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Tasya Teles on Echo’s Backstory and Future on The 100

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Tasya Teles as Echo kom Azgeda in The 100 4x05 "The Tinder Box"

Spoiler warning for season 4 of The 100.

From The 100 and The Handmaid’s Tale to Wynonna Earp and Orphan Black, many of the science fiction genre’s more successful television shows of late feature female protagonists and a litany of badass female characters. Many also employ female writers and directors, infusing a woman’s worldview into our media narratives. Though we are definitely making strides in queer female representation in the genre as well, I am disappointed there are no shows to list featuring female protagonists of color. But it is worth celebrating the victories we have achieved, and here at The Fandomentals we are starting a Ladies of Sci-Fi interview series to pay homage to womankind’s triumphs.

This month’s guest is actor Tasya Teles, who plays the fierce but aloof Echo kom Azgeda on apocalyptic drama The 100. There could not be a more perfect choice for the first installment of this interview series. Teles was recently promoted to a series regular for season 5, which begins 6 years after a second nuclear apocalypse forces the characters underground or (in Echo’s case) into space.

It’s no secret that Echo is a favorite of mine and a character I enjoy analyzing, and I took this opportunity to dig into Echo’s psyche. Teles was kind enough to provide thoughtful answers that allow us some rare and valuable access into the taciturn warrior’s head. Read on to hear her dish on Echo’s backstory and her mindset during some big moments in season 4, as well as tease at what we may see from Echo next season.

The following interview was conducted via email;* it has been lightly edited for clarity, but any redundancy in questions is due to that format.

Lisa P: First of all, congrats on your promotion to the main cast! You said in another interview that you were jumping up and down when you got the news, a perfectly rational response in my opinion. What is your favourite part of being involved with this show?

Tasya Teles: Aww, thank you so much! I couldn’t be happier. I really fell in love with Echo, and I’m thrilled to have an opportunity to develop her story further. There’s so much I love about the show, where do I begin? The writing is surprising and ruthless, the characters are strong and complex, and I adore the cast and crew. Everyone is challenged to the highest degree, and this shared dedication to storytelling makes every day rewarding, crazy, and fun. Another thing I love about being involved with the show is getting to meet all the fans. Sachin Sahel and I were just talking about how much we love going to conventions. It allows us to get to know the fans, and hear from them face-to-face. The show means so much to many people, so it’s truly an honor to be a part of The 100 family.

Tasya Teles, photographed by Liz Rosa

Image Courtesy of Liz Rosa

LP: I know that fan reactions to Echo have not always been overwhelmingly positive. How much do you feel that’s changed this past year, now that fans have gotten to see more of both you and your character?

TT: I felt that people started seeing her differently this past year. Some saw beyond the warrior mask right away, and others are still warming up to her. Throughout season four, her armor starts to break, and beneath it is this vulnerable child who’s lost everything. She has to rebuild her world all over again, and deal with the trauma of the past.

At the end of the day, Echo isn’t inherently evil, she was trained to do one thing: protect Azgeda. Azgeda is a pretty brutal clan, so to survive, Echo cuts emotion out and focuses solely on strategy and execution (no pun intended). Part of humanizing Echo, as villainous as she was at the top of the season, was trying to figure out who she would be in today’s society. Along with my coach, we began looking at child soldiers and young terrorists. The stories of these kids really break my heart. Many were stolen from their families, and conditioned to behave a certain way. Finding Echo’s broken heart, and understanding that she must have been brutalized as a child, helped me bring her adult story to life.

Hopefully season five invites the audience to get to know a different side of Echo. But like they say, you can take the girl outta Azgeda, but you can’t take the Azgeda out of the girl. She’ll definitely retain her badass side that makes me love her so much.

LP: You’ve mostly worked with Bob Morley, Marie Avgeropoulos, and Zach McGowan in the previous three seasons. Heading into filming this season, who are you most excited to work with more?

TT: Bob, Marie, and Zach. Just kidding. But it would be amazing to work with Zach again! Maybe we can figure out another way to bring him back from the dead (hint hint writers)! I would love to work more with Adina Porter. She has a coolness and strength to her that is so mesmerizing. I think an Echo/Indra face off would be brilliant. But I love everybody on the team, I’m happy any way you slice it.

LP: Right now Echo’s backstory is a pretty blank slate. Do you have any theories or headcanons about her history that you use to help develop or understand her more fully?

