In “Light,” the many complicated characters of Generation Q continue to make a mess of their own relationships with each other. There’s the usual self-sabotage, but the thing that’s really plaguing just about every single one of these characters this week is a curse of unhealthy, ignored, and broken boundaries. Everyone’s got it bad.
The episode opens with a sex montage, a device Generation Q loves to do and does well. In this particular montage, we don’t move between multiple couples. It’s just one couple having lots of sex in lots of places. That’s right: Finley and Sophie are doing it voraciously, finally able to freely act on their attraction to one another. It’s all they can think about. There’s no time for water breaks apparently. But their appetite for one another has its consequences, too. When Sophie’s new segment premieres at The Alice Show, Sophie’s in the dressing room hooking up with a sweaty Finley fresh off the soccer field instead of out in the studio watching people react to her work. And sure, she’s hiding because she’s nervous. Sex with Finley probably helps those nerves. But it also means when the big exec Barry comes looking to congratulate her, Alice has to cover for her since she’s caught in a compromising position. Yes, it’s fun to get lost in the intensity of a new relationship, but it’s reckless, too. Sophie’s boundaries at work are atrocious, and Alice reprimands her. She’s lucky that’s all that happens. She’s lucky she has a messy boss.
Even though it was both of their faults, the incident at work does seem to spark something in Sophie’s mind. When they get home, she pointedly asks Finley if she can cook and feed herself, and Finley feels like she’s being compared to Dani, who’s more “grown up” in the eyes of others. Finley indeed does not have her shit together, but there’s also a reason: She was kicked out of her home at 18 and has had to fend for herself for a long time. Dani grew up rich, and things have been easy for her. Finley can be frustrating and emotionally immature, but her intentions are usually good, and she doesn’t always deserve the way other characters—like Shane and even Tess—treat her.
We’re starting to see some of the cracks of Sophie and Finley’s relationship. And even though that relationship is so new, it makes sense there are already some serious issues. Transitioning an illicit and brief affair into a full-on relationship is...not as sexy as they might have hoped. Yes, they’re free to sleep together all the time, but that’s just one part of a relationship, and as Sophie points out, they should probably get to know each other in other ways. It’s interesting storytelling, even if it does seem like a stretch that they wouldn’t know a little more about each other given they were friends before they ever hooked up. But they did seem to specifically be work friends, so it’s possible they didn’t know a ton about each other outside of their chemistry and sexual tension. Sophie wants to know if Finley has career ambitions. She wants to know if she wants kids. Finley’s hoping the children’s soccer ref gig turns into something more long-term but also throws in that she’s happy to be a stay-at-home baby daddy with Sophie as a sugar mama.
Sophie is once again charmed, even though there’s something very off about this interaction. Finley so adamantly wants to show Sophie she isn’t just a big kid, but what she says about her future does make it sound like she still is just sort of floundering her way through life. Her sugar mama joke isn’t as romantic as she might think it is. Both of these characters have rose colored glasses on when it comes to each other. And then the fact that Finley immediately transitions the conversation into sex again is telling. They’re ignoring potential problems, shellacking them with sex. Maybe it’s one of Sophie’s patterns, given that she also did this with Dani. The latent tension between Sophie and Finley makes for a realistic depiction of the way people ignore and sidestep conflict in the early stages of a relationship. They have tunnel vision with each other. Their flaws—not only with each other but as individuals—are becoming more and more apparent from the outside.
Finley’s a charmer, and she has endured some tough obstacles in life. But she can’t just charm her way through everything. At Tess and Shane’s poker charity event for the MS Society—the social event at the epicenter of the episode—Sophie loves to see Finley hit it off with Barry. But is that evidence that Finley is an adult? Just because she can schmooze an old, rich dude? And Sophie’s attraction to Finley in that moment has a dark underside to it. It’s like Sophie is satisfied to see Finley can operate in this high society world as seamlessly as Dani could. It’s like Sophie cares too much about how the relationship looks like from the outside, which was her hesitation about getting with Finley in the first place.
The power dynamic in Sophie’s relationship has completely switched. Dani had the financial and career stronghold in their relationship, which caused a lot of issues, making Sophie sometimes feel like Dani was choosing work over her. With Finley, Sophie is the one whose career is starting to take off. That contrast is compelling, further complicating Finley and Sophie’s tumultuous relationship.
Finley clearly does need to grow up a bit, because her solution to her problems with Sophie is wildly off-base. Finley and Sophie have been making a lot of selfish choices when it comes to how they act around Dani, and it colors the romance of their arc. It does feel like “Light” plants some insidious seeds in this relationship, which doesn’t necessarily take away from their moments of puppy-love connection. But it does add a layer. At poker night, Finley asks Dani how to be more of an adult for Sophie. It’s so unfair and absurd, and Dani rightfully tells her off. Sophie and Finley are going to both have to learn that their relationship doesn’t exist in a vacuum. They can’t just hook up at work without it affecting others or try to pull the woman whose life they ruined into their mess. They have to have better boundaries with each other and those around them.
