the models on a shoot — Naomi Campbell, no less — clocked his outfit and told him he should start working in fashion. Their conversation inspires Kat to do a call-out on Twitter to find someone new. As Oliver leaves the kitchen, he says he wants to be told when black people snack time is happening. Considering what natural, easy chemistry these characters have together — and how little we see the show’s black characters interacting normally — I’m hopeful we get more of these scenes going forward.
Kat’s Twitter call-out is successful, as she finds a perfect Latina candidate, Angie, whose voice and engagement rate on Twitter are first-class. Sadly, she’s automatically rejected by HR because she doesn’t have a college degree. At Jacqueline’s insistence, Kat tries to fight the policy, but knows it’s an uphill battle. Which is why Jane’s whining about diversity hiring strikes a particular chord with her — and their fight about it is incredibly uncomfortable.
Despite usually getting the best storylines, Jane is probably the weakest character out of the core three on The Bold Type. She’s selfish, entitled, and has bad instincts as a journalist. Her friendships help her as a character, but left on her own, she’s usually grating to watch. (Which is why having her unemployed and mostly on her own this season has been tough, but I digress.)
This week, she reveals a whole new, ugly side to her personality, as she rants to her black best friend that she’s not actually privileged, because things have been hard for her. Kat has to take a breath and, very clearly straining, explain that her privilege is intrinsic, and the difficulties she’s describing are a fact of life for people of color. It’s remarkable work by Dee, who so perfectly personifies the stress that comes with telling an angry white person that they’re being an asshole. When Jane rushes to say Kat’s accusing her of being a racist, Kat carefully explains Jane isn’t a racist, but her behavior is “problematic.” It’s a high-wire act, and makes for one of the most stressful scenes of TV I’ve seen in a while. From The Bold Type, no less!
Eventually, Jane comes around, and she and Kat are able to make up. She even covers Angie’s shift at her day job so Angie can go with Kat to meet the company’s board of directors, and convince them that she deserves the social media gig despite her lack of a college degree. They’re successful, and we add yet another interesting, dynamic female character to the cast.
Jane and Kat’s story is so thorny and complex, I almost don’t want to get into Sutton’s plot. Because, as I suspected, Richard (Sam Page) comes back into the picture this week. Kat needs his help to get time from the board for Angie, and Sutton helps butter him up in one pivotal elevator scene. Combine that with finding out that her new fling Dillon is married, and Sutton’s feeling a desire to go back to what worked before.
Except, whoops! Richard’s got a new girlfriend now, as Sutton sees when she’s standing outside of his apartment. It’s a predictable development, and I’m hopeful this puts an end to it for the time being. Because Sutton moping about men is her worst mode. Sutton managing to turn being late to a meeting because she was with a guy into pitching a spread on re-accessorizing last night’s clothes for a “Stride of Pride” shoot? That is Sutton’s absolute best mode. She’s a professional beast, when the show lets her be.
If it sounds like I hate every personal plot on The Bold Type, trust that I don’t. I like Jane and Dr. Ben, and Kat and Adena remain one of my favorite parts of this show. But The Bold Type has a habit of unnecessarily complicating relationships so as to make them as compelling as the more organic professional stories. Case in point: This episode ends with Kat dreaming about hooking up with Adena’s friend Lydia, even though they’ve had minimal connection in the few short scenes we’ve seen them together. (Hers was the party Kat and Adena went to last week, but I had to look that up to remember her.) This feels like a forced speed bump in the show’s most interesting relationship, when all we’ve seen of them this season is obstacles. They can just be happy and together for a while! We’re fine with that!
All in all, not the strongest episode of The Bold Type — but a pretty bold one. More shows could stand to aggressively interrogate their protagonists’ privilege. When you’ve got something that fascinating happening, there’s no need to overcomplicate it. Ironically, what The Bold Type needs to learn now is how to edit.
The next episode of The Bold Type will air next Tuesday, July 10, at 8 p.m. Eastern on Freeform.