TT: One thing I do think about a lot is where she came from. As I mentioned earlier, I’ve looked at child soldiers, modern day pirates, spies, and secret agents. Like child soldiers, spies are often people with no family, and nothing to lose, which is what makes them great spies. Using the idea of Echo as an orphan, or being kidnapped from her family, is where I started to build her backstory.

Growing up without a family in a ruthless environment, Echo was put into training almost immediately. She lost her childhood to combat training, which hardened her, but it also cultivated this cool, capable badass we met in season four, and saw a glimpse of in season two. Azgeda would be a scary place for any orphan, even those who were training as assassins. Little Echo was conditioned to be ruthless. She had to protect herself from a variety of threats at every corner, never having a safe haven to call home. So it follows that she latched on to Queen Nia pretty tightly when Nia noticed her. By promoting Echo into the royal guard, Echo suddenly had status, protection, and a purpose. That was the closest thing to a family she ever knew. How sad is that? But her fear of abandonment, and her incapacity to trust others easily, are scars from her childhood that never leave her, which we see her struggle with in season four. She’s terrified of losing her “family,” and will go to great lengths to protect her kin.

LP: You said at SDCC that what you most like about Echo is her strength and loyalty and how she always protects her clan first. That draws some interesting comparisons to Clarke, given the respective massacres they were involved in at Mount Weather and the underhanded things they both did in 4×10.

In 4×12 they have that moment where Echo asks if her actions were so wrong and Clarke seems to empathize and reflect on herself. She then gives up her own helmet to save Echo, which suggests she thinks Echo is no worse than her, or at the very least is worth saving. Do you think that’s a fair comparison, that Echo and Clarke are actually quite similar but Clarke just so happens to be our protagonist and belong to a (slightly) less brutal clan?

TT: I think that’s a fair comparison. There are parallels between Clarke and Echo, and maybe if the story was told from an Azgeda perspective, then Clarke may be seen as an antagonist to the main plotline. But yes, I think they do share similarities. Leading up to that moment, we saw them both cheating in the final conclave, and we’ve seen that they both won’t hesitate to put their own lives at risk for the safety of their clans.

Tasya Teles as Echo kom Azgeda in The 100 4x10

Cheater, cheater. (source)

LP: Bellamy and Echo’s relationship has been quite rocky so far because they have both done some awful things for their clans, clans that were often at war with each other. It has been teased that alliances will have shifted in the six years since the second Praimfaya. Is it safe to assume that those characters’ fierce loyalty will now be working for rather than against that relationship?

TT: I think that time is a great healer. I also think that in times of survival, with only a few people on the ship, there isn’t much room for lingering grudges or hatred. Both characters have lost so much including their best friends, and families. At a certain point you have to ask yourself, is it really worth it? So yes, it’s likely that some new loyalties have been formed among them. Whether these loyalties work for or against them sets up a really interesting problem in season five if everyone reunites. Seeing these new relationships under intense pressure will definitely make for some great drama.

LP: Trust has been a major theme for Becho in the past three seasons. After all that’s happened between them, how do you think Echo will have gone about trying to regain Bellamy’s trust?

TT: Echo has never known a life where she isn’t constantly faced with the threat of war and all the dangers associated with it. I would say that for the first time, Echo is in a place where she can be herself. Part of her transformation is learning how to trust others, and Bellamy and her have a lot of ground to cover. I do think she will eventually try to regain Bellamy’s trust, but how does she do it? I don’t know. Maybe she makes him a giant ‘I’m Sorry’ paper maché two headed teddy bear. Six years is a long time to be stuck in space, I’m sure they’ll get sick of board games pretty quickly.

LP: Octavia and Echo have had a pretty tumultuous relationship too. Last time they saw each other, Octavia kicked Echo out of the bunker and left her to die. What will happen if Echo ever sees Octavia again, now that she will be closely allied with Bellamy? That sounds like the most awkward family reunion ever. Does Octavia even know Echo is alive and was on that ship?

TT: If your assumption is that Echo and Bellamy become close allies, then yeah, that’s a Thanksgiving dinner I would skip. I don’t think Octavia knows that Echo is alive, and certainly not that she’s in space with her brother. Even Echo didn’t know that she was headed for space. Reuniting with the ground is troubling for Echo. Octavia greatly threatens Echo’s assumed trust in her new ‘space family’. Loyalties will be tested once again at this terrifyingly awkward family reunion. How much Bellamy decides to trust or defend Echo is up to the writers. My hope is that Echo has finally found a home, and some friends. Otherwise she might regress into being a lone soldier once again, which is a scary, but interesting, idea. If Echo goes rogue, nobody is safe. She’s definitely a warrior you want to have on your side.

