“It feels a little fast, doesn’t it?” Sophie wonders at the start of The L Word: Generation Q’s season two finale. Her observation could be correctly applied to the majority of storylines in this episode, but especially the one she says it about. “Last Call” opens with an intervention—a failed intervention to be exact, and not just in the sense that it does not result in any meaningful action, realization, or change for the person on the receiving end of it. It’s a failed intervention in the sense that Generation Q has not done the work to get to this point, making it all fall flat. It’s an excellent portrayal of how not to do an intervention, but that does not seem to be the narrative intent at all.
As far as we know, Finley has never set foot in a meeting. She has made vague references to the fact that she got sober when she went back home between seasons, but it’s unclear what any of her thought process or motivations were there. Why did she get sober? How does she view her relationship with alcohol? Why did she start drinking again? By not exploring any of this backstory or really digging deeply into Finley’s relationship with alcohol, Generation Q loses nuance and stakes. The writing around Finley’s alcoholism has been very rapid and heavy-handed. We learn in “Last Call” that Finley is now discreetly drinking during the day, which seems like new information entirely and yet is presented as if this has been the case for a while. Also jumping directly to an intervention and the proposal that she go to rehab is such a bizarre leap. These characters do not seem to understand how addiction or interventions work—which is particularly surprising for Micah given his profession and for Tess, who is an alcoholic in recovery herself. So what that then indicates is that these characters don’t really know how addiction and interventions work because the writers do not. Or the writers are trying to simplify and distill the conflict of this arc for the sake of dramatic television. Either way, the writing is weak.
The most interesting bit of dialogue here is Finley saying she just drinks like someone in her twenties. Excessive alcohol consumption is indeed extremely normalized, and addition is misunderstood or obscured as a result. Here, Generation Q hints at a deeper, more layered, and specific story about alcohol and addiction, Finley’s denial stemming from cultural expectations and assumptions about what alcoholism is and isn’t. But instead of following this thread, Shane merely says “don’t do that,” and we just blow past it. The mere conceit of this intervention is dubious, but it especially lacks weight because it’s so devoid of specifics. The characters hint at Finley’s problems and behaviors without providing a lot of concrete details and without discussing how this impacts them.
Later, inexplicably in the middle of a sex scene, Tess tells Shane that she thinks they should fire Finley because they’re enabling her drinking. We’ve indeed seen Finley drinking on the job, but it’s yet another place where not enough work has been done to build to this choice. It’s just a plot detail rather than being rooted in significant and convincing character work. In this same scene, Tess also tells Shane she has to move to Vegas to take care of her sick mother, saying they could do long distance or Shane could move to be with her. Again, everything is moving oddly fast! Shane and Tess just started dating, and asking Shane to move with her without any real conversation about what that would mean for the bar or Shane’s life is such a wild jump. This sparks the central conflict for Shane and Tess in the episode, which just unfolds so quickly and without enough emotional work that it’s difficult to invest in any of it. Shane tells Tess she has roots in LA, and Tess walks away, sad that this is the end. What happened to the long distance suggestion? Why does it seem like Tess is moving tomorrow when this is the first time she has brought it up? Did she really expect Shane to sell the bar?
None of this is textually addressed. In fact, the dialogue that is here is just confusing and illogical. Tess says she can’t believe that this is going to be the thing to bring her and Shane down “after everything that we’ve been through.” What exactly have they been through? Sure, there was the Cherie stuff briefly at the top of the season, but by all counts, Tess and Shane have been the couple with the least drama this season. And they’ve been together for a very short amount of time! Nothing has been previously shown to indicate this level of intensity about their relationship or even the expectation that moving together to Vegas is something that makes any level of sense.
On a similar note, Pippa expresses to Bette that she’s worried about Bette and Tina, and this, again, comes out of nowhere. Pippa has met Tina once, and nothing about that interaction conveyed any kind of lingering tension or uncertainty about Bette’s feelings toward Tina. Pippa saying she has a gut feeling that Bette isn’t over Tina feels as out of left field as Tina asking Bette if she’s still in love with her last episode. Bette and Tina indeed have a long and complicated history. They’re also co-parents. They’re still in each other’s lives, and things are bound to get messy. Also Bette does seem to have lingering feelings toward Tina, but it’s unclear how or why Pippa would pick up on that. And then Shane has to muck things up further by telling Bette that Carrie is having cold feet about the wedding...while Alice, Shane, and Bette are literally shopping for wedding gifts for Carrie and Tina. Shane really seems to be reading a lot into what were a few brief and very inebriated comments from Carrie about her insecurities when it comes to marrying Tina.
