A third season was a guarantee for The Bold Type, after Freeform picked up the women’s-mag-set dramedy for two seasons at once back in 2017. New showrunner Amanda Lasher — who replaced creator Sarah Watson after season one — would have at least 20 episodes to explore the lives and trials of Jane Sloan (Katie Stevens), Kat Edison (Aisha Dee), and Sutton Brady (Meghann Fahy), three young employees of Scarlet magazine.
At first, The Bold Type was a breath of fresh air. It balanced its three protagonists’ lives with aplomb, showing us completely different parts of the same industry with surprising expertise (likely brought by producer and former Cosmopolitan editor Joanna Coles). Jane was the upstart writer aiming to make a splash. Kat was the social media manager with a deep understanding of how the woke internet works. Sutton Brady was the wannabe fashion editor finding her way into an exclusive world. Combined with one of the best female boss characters in recent television history — Melora Hardin’s Jacqueline Carlyle, an editor as interested in mentorship as she is the bottom line — and you had a compelling ensemble of women.
Unfortunately, after a strong first season, season two jumped off the rails a bit. It often seemed like only one of the girls’ plots could be good at a given time. (Most of the time it was Sutton’s, who beat the odds and had a better second season than she did first.) One of the most rewarding plots from season one — Kat’s blossoming queerness and relationship with photographer Adena El-Amin (Nikhol Boosheri) — was quickly mired in out-of-character mood swings from both women. And Jacqueline was unwisely backgrounded for most of the season.
No problem was worse, however, than the utter torpedoing of Jane Sloan’s character.
Jane wasn’t exactly the best part of season one, but as played by American Idol and Faking It alum Stevens, she was a fine middle anchor. Much like Lindsay Lohan in Mean Girls before her, she was the relatively normal center around which more dynamic characters and plots could thrive.
In season two, Jane’s role rose to greater prominence, but her character became no more interesting to fill the gap. Instead, what we saw of her was a mix of the incompetent (Rory Gilmore seems like a better journalist) and the entitled. In one episode, Jane railed against diversity hiring — right in front of Kat, her black best friend who was currently aiming to get a woman of color hired despite insufficient schooling for the publisher’s requirements.
The show handled the plot well enough, giving Kat plenty of room to school Jane on why she was being a jerk. The problem is that the very next week, we were expected as viewers to be back on board with Jane. That was a tough pill to swallow, as were most of Jane’s developments last season. As the character grew more unlikable — and not in a smart, Carrie Bradshaw-esque way, but in a reckless way — it became more and more difficult to buy her as a worthwhile lead.
Having screened the first three episodes of The Bold Type’s new season, I can say that the Jane problem … is unfortunately still a problem. This season sees her facing off with a new face in the Scarlet newsroom: Patrick Duchand (Peter Vack), the headstrong and very male head of digital. Jane rejects a man’s presence in such an executive position entirely, despite the fact that Patrick is queer and wants to work with her. It’s an off-putting note to start Jane’s season three journey on — particularly considering how they meet. No spoilers, but it’s truly rough for Jane.
I am dubious about The Bold Type continuing beyond season three; frankly, after season two, I think it’s fortunate that they were pre-renewed for this season. But if it does, it will absolutely have to figure out what to do with Jane moving forward. No longer the anchor, she’s now a stone on a chain, dragging all the more interesting and compelling things about the series down with her. The series might just need to cut bait, else sink right along with her.
Kevin O'Keeffe is a writer, host, and RuPaul's Drag Race herstorian living in Los Angeles. Follow his musings and rantings on Twitter @kevinpokeeffe.