LP: You’ve said previously that Echo was devastated when Octavia fell off the cliff and she thought she’d killed her, because she had both failed Roan and hurt Bellamy. But she looked downright miserable in that scene where she had to tell Bellamy his sister was dead and then watch him mourn. What was going through her head in that moment?

TT: Echo was miserable. Confronted with the repercussions of what happened on that cliff was the beginning of Echo’s unraveling. It was also a really emotional day on set for me. It was such a shameful moment for Echo, I think her head was spinning. Whether she wanted to admit it to herself or not, Echo respected Bellamy enough to not want to hurt him. She was ashamed, devastated, and remorseful, leading to another tiny crack in her foundation. For me, that’s the first time she ever questioned her Azgeda principles and belief system, “Why am I affected by this? This is war. People die all the time. It wasn’t my fault. It was Octavia who wouldn’t come. Why am I so tormented by this?!” She didn’t want to be there. She wanted to just disappear altogether, and she almost got away leaving the prison cell without having to confront her mistake, until Bellamy called out, “My sister will stop you. She’ll warn the others.” It was difficult for Echo, and there was lots happening in her head at the time, but she pushed all the emotion down so she could do her job.

LP: She really meant it when she said she was glad Bellamy would get a chance to see Octavia again, didn’t she? That was one of the few moments before her banishment where she seemed to drop her walls.

TT: Absolutely. That came straight from the soul. Echo isn’t someone who holds grudges, or politics around too much, and she rarely drops her walls. The nature of her job forces Echo to remove herself emotionally from much of what she does. The audience only gets these little peaks of who she really is behind the mask, so I loved that she snuck that in there, and she meant it.

LP: Personally, I’m totally Team Becho. But if Echo was to get involved with any other character on The 100, who do you think it would be and why?

TT: That’s a wonderful question, and I love your enthusiasm (laughs)! I think that there’s an endless world of shipping possibilities. For the group that’s stuck in space, it’s highly possible that they all dated each other at one point or another. Maybe all at the same time! No, that would be weird. But it would be really hilarious if out of nowhere Octavia and Echo became a thing. Talk about a plot twist.

Tasya Teles as Echo kom Azgeda in The 100 4x13 "Praimfaya"

LP: Echo’s clan was obviously very important to her, and after she was banished we saw her fall apart over the course of a few episodes, culminating in the ritual suicide scene where she lamented, “I belong nowhere.” How much of a treat was it to finally peel back the layers of this strong badass and show her vulnerability, now that she was in the midst of both an identity crisis and the apocalypse?

TT: Oh my gosh, such a treat! When I read that I thought, “FINALLY!” I had been playing her as a very controlled, and very disciplined warrior, and I really wanted to see Echo lose her mind. In the Seppuku scene, she finally broke. Her world was turned completely upside-down. The obscure idea of living in space, with no family, no Roan, no Azgeda, no purpose, and surrounded by this weird techno-world, reminiscent of Mount Weather, was too much for her to handle. Everything came tumbling down on her, and for the first time we saw this staggeringly deep emotional body that she had been hiding for who knows how long. Playing this stoic badass was incredible, but the release was even better.

LP: I must say, I loved how Echo just ripped that panel off the wall and was so willing to help Harper once they were on the Ark, and how desperately she crawled over to Bellamy to pull his helmet off and give him some air. Do you see her easily integrating into the group who went to space now that they are relying on each other, or do you think that old Azgeda loyalty will make it take a little longer for her to trust them? Or for them to trust her, for that matter?

TT: Yes! I absolutely love the moment when she scrambles to Bellamy. It actually wasn’t in the script. Bob and I brought the idea to our director, and he loved it. It made perfect sense that Echo would be the one to rip off Bellamy’s helmet at the last second, as Bellamy had just saved her life moments before, an exchange they’ve made a few times now. But Spacekru should be more nervous about Echo pressing a wrong button, than worrying about Echo’s previous loyalties. At this stage, survival becomes the immediate daily focus. Loyalties will be tested if they make it back to the ground, and that’s where things can become dangerous for her.

