“It’s the only place in the neighborhood where mujeres like me, girls like us, can go.”
Throughout this terrific and groundbreaking first season of Vida, the show has been dancing around the actual importance of the bar. Most of what we learn about “La Chinita” is related to its struggles (and especially its financial problems) but we rarely learn about the good parts of it. It’s obvious that the bar means everything to Eddy, especially because it ties her to her late wife, but Vida has waited until the finale to explicitly discuss its importance to the neighborhood—and to Emma—which makes the impact even stronger.
But first, Lyn. Lyn has been a fun, compelling character throughout—”Episode 4” immediately jumps to mind—but her most prominent characteristic is that she’s an “agent of chaos,” and prone to “drama.” Most of her plots have revolved around her on-again/off-again relationship with Johnny (and how it’s spilled into conflicts with Carla, Mari, Emma, etc.) which is unfortunate because their “relationship” has been the low point of the series for me. It’s not bad, it just feels comparably less than the rest of the show: less engaging, less explored, and so on.
“Episode 6,” however, plumbs the depths of Lyn’s characters through a limpia, or a Mexican spiritual cleansing, which is believed to remove everything from negative emotions to curses. Lyn immediately feels lighter and more optimistic. She wraps her older sister in a giant hug, excitedly talking about how it was the “best freakin’ limpia of my life, better than any ayahuasca” (which is such a Lyn thing to say; I love it). But this good mood doesn’t last long: it makes Lyn realize that she’s her own porquería. It causes her to look within herself and realize that her actions have true ripple effects on the people around her.
I’m sure Lyn was expecting to feel free from the drama surrounding her and Johnny but instead she’s made acutely aware of how this relationship can—and has—destroy others. She spots Carla, crying and overwhelmed, facing single motherhood. She learns that people won’t go to Johnny’s shop anymore, that he’s thinking of bailing on the neighborhood even though his sister and sick father depend on his money. Melissa Barrera is remarkable in this scene, displaying a number of conflicting emotions on her face as Lyn’s gears turn and processes the role that she plays in other people’s lives. They break up—for real—off-screen; we only see Lyn taking her anger out on Doña Lupe for the limpia, still uncomfortable with confronting herself.
Meanwhile, Emma is still conflicted about her role in the bar, in the neighborhood. She doesn’t want to be there, but it’s also her home. She doesn’t want to keep the bar, but she doesn’t want to let it go without a fight, either. Post-sex conversation with Cruz (yes! They reunited!) seems to only further exacerbate Emma’s inner turmoil. She still can’t reconcile her mother, the person who sent her away for being queer, with Vidalia, the woman with a wife and a bar that’s immensely important to queer women.
Nelson’s reappearance—skulking around the bar, still trying to buy the property—results in yet another argument between Emma and Eddy. It’s a bad one, with Emma lashing out more than we’ve seen before by attacking Eddy’s drinking, implying her friends are freeloaders, and saying there’s a “direct correlation between when Eddy came into Vidalia’s life and the bar started failing.” Pissed off, Eddy and her queer crew leave to drink in another bar. And that’s when things go further south.
At the other bar, Eddy and her friends are harassed by a shitty, homophobic man resulting in a brief shoving match. It later culminates with him breaking a bottle over her head as she stands in the bathroom. It’s a horrifying scene, and it’s a bit jarring—Vida has touched on a lot of internalized homophobia but hasn’t introduced this level of outside violence—but it’s also unsurprising in our world. Eddy is a masculine-of-center butch. She’s so visibly queer.
As the sisters race to the hospital and Emma finds herself frustrated with the cop’s lack of urgency, Vida emphasizes the importance of Vidalia’s bar and the need for safe spaces. Eddy and her friends felt safe at Vidalia’s. They could present however they want, live however they want, dance and touch and kiss whoever they want. Vidalia’s bar became something of a haven when her relationship with Eddy started—something that it takes Emma the whole season to understand. But now, Emma realizes how brave Vidalia and Eddy were—and she recalls her own loving memories of the bar.
It’s here, at the beautiful tail end of the episode, that Vida arrives where we all figured it would: Emma and Lyn agree to keep the bar, to really “do it right” this time. They drink on the roof, imagining the bar’s future—imagining their own future. It’s a perfect ending that simultaneously shows the power of telling a complete story within just six episodes while also setting up—hopefully—a second season.