Appellate Judge Jennifer Malkowski sadly reports that this season's L-word is "lame."
"Going down in history."
Spoiler Alert! I can't talk about the dyke drama without,
you know, talking about the dyke drama.
Breaking Showtime's record for its longest-running series, the sixth and
final season of The L Word tries to send the show off with a bang.
Unfortunately, the specific attempt is bafflingly misguided. Looks like somebody
in the pre-season brainstorming session decided that the best ending for a fun,
sexy show about romance and friendship among a tight-knit group of lesbians
would be for a main character to be murdered. Apparently, this is "the way
that we live"?
Facts of the Case
Season Six opens with one of the show's principle sets turned into a crime
scene: star screenwriter / deceitful scumbag Jenny Schecter (Mia Kirshner,
24) is dead on a stretcher and the cops wanna know whodunnit. So do we,
as these opening moments set up the season's arc as "Who killed
Jenny?" before pulling us back three months earlier and spending the
remaining episodes showing us what led up to this death. Meandering through this
three-month period, we see Bette (Jennifer Beals, Flashdance) and Tina (Laurel Holloman, Angel) back together and hoping to adopt
their second child. Alice (Leisha Hailey, All Over Me) and Tasha's (Rose
Rollins, Something New) relationship
isn't going as well, but is invigorated by a fun new friend. Shane (Katherine
Moennig, Three Rivers) tries to win back Jenny's trust after last
season's betrayal. Kit (Pam Grier, Foxy
Brown) and Helena (Rachel Shelley, Ghost Whisperer) go into business
together. And Max (Daniela Sea, Shortbus)
accidentally becomes a pregnant man.
Season Six is a mere eight episodes, divided over three slim-case discs in
• "Long Night's Journey Into Day"
Kit's advice to
Shane: "You need to fight for Jenny…fight for the
After a brief flash-forward to Jenny's murder three
months in the future, we pick up where Season Five left off: with the fallout
from Shane and Niki's escapade on that dangerous railing. Jenny kicks Shane out
of their roommate situation and Shane spends the night wandering in on various
dramas among her other friends: Bette and Tina take care of sick little Angelica
and fight about cheating, and Alice and Tasha also fight about cheating and
consider breaking up.
Sexy bits: Jenny and Nicki have make-up sex
• "Least Likely"
Max: "Sorry I kicked you in
Tom: "Sorry I knocked you up."
letting Shane do menial jobs for her to win back her trust, Jenny eventually
makes a confession of love. Alice and Tasha go to couples' counseling with the
worst therapist ever, and Helena will probably need therapy when the woman who
trapped her in a sexual harassment lawsuit, Dylan, comes back into her life.
Bette runs into an old roommate/crush, Kelly Wentworth (Elizabeth Berkley, Showgirls), at an art gallery. Oh, and
Max finds out that he's preggers.
Sexy bits: Bette and Tina have sex in
their bedroom; Alice and Tasha do it in Alice's tiny car
Jenny: "I'm happy we
Appropriately, the writers spend most of this episode
letting us bask in the extended and often hilarious reactions of all the
characters to Shane and Jenny's hook-up. In other news, Bette idiotically tries
to fire Jodi and is herself promptly fired by Phyllis. Alice is also in danger
of getting fired from The Look when she talks about hate crimes instead
of fun gay gossip on the air. Plus, Helena and Kit have their grand re-opening
of SheBar, now transformed into the HIT! club.
Sexy bits: Shane and Jenny
fool around in bed
• "Leaving Los Angeles"
Jenny [suggesting a new
girlfriend for Helena]: "Jodi!"
Alice: "What is this,
recycling? Paper, plastic, lesbians?"
White Dylan is still prowling
around, Alice and Tasha distract Helena by setting her up with their new friend
Jamie. Pregnancy drama abounds elsewhere, as Max and Tom struggle with their
bizarre scenario, and as Bette and Tina travel to Nevada to meet a woman who may
let them adopt her baby.
Sexy bits: None
• "Litmus Test"
Tina: [to her former boss]
"Shut your pie hole, Aaron!"
Alice gets pissed at Jenny for
stealing her screenplay idea, and then she gets pissed at Shane for not being
pissed at Jenny. Despite these tensions, the gang bands together to carry out an
elaborate test, determining whether Dylan's intentions with Helena are pure.
Sexy bits: Helena and Dylan have sex at Helena's apartment
• "Lactose Intolerant"
Alice: [on a sculpture at
Bette's gallery] "Wow, looks like a giant cat threw up, huh?"