LP: What role do you see Echo playing for Spacekru? She’s a natural leader, but she’s the outsider on the Ark and Bellamy is already the de facto leader. Other than that, her talents are mostly combative, so how will she find a way to contribute during those six years in space?

TT: Décor. The space station is definitely in need of some new curtains and complimentary pillow cushions. She also makes a killer flambé! No, I don’t see her being good with décor, or cuisine, but who knows maybe there’s an underlying passion just waiting to be unleashed. She’s so mysterious, that Echo, you just never know.

Echo is a natural leader, when necessary, but she’s a better accomplice, strategist, and spy. I don’t think there will be any sort of power struggle. Echo is pragmatic, economical, and gets straight to the point. She doesn’t sugarcoat, or waste time tiptoeing around an issue. So she definitely became the space therapist. Richard Harmon and I have this long running joke about what therapy sessions with Echo would look like. She’s also an amazing PE teacher. I would say her specialty is mainly sword fighting, but perhaps a bit of bo staff lessons too, just to spice things up.

In Closing

Thanks so much to Tasya Teles for taking the time to answer all my burning questions about Echo during this busy filming season. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter to stay connected, until we meet again. The 100 season 5 is due to premiere in early 2018 on The CW. January can’t come soon enough!


*Editors note: clarification regarding the method of the interview was added on 10/01/17.

Images Courtesy of The CW (unless otherwise specified)

Lisa is a gay(ish) writer and stand-up comedian from Canada’s west coast. A longtime fanfic author who recently made the jump to journalism, she is prone to gush ad nauseum about her OTPs. Stubbornly Watsonian and literal, she can’t stand characterization and continuity errors.

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Analysis

The Expanse Season Two Still Fares Well As An Adaptation

Barbara

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The Expanse has had the seventh book in the series released this month, while its third season (meant to adapt the second half of the second book) is scheduled to come out some time next year. In other words, both the authors of the source material and of the adaptation are keeping busy, making it a very current show. So allow me to continue in my attempt to assess how it fared as an adaptation.

The second season works with the second half of Leviathan Wakes, the first book in the series, and the first half of Caliban’s War, the second installment. It continued its similarity to Game of Thrones as an adaptation by diverging from the source material significantly more than in the first year it was on air. The good news, however, is that the changes are not so dramatically for the worse as is usual, and in some cases are even for the better.

Warning: the following contains spoilers for both the show and the books.

Some problems remain from season one. Chiefly, two of them. One is the scope of the world as it is depicted on the show.  The other are the universally dark and gritty visuals. Ganymede is supposed to have corridors carved in ice. Wouldn’t it have been awesome to see that? But now, just more indistinguishable black and grey.

The most significant difference between the books and the show in season two is, without a doubt, all the added drama. It’s everywhere. Every little thing that is routine in the books becomes exceedingly tense on the show. Starting with the Somnambulist, which is not taken by force – or near enough to force – in book!verse, but is simply a ship at OPA’s disposal that Holden is given by Fred. Continuing through Bobbie’s escape from her rooms in the UN compound; she simply walks away in the book and that’s it. And ending with the escape from Gynemedes, which, int he books, is not so much of an escape as simply, you know, leaving. I could keep listing other instances, but this serves as a good example of the sort of tension added for television.

Related to this is also the complete secrecy that surrounds everything on the show. The books work much better with the reality of modern technology where things are streamed immediately. Billions of people watch Eros crash into Venus live, for example, and the data available from what happens there is available to everyone. Or there is the whole thing with the zombie terminator attacking on Ganymede. On the show, it’s a huge secret Chrisjen has to exert extreme energy to ferret out. In the books, everyone knows and there is footage of the attack available. One of my favourite little moments is when Holden tries to hide his identity behind a scruffy beard as he comes to Ganymede, and you end his chapter feeling that he succeeded. Only to open Chrisjen’s chapter and find out that he really, really did not.

Secrecy adds drama, so it is understandable why the show decided to go this way. The need to keep viewers hooked is evident, too. And ending the season in a middle of a book, they needed a suitably dramatic bang to end with. So while all of these things make me roll my eyes, I do not truly blame the show for them. I feel the missed character beats much more keenly.

Captain James Holden

Holden is one character whose arc from the first half of Caliban’s War was adapted truly well. There was the inevitable added drama, as everywhere, but his essential story arc remained.

