Tuesday, July 31, 2018

REVIEW: 'The Bold Type' - Sutton Returns to Her Hometown to Confront Her Mother in 'Trippin'

Freeform's The Bold Type - Episode 2.09 "Trippin'"

The girls take a trip to Sutton's hometown and meet a few important figures from her past. Jane struggles with planning for her future. Kat feels a rift in her relationship with Adena.

Parents have always been a great source of conflict and tension in dramatic storytelling. Seeing the world that the main characters came from can provide valuable insight into the actions they make throughout the story. It's a well-worn trope for a reason. In fact, The Bold Type has already used it extensively. Once again, it's a plot device that defines all three leads but in varying ways. For Kat, it was important for one story. She comes from well-educated and respected parents who still nevertheless caused her to have trouble identifying as a black woman in the world. For Jane, it is completely all-consuming of almost every single story she has. Whenever she has an important decision to make, it seems like the show has to find a way to connect it back to her growing up without a mother because she died from cancer. It has frankly gotten exhausting and made Jane seem like such a one-dimensional character who just complains that her life isn't as easy as she believes it should be at this point. And finally, Sutton has lived in the happy medium. She has talked about her upbringing with an alcoholic parent. She felt neglected and needed to escape to New York and find friends in order to truly come alive. But it's not the sole issue that defines everything for her. She has instead found drive through working hard at Scarlet. And now, all of that hard work is about to pay off. She is going to Fashion Week in Paris. She will still be working for the magazine. It will be a crazy and hectic experience. But it's going to be so life-changing for her as well. As such, it's a fascinating time for her to potentially lose out on all of that because of her mother. The show brings Babs Brady into the narrative in order to show the pain that the relationship has caused Sutton while also trying to find a new way forward. That willingness to evolve is very appreciated and should be applied to Jane's storyline as quickly as possible too.

Sutton never wanted to return to her hometown in Pennsylvania ever again. She had found a new place to belong in New York. She had the love and support of her friends as well as a promising career. She was making her dreams a reality. She knows exactly what to expect if she were to ever go back home. Her mother would still be a mess going to the same spots at the same time in order to get drunk. Her old high school fling would still be flirting with everyone and lingering around in the area. There is nothing but bad memories for her in this place. It's somewhere she would only go to see how things haven't changed in all of the years since she left. She needed to escape in order to move forward with her life. She's done that. And now, she is forced to reckon with the reality that things are capable of changing in her hometown. Sure, Billy is still at the bar pulling visitors up on stage with him to sing. That gives the show another strong opportunity to just let Katie Stevens perform. It's a fantastic musical moment as well that highlights how Jane just wants to let loose and have fun. She didn't believe she had to worry about any of these kinds of adult decisions just yet. She's getting that wake-up call now though. Sutton is coming to a powerful realization as well. She has to figure out if her mother is actually being truthful in saying that she's clean and sober. Babs appears not as the tragic mess that Sutton has always described her as. Instead, she is just a regular woman working in this dive bar who is surprised by her daughter and her friends. Sutton doesn't want to believe her mother is capable of change because it would be tragic if it took her leaving for that to actually happen. She needed a mother for so many years and never got it.

Sutton definitely feels like it is unfair of her mother to wait until now to get clean. She also laughs at the irony of her seeing a picture of the three friends going out drinking in New York as the reason why Babs decided to get sober. Sutton just wants to get her birth certificate so that she can get a passport in time to go to Paris for Fashion Week. That's her sole objective at the moment. She didn't come back to town hoping to have a meaningful conversation with her mother. She wasn't expecting their dynamic to change at all. She just needed a way into the house and the knowledge of where the important documents were being stored. It's up to Jane and Kat to actually tell Sutton that she should try to make an effort again because it seems like things are different. Of course, they wouldn't truly know what to expect. They never experienced Sutton's mother when she was at her lowest points. Sure, Babs knows who Jane and Kat are. They don't even have to be introduced to her. As such, it's clear that Babs is still invested in her daughter's life even though she is just watching it from afar. She is not a part of it. She wanted to change that in the future. That's why she got sober. It's only been a couple of months but she's committed to making it work this time around. Again, Sutton doesn't want to get her hopes up. She has been hurt too many times by this woman. And yet, she still agrees to take that first step of just opening the lines of communication more. They can talk more than just once a year. They can both agree to continue improving this relationship step by step. Sutton may no longer need her mother in her regular life. But she at least has the opportunity to have a version of this relationship she has always wanted. Right now, that has to be enough for her to agree to this.