Max isn't thrilled about being a pregnant man or about his boyfriend running out
on him, and attending the baby shower Jenny throws for him doesn't help. Bette's
gallery opening is proves to be a better event, but more gender trouble occurs
when the HIT! club's drag queen DJ HIT!s on KIT! at the show.
Alice and Tasha, all sweaty on the couch; plus, Shane and Niki make out at
Shane's new photography studio, and Jamie gets naked in Alice's shower
• "Last Couple Standing"
Tasha: [giving Alice a
pep talk] "Everybody out there, they're here for you. Jamie and I are gonna
do this crazy-ass dance for you. I'm in a turquoise onesie for you, okay? So
pull it together!"
The HIT! club hosts an all-night charity dance-off
to benefit the LGBT center Jamie runs, and everybody's eager to compete. But
lots of crazy drama brews between dance numbers: Jenny threatens to tell Tina
that Bette's been cheating, Alice suspects that Jamie and Tasha have developed
feelings for each other, Tina announces that she's been offered a dream job in
New York, Jodi shows up, and Jenny reacts unpredictably to the realization that
Shane is having sex with Niki.
Sexy bits: Shane and Niki in a bathroom
• "Last Word"
Bette: "I am happy to be
getting out of this little hotbed of lesbian
As Bette and Tina prepare to move to
New York, their friends gather at their newly remodeled house for a party,
returning us to the night of Jenny's murder that started the season. To bulk up
some motives for killing Jenny, Shane finds out that Jenny hid a crucial letter
to her from Molly months before, Tina finds out that Jenny stole the Lez
Girls film negative, and Bette finds out that Jenny is intensifying her
threats to tell Tina that Bette's been cheating. Jenny indeed dies, but the
series finale ends without actually disclosing who killed her.
Dylan and Helena and, oddly, a knife; Bette goes down on Tina near a bunch of
Watching this final season of The L Word for me, and probably for a
lot of queer women, was a little bit like witnessing one of those tragic moments
that sometimes happens in Olympic marathons. Say you're from one of those
obscure countries that doesn't get a lot of positive attention in the global
press—let's call it Borovnia. And then one year your little nation lucks
out and sends a really promising marathon runner off to the Olympics. Suddenly
your country's in the spotlight, and you're back home cheering and watching the
race on TV. Everything is going well for the first 20 miles or so and you're
elated—nobody expects this runner to win, but you and the other folks
watching back home in Borovnia will be satisfied if she can just finish strong.
Then a mile or two from the finish line, she starts to look real shaky. You
cross your fingers, you hold your breath, but it's no good. She stumbles, she
falls in the home stretch, and everybody in Borovnia feels kind of cruddy.
As it turns out, The L Word was that marathon runner for the U.S.'s
lesbian community. Getting a show about lesbians on the air back in 2004 was a
real triumph, and many of us tuned in and watched its progress intently for six
seasons (pretty near marathon length for a Showtime series!). It was clear from
the beginning that it wasn't going to get any gold medals; it was never as
well-written as shows like Six Feet
Under, The Wire, or Mad Men, even though its core group
of actresses was truly stellar. But The L Word was an unquestionable
success, and it chugged along at a fully respectable level of quality for five
seasons, despite the occasional misstep. Queer women and their friends gathered
in bars and living rooms across the country and the show really contributed to
the community it represented. But then in that sixth season home stretch it
started to look real shaky. If there is a television-writing equivalent of a
runner falling on the ground and failing to cross the finish line, The L
Word writers did it in this final season.
Let's get to the nitty-gritty of this season, which I've summed up into
three categories, which progress from my most merciful comments to my most
• Couple Cuteness
Years of working together has added an
ease and familiarity to the natural chemistry that already existed between many
of these actresses, and the sixth season's best accomplishment is the way it
capitalizes on those bonds. There are couple interactions here that are
infectiously adorable, sure to please all but the most bitter, hardened
couple-haters. Joyce's surprise proposal to Phyllis at her office gets Cybill
Shepherd to blurt out: "Joyce, what are you doing? You can't just pop out
from behind a plant buck naked!" and then the two jump up and down like
giddy schoolgirls. Alice tries to convince Tasha that she's not a frivolous
person by making serious-face, which is predictably endearing—as is the
scene where they make a pros and cons list on whether they should stay together.