With regards to the end of Leviathan Wakes, however, the issues from season one continue, and Holden is treated as more of a boy scout by the show than he is by the book. One fantastic moment (though one that could hardly be adapted) was seeing inside Holden’s head when the Head Human Experimenter tried to convince him to join forces before Miller shot him. The reader can see, with intimate certainty, that Holden is this close to giving in when Miller pulls the trigger. We know for certain that it was done at just the right time. Yet Holden condemns Miller for it without the slightest trace of self-awareness, confident he would have resisted. It’s no doubt intentional, and it’s perfection. It should have been replaced by a similar scene suitable for the visual medium that would have conveyed the same. It wasn’t, and Holden’s character suffered for it.

On the other hand, I very much appreciate the change made to Holden’s dynamics with Naomi. In the books, when they start their romantic relationship, it turns out that not only has Naomi been in love with him for ages, so had pretty much every female on the Canterburry, because he is obviously God’s gift to womankind. It’s something to be thankful for that we don’t have to deal with that on our screens, even though I admit that the way book!Naomi handles Holden after that is exquisite.

I’m also very much in favour of the open communication that happens between them before they have sex in the books, as opposed to the “thick erotic tension” kind of deal the show went with. It would be easier to teach people about affirmative consent if there were actual examples of it in the media. There was a scene like that in the book, and guess what? It didn’t get adapted. Let’s all pretend at astonishment.

Dr. Praxidike Meng

I must admit that I was surprised when I saw he was one of the point of view characters. I neither knew nor expected it, and that in itself sums up the biggest problem with his show adaptation. He was very much pushed into the background. I understand why, I suppose – it might have been felt that there were too many new characters – but he lost a lot of his appeal when his role was cut. He is there to represent a valuable civilian point of view among all the trained soldiers and expert politicians. And his expertise adds a crucial dimension to the catastrophe of Gynamede.

Though if someone had to be cut short, I’m glad it was Dr. Meng. I understand they could hardly reduce Hodlen’s role, as much as I’d appreciate it, and both of the ladies are more interesting than Dr. Meng.

Still, I remember lamenting the sharp division between the first and second half of season 2 and pointing out that had Dr. Meng been included in some of the earlier episodes, it would have helped to make the transition more seamless. Now that I know he is one of the point of view characters, I feel this even more strongly.

Assistant Undersecretary Chrisjen Avasarala

I cannot quite decide whether Chrisjen is an adaptational success or failure. Because she is perfection on the show…but she is also quite different from the books. If I should compare book!Chrisjen to someone, it would probably be Miranda from Devil Wears Prada, or characters of that sort. She is not likable in any straightforward way, but at the same time, she has a charm to her that is oddly irresistible as much as you want to punch her in the fact at the same time.

Show!Chrisjen, on the other hand, is much softer on the surface, not showing her hard lines so obviously. Even when she swears, she does it with a kind of disarming smile that takes the edge off it. Book!Chrisjen is nothing but edges.

I don’t want to complain, because show!Chrisjen is one of the best things that ever happened to me, and there is nothing intrinsically better or worse about either of their characterisations. But I cannot help but wonder how far gender stereotyping played a part in making Chrisjen less obviously hard. And it becomes especially problematic when paired with her stupidity in season 2, which takes the form of that oh-so-very-feminine failing of trusting too much in her friends, or ex-friends.

I wrote out my thoughts about that elsewhere in detail.To summarise, it was a subplot that prioritized a male character over a female one, and made Chrisjen look naive. But it was also an excellently done one. So while it troubles me, I cannot with a clear conscience say I wish it didn’t happen. I just hope it won’t again.

Additionally, one change I definitely appreciated was Chrisjen not being Errinwright’s subordinate on the show. It changed the dynamic significantly, and very much for the better. It also made this whole added subplot in season two possible.

Gunnery Sergeant Roberta Draper

Bobbie has a similar problem as Chrisjen: she, too, is made to look markedly more stupid on the show. Only as Chrisjen is effectively a genius, she ends up being just a little incompetent. Bobbie sometimes ends up looking downright stupid.

To be fair, her character is exceedingly hard to adapt. She has that in common with Dr. Meng. While Jim and Chrisjen constantly talk to people around them and even the things that are part of their inner monologue are easy to change to a personal conversation with someone close, Bobbie doesn’t have that option. She doesn’t have anyone close to her left. For a long time, the only person she talks to at all is the chaplain, whom she just dismisses in many different ways when he tries to ‘help’. There is no way to naturally have her talk about what she thinks and feels, because being alone is an important part of her character arc. But not everything can be shown with images.

