This is a dog in wrapped in a blanket. The dog looks displeased, representing my displeasure with season 4 episode 7 of "The Bold Type".
Matthew Henry

This episode is quite loaded.

When it comes to exes it’s usually like a toss of a coin; you either have a good ex who is kind and respectful or a terrible ex who stands as a reminder of  all the baggage and pain from the relationship. In “The Bold Type” Adena ( Nikohl Boosheri) is the latter. As much as Aden’s image is contrived to be one of a wholesome, evolved and free personality, she is quite chilling. This entire episode was actually disappointing because of the jarring dynamic between Adena and Kat (Aisha Dee) and because the writers continue to fail Kat.

Still, the recent episode of “The Bold Type” mostly followed Jane (Katie Stevens) as she dealt with her interview for Forbes 30 under 30 and managed her feelings about a minor health crisis when she discovered a lump in her breast in her routine checks for abnormalities. Everything is fine though, she just had a cyst. But since Jane has a genetic propensity towards cancer because of the Breast Cancer Gene (BRCA)  in her family, she felt that the safest bet to ensure that she would have a long future, would be to get a double mastectomy and remove any chance of developing a cancerous tissue. She asked Ryan (Dan Jeannotte) if he wanted to be with her during this difficult time and gave him the option to opt-out and as expected, he said he would stay.

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The moment was quite loaded. What was he supposed to do, say no? If he decides to stay to be a good guy, he may grow to resent her later on because of how difficult the situation will get, but if he were to leave her, although he could be happy, his reputation would be on the line. At least among Jane’s friend’s and closest confidants (which includes Jacqueline) he would be perceived differently. I suppose there was no right way to approach this with him but he already seemed disengaged in their relationship since he cheated and had to be coaxed into repairing the relationship so, this just might be the thing that breaks them.

Sutton on the other hand, was so driven to prove herself as a stylist, she entreated the help from the wrong person. When Alice (Raven-Symoné) a popular beauty influencer went to Scarlet and discussed her photo-shoot with an automobile company , Sutton saw an opportunity to pitch herself. Yet, she neglected to identify herself as Oliver’s assistant. This meant that when she showed up to the shoot with thrift-store buys, Alice wasn’t welcoming or willing to listen when she explained that she was using freelance styling jobs and her social media following as leverage for a styling promotion. Instead, Alice reported her to Oliver. Oliver responded to this situation by essentially giving Sutton the silent treatment. 

At first it felt singularly like this narrative was just another example of how a white woman can basically cry away consequences— which is apparent since disproportionately people of colour often deal with strict leadership— but also, the moment highlighted what good management looks like. As we’ve seen repeatedly throughout the series, Sutton messes up often at work but her mistakes are usually trivial and made with good/ innocent intentions and typically Oliver follows up with non-combative and perhaps passive aggressive condemnation that forces Sutton to take accountability for her actions and change. This is all while preserving their close relationship. It takes a certain level of management skills to be able to do that: to motivate your employees, inspire loyalty, and still found a respectful and warm relationship. Oliver has succeeded well in this area and so the mistakes Sutton makes are minimal. Their working relationship demonstrates what a healthy work environment, though imperfect, may look like. One where employees are able to grow, learn and make minute mistakes without the constant fear of losing their jobs. 

Sutton really messed up this time though. However, given the fact that she is likable, skilled and a white woman (an advantage that can’t be overlooked since Oliver is a black man in a predominantly white environment), Oliver will likely choose his next steps very carefully. Considering how often Sutton has been taking risky moves to get a promotion, he might just decide to promote her to temper her ambitions (he’s prideful so that might be unlikely), or he could decide to demote her (but given Scarlet’s strapped financial status that’s unlikely too), so the final guess is he’ll do his regular disappointed act and throw her a little bone so that she doesn’t lose hope. (Image what would happen if she was black, Asian and Latino.)

Even so, among the three friends, the most notable exchange was between Adena and Kat. Despite how their romance was packaged, their relationship was always fraught with an imbalance of power and manipulation which favored the whims and needs of Adena. Adena was the one to initially pursue Kat and when Kat wasn’t sure if she wanted something more, she essentially guilted her into a relationship. Yet in the relationship, Adena was distant, non-committal and cold. She wanted Kat as a muse and she wanted the ability to easily access her on her terms when she wanted comfort and she expected Kat to be static, forever waiting or pining for her. That didn’t change despite the time they’d spent apart; Adena was the same.

In this episode of “The Bold Type” she called Kat to let her know that she’d returned to Scarlet on assignment and wanted to check-in—something which could have easily been done by text—but she chose to call Kat because it’s more confrontational and forces an intimacy given it’s immediacy. For this reason, Kat invited her to talk in person before seeing each other at work so that they can maintain a sense of normalcy—though shortly after it looked like she regretted doing so. At their meeting they agreed to be friendly but to stick mostly to their working relationship, a stance which Kat happily welcomed. But later, Adena crossed the line by bringing up her new partner. She did so again when she decided to discuss pegging with Kat even though Kat made attempts to switch to a new topic. Then Adena was upset when she learned about Kat’s newly discovered bisexual identity. She followed by lying to Kat about how lesbian’s in their community would receive this news, essentially shaming her and causing her to feel insecure about her identity. It’s was horrible and it was bisexual erasure.

The fact that their relationship ends on Adena’s terms demonstrates how manipulative she is. She instigated a renewal of their relationship  by reaching out, crossed a line and then gaslight and shamed Kat for not conforming to the characterizations and image she saw in her. Adena’s actions are troubling not just because of how harmful they are to Kat but because it’s not obviously problematic to the people around Kat who are witness to everything. When Adena is mean to Kat, everyone automatically defers to her job, her ethnicity or her sexuality to explain away why she might be mistreating Kat. No one sees Adena as the toxic woman she is. Instead Kat and Adena’s friends describe her as passionate, sensitive, or misunderstood. So, Kat might never come to the realization that Adena is a problem. 

“The Bold Type” is generally devoid of thoughtful story arches that feel authentic or even marginally realistic so it’s not surprising that the characters cycle through the same issues again and again. The show is meant to be a light watch but perhaps we should expect more. If the writers of the show plan to mimic Grey’s Anatomy’s use of current events and hot topics to fuel viewership, then like Grey’s Anatomy did, they should address subjects with care and create space for a complete story beyond shallowly addressing a subject for a single episode. For instance the fact that Kat lacks a sense of belonging was marginally addressed: once when she was given a promotion to her current position and in this episode, when she commented on how she didn’t feel at home within her biracial identity, politics or in the LGBT community. This is something that should be treated delicately and addressed regularly so that it doesn’t feel like it’s random every time she brings up this issue. Just as viewers are reminded regularly about Sutton’s disadvantaged background or Jane’s illness, dreams and generally all her feelings about everything, Kat deserves more consideration and nuance to be more than the fun black friend with negligible sexual problems.

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