But, of course, those bad boundaries do make for good drama. And “Light” is chock full of them. Alice slips back into a classic hooking-up-with-an-ex arc, Tom conveniently absent. Early in the episode, Bette and Alice are having a nice little lunch, catching up with each other about their respective romantic situations. Alice says it’s going well with Tom and that it’s helping her get over Nat. I’m not really sure what Bette’s talking about when she says Gigi is probably playing mind games with someone else already, since the only one in that brief relationship who played mind games was absolutely Bette, but I’ve accepted Bette’s hypocrisy and delusion about certain parts of her personal life as fundamental facets of who she is. Just as they’re talking about Gigi and Nat, lo and behold, there those divorced co-parents are, enjoying lunch at the same restaurant (“that is so gay” Bette remarks, with excellent delivery from Jennifer Beals). Bette, in her usual way, avoids Gigi altogether. And Alice somehow ends up in Nat’s car, her head bobbing up and down in the sunroof while they...consummate their breakup, a thing characters in The L Word’s universe love to do. Like Sophie and Finley, there’s a comfort and excitement to the sex for them. But of course, it’s more complicated than that.
As for Jordi and Angie, the conflict is forced and strange. Jordi is completely checked out of the serious things going on in Angie’s life. She isn’t taking the donor stuff seriously, and she seems self-absorbed and absent, which doesn’t really track with what we’ve previously seen of her and their relationship in season one. Angie is similarly all over the place, and while her scene with Kayla is sweet, it’s also confusing. Angie thinks it’s time to break up with Jordi, even though they haven’t talked about it at all. And sure, these are teens. Teens are impulsive, dramatic, and don’t automatically have the emotional tools to navigate difficulties in relationships. But Jordi’s distance is so overwrought, and the explanation is unconvincing.
Generation Q always finds an elaborate way to get most of its characters in the same space to pressure-cook their dramas, and this time, it’s another poker night. There’s the aforementioned Sophie/Finley and Dani/Finley stuff, but there’s much more. Most notably, Bette finally folds Pippa into the fold, bringing her along as her date and prompting Shane and Alice to tease her for how into Pippa she has been for years. Shane/Alice/Bette’s friendship remains such a delightful part of the show. The very long friendships between the original characters are so lived-in, informing a lot of the dialogue and dynamics in the present. When Shane finds out Alice is hooking up with Nat, she worries. Shane has, after all, seen Alice get into some dicey sex-with-an-ex situations in the past (tbt the nightmare that was Gabby Deveaux in the original).
Shane’s also feeling protective of both Tina and Bette after having seen Carrie walk into an AA meeting when she was dropping off Tess earlier in the episode. Carrie has called Bette and asked to come to the charity event even though Tina’s out of town, and she’s nursing a drink at the bar, so Shane says something, which is a little intrusive in and of itself, but then Carrie really throws all caution to the wind as far as boundaries go by oversharing with a visibly uncomfortable Shane. She says she was at an OA meeting—not AA. And this is another point of confusion in the episode, because her subsequent actions make it unclear if it’s the truth or not and what we’re supposed to take away from her conversation with Shane here. But in any case, she tells Shane she has been having difficulty with Bette Porter and with fitting in in the world of Tina’s friends. Shane tries to offer some advice to Carrie to back off of Bette—advice that goes extremely unheeded—but Shane’s also just trying to get away from all this. Her loyalty is to Bette, and Carrie has to be more careful about who she complains about Bette Porter to. It didn’t go over well when she did it with Tina after family therapy, and it doesn’t go over well here. Carrie’s earnest and sensitive, but she also crosses a line sometimes.
Carrie’s struggles are very sympathetic. Tina’s friends are all very thin, mostly femme presenting, very specific types of lesbians. The show itself has been criticized for this exact narrowness in the kinds of queer folks it privileges. And it seems like we’re getting just a little hint of an acknowledgement of that here with Carrie, but it’s too subtle on a show that usually prefers heavy-handedness. Rosie O’Donnell is a brilliant guest star this season, and she has said she connects with this character personally since she felt like an outsider when watching the original series. She’s hilarious in the role, and there’s a fun meta scene between Carrie and Alice that nods to Rosie’s real-life talk show legacy. We’re gradually starting to see more layers to the character, making Carrie more than just comedic relief. In fact, her arc in this episode is easily the saddest one. But this acknowledgement of Carrie’s outsider feelings doesn’t dig deep enough. The writing around Carrie feels incomplete right now.
The writing becomes more muddled when Carrie does finally approach Bette. It’s a deeply uncomfortable scene and, in some ways, a cogent breakdown of their dynamic. They’re both part of the problem. Carrie’s kindness is a defining feature, but the “can’t we all just get along” philosophy isn’t always a wholly good approach to life. If Bette doesn’t want more than civility with Carrie, that’s actually okay. A lot of people do not want to be pals with their ex wife’s new partner!