But that is not the biggest problem with her character. No, that is reserved for the mysterious decision to make Bobbie into a fanatical war-monger at the beginning. I have been complaining about lack of proper representation for Mars in the first season, and so was very happy to see Bobby in nr. 2. And it’s not like seeing her slowly change her approach when confronted with new facts was worthless. But it also made her into a very flat and irritating character for the first two thirds of the season.

It’s not like book!Bobbie goes through no character development after she sees Earth with her own eyes. It’s not like she’s not patriotic or proud to be a marine. But she can be all this and still retain some nuance, and some brain cells. The showrunners seem to have forgotten that. Bobbie on the show frequently comes off as a brat, something her book self never does.

There are other characters worth a mention, naturally. Fred Johnson is probably the most significant. His role was changed significantly as well, and much more tension withing the OPA was included. It adds to the problematic depiction of OPA as uncultured and wild space terrorists, but on the other hand it’s masterfully done. One can understand the sources of tension and where the different branches and wings are coming from. Much like with Errinwright, here again one is willing to forgive the problematic nature of the added material for a large part, because it forms such excellent additions.

In the end, the only thing I truly blame the second season for is the assassination of Bobbie’s character. While changes to Chrisjen upset me, they were compensated for by the excellent quality of Errinwright’s subplot. Yes, it is telling that the two female protagonists were undercut by the adaptation, making them look less smart than they are in the source material. But Chrisjen still comes out of it pretty impressive. The changes to Bobbie, on the other hand, are much more destructive, and they held no compensation, no hidden bonus. She is simply depicted as unlikable, to such an extent that even when we finally get legitimate reasons for sympathy, it’s long in coming.

Season 3 should fix that, and fast. Hopefully, Bobbie is here to stay. She shouldn’t have to carry the weird season 2 baggage with her throughout the show.


Images courtesy of SyFy

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Analysis

Why You Need To Be More Excited About Bisexual Rosa Diaz

Dan

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Television has been a mixed bag for bisexuals. Even as gay and lesbian representation become more and more common (though not as fast as it should), characters within other parts of the acronym are few and far between. For bisexuals, who often suffer from confusion not just without but within the LGBT community, proper, outright representation means quite a lot. Not hints, not little flirts after a female character breaks up with her boyfriend. And especially not characters that just hook up with the same gender as fanservice. We want characters who can say “I’m bisexual.” We’ve been lucky to have characters like Sarah Lance or Daryl Whitefeather in recent years, but as a whole, television seems reluctant to acknowledge bisexuality.

But we finally have another name for that criminally short list: Detective Rosa Diaz of Fox’s Brooklyn 99. And not only is she bisexual, but she’s also a bisexual Latina woman played by a bisexual Latina woman. Let me say that one more time to help it sink in. We have, on a major network, a Latina woman coming out as bisexual who is played by a Latina bisexual woman.

Brooklyn 99 has been a success since day one thanks to its character, heart, and style of comedy that refuses to punch down. It has also become well known for its handling of social issues, best represented by the character of Captain Raymond Holt (Andre Braugher); a black, gay man whose sexuality is merely a part of his character, not his entire identity. The handling of Holt, who stands out in a sea of shallow stereotypes and tokenism, has led the show’s fans to hope another character to come out as a member of the LGBT community. When it turned out that it was Detective Rosa Diaz (Stephanie Beatriz) would be coming out as bi in the show’s ninety-ninth episode, appropriately titled “99,” the people rejoiced.

The episode itself did a good job of keeping her coming out low key. She only comes out to her friend, Detective Boyle, and only after he’d spent the episode bugging her about her new paramour. Interestingly, the show played with ideas of heteronormativity as Boyle pesters her about who “he” is, about her “boyfriend.” Rosa’s frustration seems not to be with Boyle’s prodding into her well guarded personal life (though that is part of it), but instead with his assumption that she was only dating a man. This episode restrains the result of this coming out to Boyle and Rosa bonding, letting the coming out stand alone. It is in this week’s follow up episode, “Game Night,” where the show’s dedication to Rosa and her coming out becomes more obvious.

The conflict in this episode, for Rosa, is in coming out to her parents and co-workers. Rather than let it just be played off as something she can sweat like so many other things, it instead very realistically captures the fears an LGBT+ child, particularly an adult one, might face when coming out.

