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The L Word: Generation Q bungles its polyamory storyline

Leisha Hailey's physical comedy is on point, but the Nat/Alice conflict leaves a lot to be desired

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Image: The L Word: Generation Q

Generation Q has a poly problem. In the first act of “Luck Be A Lady,” Nat returns home to Alice and starts rambling about a tree. When Alice asks her why she’s rambling about a tree, Nat quickly reveals she slept with someone else last night and isn’t sure how to talk about it. This isn’t surprising to Alice. She knows Nat had plans with someone else, because at some point between last episode and this one, Alice agreed to open the relationship back up and let Nat explore polyamory.

Instead of showing us that conversation—which could have touched on a lot of different aspects of polyamory/monogamy, jealousy, boundaries, and relationship structures—Generation Q just leaves it all unsaid and unseen. Whatever important conversations Alice and Nat might have had to get to this point of Alice (reluctantly) agreeing to this new situation happened off-screen. Instead, we’re just dropped into the middle of things. It’s lazy writing. When we last saw them talking about things, Alice made it pretty clear she wasn’t open to being open. The lack of character development between then and now makes it difficult to see this as anything other than empty, forced conflict, especially given how badly last episode bungled the conversation, too, with Nat throwing out casually biphobic remarks and Alice conflating polyamory with cheating. Sure, Nat and Alice being on different pages about how they want their relationship to look could make for compelling storytelling and conflict, but “Luck Be A Lady” burns through the narrative quickly and with little to really latch onto. Does Alice just not understand polyamory or do the writers not? It’s difficult to discern.


It’s like Generation Q wants to do a poly storyline without actually talking about polyamory. There are lots of misconceptions about polyamory. There are also lots of different ways to practice it. But Generation Q doesn’t even come close to exploring what polyamory is or isn’t. And in fact, Nat and Alice are still barely talking to each other about it. Instead, the episode focuses on Alice’s book editor Tom talking about how he would feel about it. I’m loving Tom’s general presence as this kind of awkward, filter-less dork with a tragic love life of his own, but I’m not convinced the resident straight monogamous dude is the right mouthpiece for this show to explore open relationships and polyamory—to say the least.


Something I realized while watching this episode is that Leisha Hailey does some of my favorite prop work on television. In “Luck Be A Lady,” Alice’s denial and anxiety about Nat going on dates with Marissa leads to some truly frazzled prop work. Alice holds her laptop up like a physical barrier between her and Nat when Nat tries to put the moves on her but Alice wants her to shower a second time, apparently skeeved out by Nat being with someone else. Sophie walks in on Alice playing a chaotic game of foosball in the office. Alice loves to pick things up and set them down, even shaking a random snow globe at some point. Hailey’s delivery and physical comedy are great. But Alice’s frenetic almost childlike energy and compulsion to touch things throughout the episode isn’t just funny; it’s a telling marker of Alice’s stress. There’s a sense Alice already knows her relationship with Nat is doomed. When she tells Tom they’ve reopened their relationship again, she says it’s “Nat’s thing.” That kind of one-sided approach to polyamory can be very tricky. Alice makes it pretty clear that she’s only doing this because it seems better than the alternative of losing Nat. But it’s not sustainable. Again, all of this would hit a lot harder if Generation Q were more interested in actually exploring and expounding upon polyamory, nonmonogamy, and the boundaries people set and renegotiate in long-term relationships, but that doesn’t really happen. Instead, polyamory is merely used as a source of conflict. It’s lazy at best, reductive at worst.

“Luck Be A Lady” is also the title of an episode from the original series, and the callback is bolstered by a few parallels. The original is more poker-heavy than this one, but one of the many storylines here does concern Shane and Tess’ budding poker venture. Poker night has blown up apparently, but it’s also full of unnamed characters, so the scenes here are considerably less entertaining than when poker night brought together a bunch of actual characters last episode. Instead, this just becomes a story about a gross man putting his hands on Tess in the back office and her responding by taking a rake of $4,000. I’ve seen Molly’s Game, so I loosely understand the concept of a rake, but in any case, it’s pretty easy to see the writing on the wall here. Tess and Shane are already rigging the game, and it’s probably going to come back to bite them. While Tess and Shane’s friendship has been a bright spot of season two, the whole poker night backdrop isn’t really clicking yet. And the crime drama bent to this whole rake thing is shoehorned into an episode that otherwise largely feels like a few different rom-coms threaded together. Generation Q so often feels like it’s trying to do a lot of different tones at once—sometimes, it’s fun; other times, it’s dizzying. “Lucky Be A Lady” dithers between the two.