But it's the show's longest-running couple, Bette and Tina, who are the most
unexpectedly delightful. I've never cared all that much about their on-again,
off-again drama, but back together for good, this time they share a well-worn
and comfortable rapport with lots of gentle teasing. A highlight is their
hardcore drive to beat Alice's team at the dance competition. Bette, at her
alpha female best, warns Tina: "They've got wigs and spandex. This is no
fucking joke. We have no idea what they're capable of." I also loved the
scene in which they decide who will sit with each group of their feuding friends
by playing rock, paper, scissors:
Bette: "Why do I always lose?!?"
Tina: "Because you're
Bette: "Is that what it is? Have fun with the
Tina: "Have fun with the cheaters."
• The Funny Stuff
Though less funny than the riotous fourth
season, Season Six still offered some hilarious moments. "LMFAO" lives
up to its title with the inspired sequence of people finding out that Shane and
Jenny hooked up. As Alice texts the gossip to all her friends, we see Helena
fall off her treadmill, Bette interrupt a business meeting with a cackle, and
finally Kit looking puzzled and pondering, "Why is my phone
buzzing?…A what?!? A text message?" The self-awareness of this
episode is great, with many of the characters looking as repulsed on-screen as
many of the fans did off-screen when this controversial couple formed:
There are also some nice little in-jokes, like Alice's comment that Helena's
children seem to have disappeared, and the sly reference to Leisha Hailey's
much-broadcast yogurt commercials in "LMFAO."
• A Drought of Good Sex Scenes
Over the years, The L
Word has brought us a number of fantastic sex scenes, but this year's crop
is rather puny. Other than the premiere's scene between Jenny and Niki, nothing
really stands out. Actually, the bafflingly dull six-minute sex scene between
Helena and Dylan in "Litmus Test" stands out, but not in a good way.
Particularly infuriating are two major missed opportunities. While Jenny
and Shane getting together was not a favorite plot among fans, there are few who
would deny that these Kirshner and Moennig are damn sexy. I would think the #1
reason to write a storyline about these two getting together would be to show
them having a bunch of crazy naked sex. Apparently not, since we really don't
get even one substantial sex scene between them. The problem is similar but even
more galling with Alice, Tasha, and Jamie. These characters seem to go through
the emotional consequences that often follow threesomes, but the threesome never
happens! We get all of the aftermath with none of the, well, math! Considering,
again, that these actresses are all exceptionally gorgeous, this crime is much
more upsetting than Jenny's murder.
As mentioned above, fans were skeptical that this
pairing was a good idea, and I doubt anyone was convinced by the storyline's
execution. We basically spend the bulk of the season yelling at the TV,
"When is Shane going to dump Jenny?!?!" (along with, "When are
they going to have sex?!?!") and then we're deprived of even the pleasure
of a break-up in the end. The writers spend lots of time setting up the big
showdown, but when Shane finally finds the love letter from Molly that Jenny hid
in the attic we don't even see the confrontation between them. The writers skip
this scene, presumably to preserve Shane as a suspect in the mystery of Jenny's
• An Utter Lack of Character Consistency
This lack has
always been a problem in The L Word: recall Helena's personality
transplant between the second and third season, for example. But here it kicks
into overdrive as people behave completely out of character over and over again.
Bette attempts to fire Jodi, apparently unaware that this could be construed as
sexual harassment (she's not that stupid). Max violently assaults Tom and
repeatedly calls him a faggot (he's not a bigot, even if he's angry). Jenny
tells Max how beautiful and womanly "she" has become (Jenny was the
most supportive of and understanding about Max's transition). And Bette utters
the line "check yourself before you wreck yourself." Huh?
• Max Gets Preggers
storyline about a pregnant man was, pardon my pun, ill-conceived and poorly
delivered. It's nice that the writers decided to give Max some kind of actual
plot this season, but his lines (and Sea's delivery of them) are just as whiny
and off-putting as ever, and the ridiculous make-up job on his beard makes it
extra-hard to take him seriously. There's no resolution to this pregnancy plot
at all, as the series ends with Max two months away from delivering the baby and
unsure about whether he wants to keep it. And speaking of no
• "Who Killed Jenny?"