Rosa’s first act is to come out to her co-workers during a meeting. She uses the term “bisexual,” and allows “one minute and zero questions” of seconds. We learn that she, like many other lovers of the same sex, discovered her sexuality while taking in media, in Rosa’s case Saved By The Bell. The show makes a conscious decision here not to make it some “phase” or something she’s just now discovering. Rosa Diaz has been bi since she was in 7th grade. She has been bi for all five seasons of the show.

Coming out to her parents has an entirely different set of emotions. Rosa fears that her coming out will change something with them, that somehow they won’t love her or they won’t want to be around her (Of course, in Rosa’s usual fashion, their bonding time consists of silent dinners). With Jake’s help (who gives an impassioned and curiously personal coming out speech to Rosa to help prepare her for her parents), she makes an attempt over dinner. Here, Rosa’s fear rapidly turns to anger when she learns that her parents were worried she was going to come out at dinner and were relieved that she was, thanks to a misunderstanding with Jake, just a mistress. The show pulls no punches here, capturing not just how angry she is at her parents’ ignorance but also heartbreak at being burned due to her vulnerability. In true sitcom fashion, this conflict wraps up cleanly by the end of the half hour. But the power and authenticity of it remain.

Stephanie Beatriz, herself a bisexual woman, has not been quiet in her desire for Rosa to reflect her own sexuality and has been effusive in her support of the storyline. She’s worked hard to make sure that the story reflects the bisexual experience, and has personally validated many fans in their own journeys. She does all this while still portraying Rosa as the stone-cold bad ass she’s always been. The emotions we see in Rosa as she comes out are real, they are powerful, and they are beautiful. But they are all 100% still Rosa’s.

As a final and personal note, this is a huge moment for me as a bisexual man being able to see the representation of some of my experiences on the screen. But I can only capture a small part of why this matters. I can’t even fathom how much this matters to bisexual women, let alone our POC brothers and sisters who are even less represented. Rosa Diaz’s coming out is their story as much as it is anyone’s, and I hope that I was able to capture a small measure of the joy this news has caused. 


Images courtesy of FOX

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Television

Shameless Still Struggles but Moves in the Right Direction…Kind of

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Well there was at least one thing I could say I loved about this episode. Even though the season hasn’t completely returned to its prime form in storytelling, it has begun to feel like it’s old self again. That’s probably a really vague statement but with the kind of humor portrayed, the situations at hand (even though they only last one episode so far), and the pure unapologetic aura of the series, this episode made me remember why I fell in love with this series in the first place. Yet, at this point is it enough to keep me watching. The answer is pretty simple for me, and it’s because I believe they are trying to reclaim former glories. However, I don’t represent the complete consensus of every fan of the show. I still have really high hopes that this rocky season will start changing for the better.

Recap

The episode opens with Fiona complaining about her previous fight with Ian about the church to Nessa as she goes on about what she likes about screwdrivers. She notices that there’s a leak coming from the apartment of the old lady who barks at her. Upon entering, she discovers that there’s a dog…and that the tenant, Mrs. Cardinal, is dead and being semi eaten by her cute small dog. Frank further takes steps back to his old self, minus the junkie part as he tells Liam not to judge junkies. He gets his first credit card…well a non fraudulent one anyway. Lip gathers Professor Youens and the workers at the bike shop to see where they can find Brad since his disappearance in the previous episode. Youens is pretty cold about it considering his own alcoholism.

Nope…just enjoying Nessa’s little screen time.

Kev, V, and Svetlana are a couple, er, throuple, again. Kev starts to doubt not only his sexual talent but his and V’s relationship as he feels he can’t satisfy her like Svetlana can, especially after that, ahem, scene. Hilariously this conversation leads to Kev wants to be with a man to get the same ‘gender liquid’ experience. (I laughed when he said this so hard.) The police end up telling Fiona that until they find a next of kin for Mrs. Cardinal, her belongings will remain and the poor little dog will have to be euthanized for eating human flesh. Kev also goes to Ian to try to figure out if he may be gay or not while inadvertently hitting on Ian and a straight guy who was just being nice…oh Kevin. Lip continues his search by going to Brad’s home, where his wife is pretty set on him not coming back unless he’s sober. That baby is annoyingly adorable as well.