Meanwhile, Jane is still agonizing over her decision of whether or not to have children. She continues to mostly be pouting and acting like an irresponsible and entitled 20-something. It's not flattering or entertaining in the slightest. She just wants to recklessly be drinking all of the time because she's annoyed about her biological clock and the need to worry about all of this already. She just wants to live in the moment and have fun with her friends. That can't be her life though. It's a dangerous life too. Sure, she has a couple amusing moments on this road trip like being able to sing and discovering the vape pen in the car. But most of the time she's making a big deal out of something that has no real nuance to it whatsoever. The show is basically trying to articulate that Ben may not be the perfect boyfriend for her because he wants to have a meaningful and detailed conversation about her options. It's so absolutely thoughtful that he would do all of this research for her so that she could feel well-informed when making this decision. He shouldn't feel bad about that. Nor should the audience want to hold animosity towards him. But the show does want us to have sympathy for Jane who just wants to have a boyfriend who doesn't have all the answers and will just live in the ambiguity of the moment with her. She sees being with Ryan as much better in that regard because she doesn't view it as something that could ever be serious. She views him as the guy to have fun with and not have to talk about these serious issues. She is absolutely in the wrong for doing so. This season has pointed out that Ryan has actually been growing too. He was inspired by Jane to actually step up and write a novel. He may now get published because of her. He wants her to see that she has made a significant impact in his life. But she just refuses to do so for the longest time. And instead, the show chooses to prop up a love triangle for her heading into the season finale even though it seems like Ryan and Ben are both too good for her right now.

And finally, Kat is realizing that she may no longer be interested in having an open relationship with Adena. She is so grateful that Adena gave her this time to explore her sexuality without fearing that it will compromise their dynamic. Neither one of them wanted to lose each other. However, the story has definitely prioritized these dates and casual hookups over meaningful interactions with Adena as of late. Adena has somewhat fallen into the background a bit. That reflects what Kat is feeling right now too. She still believes in their connection. Adena still reaches out and is supportive when there is an issue with the Scarlet website relaunch. But at the end of the day, Kat wants to spend more time with Adena because there is nothing out there that is better than their connection. She doesn't want to miss any more time together. She had her fun. But now, she wants to step up and be committed to this relationship. She explored what she needed to in order to feel like she didn't miss out on anything by committing too quickly to this relationship. It's a significant decision that she makes here. She shares it first with Jane and then comes home to tell Adena the news. But that only inspires more possible disconnect between the two of them. Adena has been moving forward with her life and career as well. She is inspired and working again. She is actually spending a lot of time at a gallery preparing for a big exhibit. She also had the freedom to pursue this kind of creative endeavor. Kat makes this admission now with the hopes that things will immediately be stronger with Adena. But that's also fantastical. It's still going to take more work and effort to build back up to that great relationship they once had. It will be more meaningful now because there won't be any doubts. And yet, there's still that awkward moment where it seems like the show is suggesting that things aren't okay between the two of them. That's just odd.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Trippin'" was written by Céline Geiger & Neel Shah and directed by Victor Nelli, Jr.
  • Jacqueline makes the executive decision to remove the comments section on the new Scarlet website. She sees the bad heavily outweighing the good. She just sees a source that amplifies all of the hate in the world instead of adding to the conversation. Of course, she is ultimately proven to be wrong though. Kat makes the argument for the comments section and the readers agree with her. So, it's one of the few instances where Jacqueline is wrong about something.
  • And yet, the show is also putting Jacqueline's future with the magazine into question. Early on, there is an article written about Jacqueline that says she may be losing her power and influence in the industry because magazines aren't as vital as they once were. That's why she is acting so decisively with the website. But it's also what gives the board the doubts possibly necessary in questioning her role in the industry. 
  • Rya Kihlstedt and Billy Magnussen are notable casting for Sutton's mother and high school boyfriend, respectively. The show casting them in those roles possibly suggests that they will return again at some point in the future. Of course, Babs is more meaningful and necessary than Billy. In fact, it's a bit of a letdown that Billy is such a one-dimensional and lame character even though he gets to perform on stage.
  • Is the show really suggesting that it may only take a week for Sutton to get a passport so that she can go to Paris for Scarlet? That simply seems too fast for the bureaucratic process. And yet, it's understandable why the show told this story instead of saying that Sutton already had a passport. If it did that, then it'd also have to explain why she was previously out of the country when it was also a big dream of hers to see the world.
  • Sutton also learns that Richard is more than likely moving in with his new girlfriend soon. That's just a minor plot point here though. It's enough to provoke conversation because Sutton hopes one of Richard's government contacts can help her. But it's ultimately just a brief exchange that shows that he continues to have this personal life that is mostly happening offscreen and away from all of the action.