I'm still waiting for my
answer. Writing whole storyline and its "ending" is the most
boneheaded decision that the The L Word people have ever made—even
dumber than their decision to kill Dana in the third season. The most obvious
problem is the pointless ambiguity of the ending. We don't find out who killed
Jenny, and I can't conceive of why anyone on staff imagined fans would think
this was a cool ending for the show. Even if they somehow missed the lesson of
The Sopranos that fans want an actual
finale in a series finale, why on earth would they structure the whole
season's narrative and marketing around the expectation of finding out "who
killed Jenny"? One answer might be that Ilene Chaiken hoped to continue the
story by spinning The L Word off into a prison drama, with Alice being
(wrongly?) imprisoned for Jenny's murder. But if that's the case, Chaiken got
some comeuppance: The Farm's pilot flopped and, as far as I know, the
project is dead. It seems to me a real disservice to fans to give the series
they loved a terrible non-ending just in the hopes that you can wring another
project out of it.
But another problem is that the murder mystery ending seems wholly
inappropriate to the tone of the series. As Jennifer Beals says, "The L
Word, at its core, was a series about community." What kind of
statement about community does it make to have a central member of this group of
friends murdered and the other members apparently band together to cover up the
killer's identity? Chaiken and co. clearly want this to be a sexy and
provocative ending, but it comes off as callous. Maybe if they'd gone all the
way in making Jenny a moustache-twirling villain, we could have purely delighted
in her death; but Kirshner, bless her, was just too good at finding those little
moments of sympathy and redemption. Plus, the characters we know and love are
all viscerally upset by this turn of fate, and that's where we leave them
forever. What a downer.
Lastly, the finale itself is just ludicrously scripted from start to finish.
We viewers must be real idiots if we need four not-so-subtle references
to the broken railing on Bette and Tina's balcony before Jenny is apparently
pushed off it. And Alice is right when she asks the police investigator (Lucy
Lawless, Xena: Warrior Princess) during her
interrogation, "What does this have to do with who killed Jenny? I don't
understand all these questions." The interrogation scenes are lazily
written excuses for various characters to articulate their feelings and are
absurdly distant from real police procedure. And who knows what to make of the
outlandish wind-machine glamor shots that close the episode?
I've run out of synonyms for "ridiculous." That should be all the
indication you need of the season's quality.
Showtime's presentation of these disappointing episodes in The L Word:
The Complete Final Season probably falls under "the bad" rather
than "the ugly." But the image looks ugly enough with so many
compression artifacts dancing around the frame. Visuals are redeemed somewhat by
the show's varied and well-designed sets and fun costumes. Audio is adequate at
pumping in the many snippets of music, and dialogue is less muddy than in
previous sets (though I still think a DVD that features a deaf character and
actress should really include subtitles!). Extras are disappointing, but no more
so than usual with L Word DVDs. There are no commentaries, no deleted
scenes, and no making-of featurettes. But there is a 25-minute documentary
focusing mostly on an older generation of lesbians (interesting, but not very
closely tied to the series) and 25 minutes of footage from a charity event that
Chaiken and several cast members attended in New York (presented with an
incorrect aspect ratio). A highlight there is an emotional speech that Jennifer
Beals gives about her experience on The L Word on the eve of the 2008
presidential election. She comes off as just as poised, elegant, and passionate
as the character she plays. We also gets some photos from the set (the vast
majority of which show the actresses getting their make-up done, for some
reason), a few promos for products and causes, and extra features you can access
through the internet. These include an excerpt from Marlee Matlin's (who plays
Jodi) memoir and access to episodes of The United States of Tara and The Tudors.
About the series she headlined, Jennifer Beals concludes, "No matter
where the storylines went, we always managed to have fun." Despite my
above-articulated rage about how it ended, I can pretty much say the same for my
viewing experience with The L Word. For six seasons, it was a reason to
get together with friends and laugh (with it or at it), a spark for
conversations about queer issues, a source of hot lesbian sex scenes, and an
impetus for big raucous crowds of ladies to gather at dyke bars on Sunday
nights. In fact, my partner and I bonded over L Word mini-marathons as a
prelude to dating, so I owe the series a certain debt.
The L Word made great strides for lesbian visibility in the
mainstream media, and even a craptacular final season can't strip it of that
achievement. All the same, I'd advise anyone who hasn't get seen this sixth
season to skip it and pretend the show ended at five!
As an individual season, this one's guilty. As guilty as Jenny Schecter and
whoever killed her combined.
Give us your feedback!
Did we give The L Word: The Complete Final Season a fair trial? yes / no
What's "fair"? Whether positive or negative, our reviews should be unbiased, informative, and critique the material on its own merits.
Scales of Justice
Studio: Showtime Entertainment
• 1.78:1 Anamorphic
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
• Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (Spanish)
Running Time: 438 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
• Memoir Excerpt
• Photo Gallery
• Bonus Episodes