This has been an odd couple of weeks for our wee site. Mostly it was a powerful Monday last week.
Over the last weekend, we lost another lesbian. This one was on a canceled show, The Family, and the plan was to have her come back in flashbacks all through season two. Alas, Bridey the lesbian lifestyle blogger in Maine is still dead.
But Monday. Oh my goodness.
First Sameen Shaw came back to Person of Interest, which we expected, and had a rip roaring sex scene with Root. Which we also expected. What was unexpected was the details. Shaw had been kidnapped mid last season by the evil minions of Samaritan, a super computer AI who wanted to kill its rival, The Machine. Shaw seemingly gave her life to save Root in the greatest episode ever, “If/Then/Else,” but instead she’d been tortured for the nine months since her capture. In the torture, they ran Shaw through 6741 scenarios, trying to get her to lead them to The Machine.
Instead, Shaw killed herself in those scenarios. Every. Single. Time. But the most amazing thing about it is that she also saw Root as her safe space, and envisioned herself sleeping with the hacker/assassin. On the surface it seems like a cheap shot, give the lesbians a moment, but really it’s not. This is PoI telling us they see the tropes and want us to know, no matter what, that Shaw does love Root, as much as she is able to love anything. It was incredibly powerful.
As AfterEllen pointed out, this was not without it’s issues:
We still have to go through the motions of Shaw dying onscreen again, though. And in that sense, they get to have the Tragic/Dead Lesbian cake and eat it too by avoiding backlash. I was in absolute disbelieving, furious shock until the final reveal, and while in general I don’t object to a show putting its viewers through the emotional wringer, in light of the wider context I don’t know how I feel about that particular instance or choice of emotional trickery.
That said. The reason this was necessary is that it’s not that Shaw doesn’t ‘like’ to show emotions, it’s that she cannot show emotion. The character has a personality disorder and doesn’t experience feelings like the majority of the world. So all the sweet moments, the romance as it were, in the episode were things Shaw lacks the ability to express. She doesn’t know how to say “I love you” and probably never will be able to. She feels, yes, but she doesn’t process them the same way as most people, and not as intensely. She understands them, but she’s apart from them. So there really are few ways for her to express, in-character, to us the depth of her ties with Root. And it’s simply this. Shaw’s safe place is Root, and she won’t hurt her.
Also we really do have to be cognizant of the fact that this show has been filmed and finished for longer than the whole recent debacle has been going on. They’ve been done filming for months. The final episodes were filmed in January, which means this episode was done back in 2015. We’ve actually known about this episode since October 2015. In light of the wider context, it predates them in one way and subverts them in many others.
We’ll have to see how it all pays off, but frankly I still don’t hold out hope that our heroes walk away from Season 5 of PoI. Not even Bear. Shaw comes back for realsies this week.
Over on Jane The Virgin, they flipped the trope. After Jane marries Michael, but before they have sex, he is shot while going to get ice. It’s reminiscent of a horror movie, and a recent lesbian death where the ice-getter returns to a dead lesbian. In this case, Sin Rostro comes back from the dead to shoot Michael in the chest!
Just when you’d think we changed the percentage of dead lady lovin’ ladies back down to 25%, Blindspot went and killed off their main character lesbian, a PoC to boot, Bethany. That netted us back to 27.7% of all LGBTQ females on network TV being dead. When asked directly about the Bury Your Gays trope, the showrunner told The Hollywood Reporter it was “too late”:
Did you ever consider changing that trajectory following the recent discussions around the trope of killing gay characters off shows like The 100 or The Walking Dead?
By the time The 100 and everything had come out we were too far down the road to make an adjustment, basically. That’s brought to life something that is definitely a problem and I think our industry needs to be better. We need to be better and I’m glad that conversation is happening right now. But for us this felt too engrained in the DNA of the show to call an audible at that point. It was too late.
They could have had her fake her death, like her girlfriend had, but no, they felt it was too late. In their defense, it was rather late to try and rewrite and re-film everything. Where they go from here is what matters most, but it’s still exceptionally unsettling to have them do this. They could have killed off the male lead for the same (if not greater) impact, and that might have settled the ongoing angst between the actors. Rumor has it they don’t get along.