Having an established romantic relationship at the top of a series can be a tricky thing to pull off. Viewers, generally, are less invested in something pre-established. Or rather, it takes more time to get us there. Because we don’t have the luxury of getting swept up in those intoxicating early parts of a relationship: the tension, the flirtation, the satisfaction. Dropping into the middle of a relationship takes more work on the writers’ part to make it feel real, urgent, meaningful. And it certainly requires having some semblance of a history that can work its way into the story and the characters’ interactions. This is all to say that Sophie and Dani, as they currently exist on the show, seem to have no established history.
Their conflict continues along the same lines as last week. Only this time, instead of Dani failing to tell Sophie about her change of career, they contend with Dani’s father making a lot of decisions for them about their own wedding without really consulting them. Namely, he chooses the venue and the actual wedding date for them. Dani rationalizes this by saying that he has been excited about her getting married since she was young and pointing out that it’s generous for him to pay for something they would have never been able to afford otherwise. Sophie, understandably, isn’t too happy about this. The Biltmore won’t even let them bring in outside food and having food cooked by her family at her own wedding is important to her.
There are a couple of holes here though that make this friction feel forced. For one, it’s not entirely convincing that Dani would be this naive and bendable when it comes to her father. Sure, it’s clear that he’s a weak spot for her. She may have left the company, but she’s still eager to please him. She thinks the path of least resistance is to just let him choose the venue, and she doesn’t seem to entirely understand the classist implications of him suggesting that his colleagues will only be comfortable in a place like the Biltmore for the wedding. It reminds me a little of Veronica Lodge, who is always portrayed as so intelligent on Riverdale but then acts so wildly stupid when it comes to her father. That is, perhaps, the point when it comes to Dani (and Veronica for that matter). But “daddy issues” can’t sustain a character arc on its own, and the dynamic between Dani and her father right now doesn’t have a discernible shape to it.
It also runs up against the issue of Sophie’s entire existence hinging on her reacting to Dani’s choices. It’s hard to get a full grasp on her as a character, and her clearest moments continue to be those with her friends and family, but we still don’t get quite enough of that. Sophie and Dani both sometimes seem way older than their characters are supposed to be (I’m still stuck on the way Sophie talks about settling/slowing down in the last episode). We have a much sharper view of who Dani is and what she wants, but when it comes to Sophie, so far she seems more like a prop in Dani’s narrative. Generation Q has a lot of characters to balance, and it’s definitely still early on (although, the first season will only be eight episodes, so we’re almost at the halfway point). But to spend so much time on this relationship and still have it feel this hazy is not a great sign.
Meanwhile, Alice and Nat’s established relationship has a lot more felt history to it. I think, or at least I hope, we’re not necessarily supposed to be smitten by these two. Their relationship has a lot of tension in it, and that tension is contextualized here when we learn that Nat doesn’t really have friends. Gigi was her best friend before she was her wife, and then she betrayed her. Their shared friends, meanwhile, chose Gigi. And then Nat jumped into a whole new relationship with Alice. She hasn’t been with Alice long enough to have absorbed her friends, and she hasn’t had time to make new friends, because the early parts of a relationship usually suck up a lot of a person’s time. (It’s unclear exactly how long Nat and Alice have been together, but even though things are pretty serious, it doesn’t seem like it has been very long.)
Here, Generation Q gets at some of the muck of divorce and its impact on one’s other relationships and social life. Also, dating someone who started out as a best friend is not necessarily a uniquely queer experience, but it is a very common queer experience, one that also is complicated by the fact that, because queer people are a minority group, queer community is often made up of an awkward blend of friends, hookups, former hookups, partners, etc.
But at the same time as Generation Q struggles a bit with its established relationships, there’s some inconsistency when it comes to the burgeoning ones, too. Jose dramatically cancels a date with Micah, citing personal reasons, prompting Micah to hop on Grindr and fuck the pain away. This small subplot in the episode has some emotional weight to it, and Micah reveals that he tends to always react to rejection this way. It helps that Leo Sheng is very convincing in this role as a shy, adorable guy who studies up before a date to an art gallery. When he talks about it with Sophie later though and she says that he doesn’t usually like people this much, it’s a little more forced though. Micah and Jose’s interactions have been sweet, but they haven’t had a ton of depth to them.