But...Bette’s delivery? It could use some finessing, to say the least. Bette is very mean and even takes an uncalled-for dig at her relationship with Tina. Carrie isn’t being fair when she quickly compares Bette not wanting to sit with her to being bullied by homophobes in high school, but then Bette goes and sort of proves her point. Their dynamic is messy for sure, marked by the fact that they’re so different in their approaches to things. But the characterization of Bette as being this mean to her perplexes a bit. It sort of undercuts some of Carrie’s flaws, makes Bette into a villain when really Carrie has some boundary issues of her own, too. Just as the show seems poised to add some layers to Carrie, it flattens her, makes her Bette’s punching bag instead of a fully realized, complex character.
The night ends with Tess and Shane having to drive a very drunk Carrie home. And again, I’m not sure if this is meant to be confirmation that she is an alcoholic or not and whether Tina knows. O’Donnell proves just as adept at this more dramatic performance as she is with the comedy. I do like some of the stuff the episode touches on when it comes to Carrie’s self-esteem and the way Bette intimidates her. I just wish that climactic confrontation between them had a sharper point of view.
Nat and Alice’s fantasy comes crashing into reality when Alice watches Nat flirt with someone at the event. Nat’s actions aren’t wrong, but it’s a reminder of why they broke up in the first place. Sneaking around has been fun, but it’s just that. She’s only going to hurt herself more if she keeps doing this with Nat. So she ends it, finally setting a healthy boundary. Good for her honestly, because as I keep saying, that’s definitely not the name of the game for this episode.
New romances do emerge amid all the drama, too. Gigi engages in her favorite hobby: asking someone how they feel. (Again, what is Bette talking about with Gigi and head games?! Gigi’s whole thing is being emotionally forthcoming.) She checks in with Dani about the confession she made at the end of last episode, and Dani’s response is surprising—in a good way. She says she felt like it was shitty for Gigi to bring up her feelings in that particular moment. Gigi certainly wasn’t expecting that. Dani, like Bette, is a little harsh in her delivery, but in her case, what she’s saying is actually pretty fair and interesting. Dani feels like what she needed on that night was a friend, and Gigi confused their relationship by saying she was starting to be into her. Dani is indeed very vulnerable right now. Gigi has been a good friend to her in the wake of her wedding blowing up, but the confession of feelings may have made Dani feel weird and as if Gigi might have had ulterior motives in taking care of her. Experiencing betrayal by someone you love can be so destabilizing, and Dani has loads of trust issues. Gigi clearly is not taking advantage of her in any way, and their dynamic in fact seems quite healthy at the moment, but it does make sense that Dani is wary of a sudden shift between them, even if their friendship has always felt pretty flirty.
What’s less coherent is her sudden concern that Bette might care if she gets with Gigi. This gets explained in the dialogue, Dani saying she doesn’t want to make anyone else feel the way she feels when she sees Finley and Sophie, but there situations are very different to say the least, and anyone who knows Bette even a little bit knows she would not care about this at all. Dani’s trepidation over Bette doesn’t feel as organic as her trust issues and feelings of not wanting to lose her friendship with Gigi are, making it feel like an unnecessary layer of conflict. But Dani and Gigi’s eventual big rom-com moment does feel earned—as does Tess and Shane’s. Rain in Los Angeles promises romance and danger, and a storm hits in the final moments of “Light.” Gigi and Dani get their big, rain-soaked kiss, and so do Tess and Shane in the middle of Tina’s lawn. Finley and Sophie, meanwhile, get pulled over by a cop on their way home from the event, Finley in the driver’s seat and swerving in the rain, her judgment fogged by the flask she finished off mere seconds before getting behind the wheel.
I’ve saved the best for last. In a scene that instantly belongs in the hall of fame for The L Word sex scenes, Bette and Pippa finally act on multiple episodes of sexual tension and sleep together...in the middle of art. It’s the titular moment, the work made of different intersecting lights. Whether intentional or not, it reminisces of the time Bette and world famous sculptor Jodi had sex in the middle of an art installation in the original series. That was another instance where Bette’s admiration for an artist’s work blossomed into sexual attraction. Visually, it’s a very stylized, and immersive scene between Bette and Pippa, both dappled in colored light. It almost looks like something out of a sci-fi movie. But it’s also just such a fitting, over-the-top Bette choice. Art, sex, work, and power are all tangled together in her mind at all times.
- I know these recaps keep getting longer and longer, but it’s such a sprawling ensemble, and there are so many relationship dynamics to unpack. It’s hard not to go long! I appreciate everyone who reads these each week and encourage conversation in the comments!
- I’ve said it before and I’ll keep saying it: Leisha Hailey’s physical comedy is so good and weird. There’s the obvious example of her bobbing in that sun roof, but before that when she opens the door with her whole body very slowly on her way out to the patio to talk to Nat? Also gold.
- I’m a sucker for a rain kiss, and I’m glad we get two!
- How did Tess and Shane pull together a massive charity event seemingly overnight?