In the original “Luck Be A Lady,” Bette and Tina argue over choices regarding Angelica (a toddler at the time), but in this new iteration of “Luck Be A Lady” Tina is absent and seemingly opinionless when it comes to Angie wanting to meet her half-sister Kayla after receiving the results from the DNA test she wasn’t supposed to do. Here’s another place where the writing really skips past a major change for a character instead of showing the internal journey from point A to point B. Bette blows up at Angie for going behind her back, but within the same scene, she ultimately agrees to let Angie meet up with her half-sister. The flip is hard to follow.

There is technically some interesting character work in there though. Gigi shows up right as the drama explodes, and she attempts to offer some perspective from her own parenting and donor journey with Nat. Bette, in a very in-character response, barrels through Gigi’s advice, insisting her situation is different. It is different, and here Generation Q touches a bit on the fact that not all queer parenting journeys are the same. But Bette’s sudden change of heart with Angie once Gigi leaves in a huff doesn’t track. As with the off-screen character motivation changes that happen for Nat and Alice, the plotting is wonky.


Bette and Gigi’s fight ultimately ends up being a mechanism to push Gigi away from Bette and toward Dani. Now, this is the kind of chaos that works for Generation Q. I was already instantly invested in Bette and Gigi’s dynamic, but it was also pretty obvious that wasn’t a relationship built to last. It was good sex, and it was intoxicating to watch two people who are so similar play with each other. Sometimes, there really is no need to complicate it, as Alice tells Tom when he digs for some deeper reasoning behind why she and Nat hooked up with Gigi. There was chemistry; there was alcohol; sometimes it’s as simple as that. That’s how Bette and Gigi have felt, and indeed it seems like we’re already done with that and moving onto Gigi and Dani. Generation Q and its predecessor don’t really do will-they/won’t-they in the conventional sense. When two characters have anything even remotely resembling a flirty dynamic, they can and they will. Payoff usually comes pretty fast. Gigi and Dani only just met, but there’s already a spark there, and even though we’ve barely gotten past Dani and Sophie’s split and Bette and Gigi just became a thing, Generation Q has already moved on. Again, it’s chaos. But it’s the type of chaos that ultimately satisfies on this show. It’s the sexy ooze of a soap opera—everyone impossibly has chemistry with everyone.

Even though their chemistry remains platonic for now with only little nods toward potential attraction, the instant rom-com-ish dynamic between Dani and Gigi is charming. During an apartment showing, Gigi and Dani realize they both can speak Farsi, Dani sharing with Gigi that her mother was Persian. They bond over this and in later scenes continue to talk about family and their divergent experiences as Persians in Los Angeles based on class divisions. It fleshes out the backstories for both characters, shedding light on some of their actions in the present. Gigi has seven brothers who taught her how to fight and always stuck up for her. She was close with her father growing up but is estranged from him ever since coming out. She’s close with her mom. Gigi’s past certainly explains some of her control issues, her intense extroversion, her independence. And she and Dani can relate in terms of having daddy issues! Right away in the initial apartment viewing, Gigi pulls Dani aside and says she’ll ultimately do whatever Dani wants instead of letting her father make all the calls. And over their wine-filled dinner—not a date, but Gigi tells a dude who tries to hit on her it’s a date just so he’ll go away, which is basically a micro version of the fake dating romance trope—Dani opens up about how things have been tense between her and her father, especially since her mother’s death. Things have been better lately, but in a way that makes Dani think something is actually worse. She shares with Gigi that she thinks her father’s health is failing.


So, yes, Gigi and Dani only just meet in this episode, and yet, their scenes together add texture to them as individual characters while also establishing a bright new relationship that’s distinct from the one Gigi just had with Bette. It’s all very fast character development and storytelling, and yet in this case, it works. Gigi and Dani both open up to each other. Gigi even shares her full first name Golnar with Dani. Their experiences of family and their Persian identities both diverge and touch like a helix. Here, Generation Q fast-paced nature when it comes to establishing romance and connection is immediately immersive. It’s a tightly executed rom-com even though nothing has technically happened yet between them.

Micah and Maribel’s bonding is another bright spot of the season before, Leo Sheng and Jillian Mercado possessing lots of easy chemistry. But their friendship feels especially real in moments of low-stakes but meaningful conflict. I’m already all-in on Micah’s storyline at the LGBTQ+ center where Nat brings him in as a therapist. The way she casually dismisses him talking about how he likes to work with clients on grief because of losing his dad and informs him that he’ll be working exclusively with trans kids is subtle but significant. She’s pigeonholing him, seeing him not as a therapist but as a trans therapist. Her intentions might be pure, but it’s a microaggression nonetheless, tokenizing Micah’s identity and also not allowing him to be a complex human. At the same time, Maribel pushes back when he complains, sarcastically saying she feels so sorry for him that he has to help out trans kids. She ultimately does give him advice to speak up for himself, and it’s all around a very believable and lived-in friendship. She pushes back on him but also holds space for his experience. She’s tough but fair. Micah wants to work somewhere where his identity is validated, and the center provides that, but he also wants to be seen as more than his trans identity. There’s nuance there, and it unfolds organically. And this friendship is clearly defined. Maribel makes fun of Micah but out of genuine care. There’s a teasing quality to their interactions which, yes, feels like another classic rom-com dynamic.


