Its not about the story, its about the conversation it starts, Kat (Aisha Dee), the social media editor at a lifestyle magazine called Scarlet, declares in the Season 2 premiere of The Bold Type. She is seated at a board meeting with the top dogs of the magazines publishing company: a twenty-something black woman addressing a table of old white men in suits. The committee seems impressed with her insight, and even more impressed with her candor (or maybe her gall). She leaves the meeting feeling heroic.
Kats monologue in the boardroom doesnt really make any senseit has something to do with a tweet about a man who self-identifies as a unicornbut we get the idea. Shes a millennial. She has a girlfriend (a fact that she smugly mentions during the meeting). She understands Twitter. She should be the one conducting the discussion of Scarlets brand strategy, not those stuffy board members. This is the general feeling you might get watching the show: a warming sense of millennial female empowerment tempered by the knowledge that theres no real logic behind it. But maybe, as Kat notes, its not about the story, which can tend toward the feel-good and the soapy and the addictive, but rather about the ways in which the show updates its formulasthe places it chooses to push the envelope.
The series centers around Kat and her two best friends, goofy-winsome Sutton (Meghann Fahy) and earnest-optimistic Jane (Katie Stevens), as they navigate love and careers and (of course) sex in the big city. If youre feeling reductive, you could call it a New York City rom-com for millennialsless gritty than Girls, and less witty than Sex and the City, but less melodramatic than Gossip Girl, and more bent on being progressive than all three combined. But perhaps the shows most striking deviation from these forerunners is its favoring of the womens professional lives over their romantic ones. With each episode, Jane, Sutton, and Kat are compelled to negotiate their ambitionan endlessly exuberant drive toward career successwith a fierce commitment to staying true to themselves. The series is, ultimately, more of a coming of age than a romantic comedy, as each of the young womens corrected missteps serves as an emboldening prod onward and upward.
Often there to catch their fall and guide them back on track is Jacqueline (Melora Hardin), Scarlets savvy, sympathetic Editor-in-Chief. Her character represents one of the shows most radical departures from formula: the role of compassionate lady boss is still a startling one in a TV drama landscape where many such female authorities are written to be warped by envy or discontent or straight-up iciness. Of course, once you begin to clock in the time that Jacqueline dedicates to serving as the threesomes advice-giver and mother hen its hard to believe she gets any work done at all. But realism isnt the goal here, and its rewarding to watch such an animated display of woman-on-woman mentorship, cutesy and calculated as it may be. In the first episodes of Season 2, we see an aspirational sparkle light up Jacquelines own eyea clue that our instructive matriarch may undergo her own professional arc in episodes to come.
Through all of Season 1, the three best friends work together under Jacqueline: Kat in social media, Sutton in fashion, and Jane in editorial. But Season 2 opens with the trio divided after Janeof the three, Scarlets greatest champion and devoteedecides to accept a job at gonzo journalism outlet Incite, full of impassive hipsters and based in (gasp!) Brooklyn. Its the Vice to Scarlets Cosmopolitan, and its incongruity with Janes voice is poised to produce a host of complications. (Her way of adapting to the brand is to don a red flannel and horn-rimmed glasses.)
The second seasons first two episodes also find the show dealing with race more directly than it did over the entirety of its first. Though Kat is biracial and the shows principal male character (a Scarlet writer played by Matt Ward) is black, discussions of race were left largely out of Season 1even despite a rather complex consideration of Muslim identity via Kats girlfriend Adena (Nikohl Boosheri). So far, Kats reckoning with her racial upbringing has felt like a natural, welcome addition to the plot, especially with Adena by her side to urge her on.
Its worth noting that, at the moment, Kat is the only one of the three with a real romantic partner, and its startling how refreshing it feels to watch a girly gab session center around one of the women going down on her girlfriend for the first time. Of course, its clear that the season will introduce more romantic subplots as it unfolds. I do not envy any of you having to navigate dating in this climate, Jacqueline remarks to a meeting full of young Scarlet writers before introducing that months feature: a series of profiles of young male allies (firemen, doctors, and other assorted sympathizers of the feminist cause). In a series this obsessed with progressive social politics, its engagement with #MeToo will most likely be as inconspicuous as a peacock-feathered mini-skirt.
On its glossy surface, there may be nothing especially bold about The Bold Type. Its hyper-feminine and ludicrously predictablea combination that often predestines a TV show (or any type of content) to be written off with an eye-roll. But the show wears its bubbliness with pride, strutting the line between iconoclastic and feel-good without missing a step.
The Bold Type Season 2 premieres Tuesday at 8 PM on Freeform.