Of the new characters, Finley has one of the most fleshed out arcs (which is admittedly a little frustrating since she’s the only white one). Her casual hookup situation with Becca takes an uncomfortable turn when she finds out that not only is Becca religious but she’s an actual priest (the funniest moment in the episode is when Finley realizes this). Finley’s religious trauma has been hinted at before, but now it comes into full view. Jacqueline Toboni has proven that she harnesses the humor of this character well, but “Lost Love” pulls much more out of her. When Becca first says she’s going to church, Finley’s face contorts, and she instinctively covers her body, feeling exposed and vulnerable in the face of this new info. I’m a little mixed on Becca’s initial reaction to Finley’s discomfort with church being to push her into, essentially, exposure therapy. But Toboni handles these scenes so well, and the final scene between them in the church is affecting.
Then there’s Lena, who is a half-baked character at best, a lazy plot device at worst. There is nothing to this character at all. She trances toward Shane like a moth to the flame, which yeah, does happen a lot in the original series, but on Generation Q, it doesn’t fit. There’s fantasy to it, but it’s also frustrating. The reboot has been infusing Shane with more depth and dimension, but that doesn’t really work if it doesn’t also do the same for the women she beds. Lena’s forceful come-on with Shane at episode’s end is an example of the series mimicking the original a little too much. And it doesn’t help that Lena’s sudden declaration that she doesn’t feel anything for Tess because the connection with Shane is simply too powerful absolutely renders Tess flat in this scenario. Jamie Clayton is too talented for her character to just become some sort of anecdote in Shane’s post-divorce grief arc, and I hope that’s not where we’re headed.
While some issues with character development abound, “Lost Love” still has its merits in terms of further fleshing out the world of Generation Q. It’s the least funny episode, which works against it a bit, but it’s also an episode where all the most engaging and emotionally resonant moments center friendship rather than romantic relationships. Shane’s best scene is with Bette, who apologizes after initially bristling at Shane’s impulsive decision to buy a bar. They have a candid conversation about separations, aging, big life changes. Bette admits she still isn’t over the loss of Tina; she still doesn’t feel normal. (And in a bit of exposition, we learn that Tina left Bette for someone else.)
Her body changed after, she tells Shane, and she’s talking in part about menopause, which continues to impact her in believable and organic ways in scenes like her fanning herself in her office, but she’s also talking about the full-body effects of a major breakup. In some ways, the original series tackled the endings of relationships with more conviction, nuance, and viscerality than it did the beginnings. That might end up being true for Generation Q yet, even though most of the relationship endings have happened off-screen/before the start of the series.
Other friendship moments shine, like in the easy banter between Finley and Sophie. Again, Sophie feels her most real and natural as a character when she’s talking with friends. With Dani, there’s something so robotic about her, and that has everything to do with the writing, because Rosanny Zayas is otherwise charming throughout the show.
Even the way Nat and Gigi fall into an easy rhythm as ex-wives and ex-best friends stands out as really strong character work. And Alice’s sudden anxiety about it feels very real (and adds some comedy). It presents a complex view of jealousy. Alice is mostly hurt that Nat laughed so much at Gigi’s jokes. She doesn’t necessarily feel threatened sexually, but she does seem threatened emotionally. That makes sense. Nat and Gigi have a long history together, practically a whole other life that Alice doesn’t have access to. The awkwardness—and natural comedy—of these three trying to figure out what life looks like with all of them in it is hands down the most compelling relationship storytelling happening on the show right now.
- Bette can be a really bad partner, and Tina indeed left her once before for someone else (Henry), but I do have to laugh at the idea of Tina walking out on Bette Porter instead of the other way around.
- On the subject of Bette, of course she’s still sneaking around with Felicity.
- Dedicating three whole minutes of an episode to a Megan Rapinoe interview is very stunty, and I am definitely on board with the Alice show being an excuse to bring in famous queer women for fun cameos (Rapinoe is so funny here!), but given the fact that there are so many areas where we should be spending more time (like on developing Sophie), it’s a little tough to swallow!