To thank Maribel for her successful advice, Micah takes her to a stable where they ride horses as the sun sets. Again, since Generation Q doesn’t really do will-they/won’t-they situations but rather they-most-definitely-will situations, I’m also sensing Micah and Maribel might be headed for something more than friendship. As with Dani and Gigi, the spark is absolutely there. Previously, Micah’s love interests have been men, but I don’t think he has ever ruled out bisexuality. In general, this season seems more aware that bisexual folks exist than last season and the original series were, but I’d love to see more.

Generation Q certainly knows how to light the kindling when it comes to romance. The whole show is practically giddy about throwing new pairings together at every turn. Instead of your typical dramatic plot twists, this show really does run on relationship twists. Throughout “Luck Be A Lady,” some new connections are born, some existing ones are challenged. The most engaging relationship writing on the show has shades of soap opera drama while still feeling grounded in something real, like Dani being potentially drawn to Gigi—who she even says to her dad has qualities that remind her of her mother—in the wake of her big heartbreak. Or Sophie and Finley attempting to access the past of their friendship while also rewriting a whole new relationship in the present—a deeply uncomfortable yet authentically complicated situation. Generation Q loves to indulge in sex and romance, but it also complicates love and longing.


On that note, Sophie and Finley are still trying to figure out what they want from each other and how to exist together. At the top of the episode, they’re shown laughing with each other, harkening back into that close-friendship-with-a-hint-of-something-more vibe they possessed in season one. But when Finley asks to talk, Sophie cuts her off and says it’s too soon. Really, these two should probably be taking some space from each other, but as I keep reiterating week after week, Generation Q does ultimately seem to be a show about self-sabotage. After Dani sends in movers to take all of her stuff (read: most of the stuff in Sophie’s/Micah’s place), the tension between Sophie and Finley boils over, and they snap at each other. Finley says Sophie doesn’t need to treat her like an asshole, and Sophie calls her an asshole. Sophie can’t really separate her grieving over losing life with Dani from however she feels about Finley.

While previous episodes of Generation Q have overly sanitized or distilled the conflict between these three, “Luck Be A Lady” finally lets it be complicated. The show is at its best when it wades into this kind of mess—deeply human, believable mess. Sophie admits she’s confused. She admits Finley saved her. Sophie doesn’t know how to forgive Finley. Just like Alice pretending to make things work with Nat despite having fundamental different ideas of what their relationship should look like, it’s easier for Finley and Sophie to pretend. To live in the fantasy where they didn’t betray Dani or blow up three lives at once. They have chemistry still, but it takes more than chemistry to make a relationship work. Sophie’s conflicted. She’s sad about Dani. She clearly cares about Finley—otherwise she wouldn’t have asked her to stay at the end of last episode. And Generation Q lets it be a confusing labyrinth of emotions instead of just shellacking over it. It’s the type of character work that’s largely missing from Alice and Nat’s arc so far. It’s relationship drama that resonates specifically because it’s hard to pin down. Tumultuous, nebulous relationships tend to exhaust in real life, but on television, they’re arresting. Increasingly, it does seem like Dani and Sophie were not a good fit but rather just got comfortable with one another. There’s a sense that so many of these characters are still learning what they want and how to love. What are Sophie and Finley to each other? To borrow the titular words of one of my favorite rom-coms, it’s complicated. And complicated emotions and relationship dynamics are Generation Q’s sweet spot.


Stray observations

  • I love Angie’s nervous energy in the opening scene as well as when she finally meets Kayla. I also love that Auntie Alice and Uncle Shane are there to support Bette.
  • Taking the red pepper flakes?! I honestly love Dani’s petty side.
  • I’m looking forward to Dani and Sophie (hopefully?) being developed further outside of their relationship with each other. We’re already seeing shades of that.
  • I definitely laughed at Maribel saying she should have told Micah a story about wanting a Rolex.
  • I’m not sure where this Pippa Pascal subplot is going, but I’m usually on board for Art Boss Bette. Could this be a new romance that blurs the lines between the professional art world and a personal connection a la Jodi/Bette in the original series?
  • I do like Tom and Alice’s rapport together, and I do like Alice’s bisexuality being so textually acknowledged this season, but I just really think the Alice/Nat conflict has been so disjointed and repetitive while also not really making a lot of sense! If Nat and Alice being bad at polyamory is the point, then show that more. Bringing in an outside character to explain the stakes is an odd choice.