This sprawling conflict between Bette, Pippa, Carrie, and Tina then gets crammed into a couple minutes of scene work near the end of the episode. At Alice’s party to kick off the start of her book tour, Bette approaches Tina and asks why she asked if she was still in love with her. Carrie either overhears or senses a vibe and then seemingly breaks up with Tina, even though they are presumably set to get married very soon given that their friends are already wedding gift shopping for them. Tina confronts Bette for messing up her life, and Pippa witnesses this interaction and takes it as proof Bette is still too enmeshed with Tina to be in a relationship with her. Technically, the emotional stakes are there. And the actresses are also selling it. In fact, that’s true for most of the storylines closing out this season. The writing around Sophie/Finley leaves a lot to be desired, but Rosanny Zayas and Jacqueline Toboni are killing it and elevate some of the dialogue. But this dizzying dance between Tina, Carrie, Bette, and Pippa doesn’t let any of the conflict breathe. The characters feel more like puppets than like actual people. At this same party, Shane simultaneously tells Tess she loves her but that she can’t go to Vegas. Do they break up? It’s unclear! Generation Q vacillates between being extremely heavy-handed in some of its writing and then being too vague and unclear.
That certainly applies to the writing around Dani and her dad, which has been broad to the point of the dramatic stakes being almost nonexistent. By not showing the scene earlier in the season where Dani’s dad explains his innocence to her, we’re left without a lot of information about what exactly is going on here. “Last Call” makes it seem like Dani’s dad is guilty of some very serious crimes that have resulted in a lot of deaths. But there’s not a lot of consideration for the ethos or ramifications of any of it, yielding a muddled perspective. Is Dani’s dad a villain? Dani clearly has had a lot of reservations about defending him all season, so why then does she come so close to going through with it? Why does the entire case seemingly hinge on her testimony? If Dani is being complicit in something genuinely nefarious, that should probably be grappled with in a meaningful way. Otherwise, the drama just seems empty and there’s no real character development being done around Dani. Much of the end of this season has been redundant, and that’s definitely true of all this legal drama, which is so distractingly vague that it seems like the writers are intentionally avoiding asking any real questions here about the opioid crisis, corporate corruption, etc. Of course the family drama of it all is more compelling, but it doesn’t work without those other details fleshed out.
I realize I’m asking a lot of questions in this review, but that’s really how it feels to watch this season finale. Stories are moving too fast and without enough grounding moments to make it all work. There’s a lot of telling and not a lot of showing, and that’s not always a problem, but some of the telling is stilted and out of the blue, like Tess trying to say she and Shane have been through so much together. Just because she says it doesn’t make it true. It just feels like manipulative writing rather than organic, captivating drama and conflict. The big dramatic moments—like a fake out where we’re meant to believe, only for a second, that Finley has been hit by a car—are cheap and ineffectual. That’s how Dani’s arrest at episode’s end feels, too.
Tom and Alice hit another snag in their relationship when Alice snaps at him after she reads a negative review of her book in the New York Times. But it’s yet another example of Generation Q’s accelerated pacing when it comes to relationship development. The way Alice takes her frustration out on Tom seems very extreme and intense in the context of two people who only very recently decided to be exclusive. The buildup between Tom and Alice earlier in the season was genuinely exciting, their sexual tension palpable and convincing. But ever since they first got together, the writing around their relationship has been confusing and all over the place in terms of stakes. As with Tess and Shane, it’s like something is missing.
And it all comes back to the thin line between chaos and controlled chaos. The wild, sometimes soapy drama of this show and its rapidfire pacing does land sometimes. The messiness of these characters compels. But narrative chaos can quickly devolve into an incoherent, well, mess. This finale barrels through plotlines with little semblance of emotional coherence and authority. The best scenes actually involve Angie dealing with the aftermath of Marcus’ death. Overall, the donor arc this season has been uneven, but Jordan Hull has consistently given a moving, layered performance, and that continues to be true here in the finale. She only has a few brief scenes, but they’re spectacular, doing a lot of the specific emotional work that much of the rest of the episode lacks. These scenes are noticeably slowed down and zoomed in. Angie’s actions and feelings are grounded and specific.
There are a lot of moving parts to the episode, and it ends dramatically for everyone: Dani is arrested in front of Gigi’s entire extended family. Tina perhaps no longer has a fiance and then shows up at Bette’s house like the hypothetical scenario Shane rather weirdly introduces while shopping for wedding gifts. Sophie drops Finley off at rehab after Finley’s very sudden breakthrough moment where she stumbles out of a mid-day rave wasted. In the seconds before she is not hit by a car, a montage of Finley/Sophie scenes plays, and even that doesn’t fully track, Finley’s interiority still incompletely developed in terms of how she views alcohol/her recent behaviors. The insinuation is that she’s willing to get sober to save their relationship, but it’s a point that could be driven home harder through actual dialogue. Like the intervention, characters aren’t saying enough to make these moments land. The finale is so focused on the mechanics of getting to these big dramatic endings/cliffhangers for all its characters that the buildup is lifeless. A lot does happen in the finale, but it happens too quickly and all at once.
- Thank you for joining me on another season of coverage of this show, which has the striking ability to simultaneously delight and frustrate me.
- The show has not officially been renewed for a third season yet.
- Pippa and Bette sharing chapstick is queer culture.
- I’m still so confused as to whether we’re supposed to think Carrie has a drinking problem or not.
- The smash cut from Sophie dropping Finley off at rehab to Gigi and Dani doing shots with her whole family does not seem like an intentional juxtaposition, which just furthers my belief that Generation Q isn’t actually interested in telling a meaningful, cogent story about alcohol.
- Alice wins best dressed for the entire season, but Pippa’s flannel look tonight is so effortlessly good.