Debbie awakens from an ecstasy filled stupor and discovers she’s had unprotected sex with one of her friends and is pretty convinced she’s pregnant again. So begins the 39 hour hunt for the morning after pill as Frank buys a car. She tries another pharmacy but discovers that she needs to be 17 to buy the pill. Fiona goes through her dead tenant’s stuff looking for any sort of clue on a next of kin only to discover the woman had quite a life, as she infers from a collection of photos. Lip’s hunt for Brad gets interesting as he and Carl find his truck containing massive amounts of donuts, hair extensions, and Michael Jordan’s arm from his statue in Chicago.

Debbie gets desperate. She gives a stranger money to buy her the pill and ends up getting arrested when the woman tries to run with the money and Debbie goes in for a royal beat down. The two fight like crazy between cells as the pro choice/life debate is reduced to shouting. V tries to convince herself she isn’t a lesbian by not being able to hit on Fiona. Not that we doubted that she doesn’t love Kev, it’s more that she enjoys being dominated, something that isn’t in short supply with Svetlana.

Fiona finds out that her tenant’s name was actually Helen and that her husband died in Vietnam. Her granddaughter is finally found and the woman really has no interest in keeping anything because she barely knew her. Kev finally gets the gay experience he’s looking only to realize he’s actually not gay. This scene was hilariously uncomfortable with how forward his partner-to-be is.

It’s okay, we still love you Kev.

Lip’s search gets warmer as he finds the woman who was with Brad this whole time at the bakery they robbed. He obviously cheated on his wife and Youens tries to give him a lecture on how Brad is not his problem. Lip has a serious point about wanting to help his friend after being helped the same way. Yet, Youens also has a point about trying to save someone who clearly does not want to be saved. Finally the conflict we’ve been waiting for comes around as Fiona goes to Ian about their last fight. He gives her the cold shoulder before finally confronting her about her behavior this season and the last. Both have their points, but by the end of the conversation Ian simply tells her that he has no idea who she is anymore.

Fiona ends up saving the photos that Helen’s granddaughter is throwing away. Lip finally finds Brad, still drunk and very violent, and forces him into his car after the two fight with one another. Lip’s patience is extraordinary but then again, Brad dealt with his stuff too. Animal control finally comes for Rusty and we all want to cry because you’re a monster for killing a dog. Kev tells V about the failure in his gay mission but also tells her he was just trying to make her jealous. V tells him that the domination turns her on with Svetlana, and she’s into more than just women.

Lip tells Brad everything he’s done in the past few days. Brad tries to convince Lip to let him go and that he can’t go back to Camy after what he’s done, especially the Michael Jordan incident. Lip basically tells him to get over it. Debbie finally gets released by her friends, and they end up getting her birth control. In the most offensive way possible. There ends up being too long a line at the pharmacy and her middle eastern friend ends up shouting in his language , terrifying everyone in the store away. Frank gets some bad news as he’s let go from his job, not by any fault of his own but rather because the store is going out of business. The episode ends with Fiona putting up a photo of Helen in the main hall of her building and Lip taking Brad to see Camy, who kicks him out.

Review

I’ll just get to it really quick now. I was totally okay with writers not completely expanding on the fight between Ian and Fiona in this episode. For one it’s clearly evident that it isn’t going to be something that is rushed like the whole meth dealer plot. In the previews for the next episode we clearly see that Ian is going to go full on war with his sister, and the building tension from this episode serves only to make us want it more. Hopefully it lives up to the hype.

While we’re on the subject of that fight, Ian brought up a very clear point, which is that Fiona’s moral compass is all messed up. For the record before I get into this, I am completely on Ian’s side in this, but it would be wrong to dismiss Fiona as simply being morally confused.

The sibling tension is real.

For one it isn’t a crime to try and better one’s self. Unfortunately, it is a cruel world and sometimes trying to reach for greatness ends making you step on the less fortunate. In this case Fiona is doing just that, not purposefully trying to hurt them. The amount of homeless people in this country is frighteningly high, and we can’t fault her for wanting make her neighborhood look less like the ghetto. Still, the way she is going about it is contributing to the gentrification of the south side. This is something that will only sit well with the higher earning populace who will come to live there, as Nessa’s partner said to her.

With Ian, his heart is in the right place and we’ve seen some serious personal growth in a short period of time. He seems to really care about the plight of these kids. He’s sincerely trying to help them with something as simple as a place to lay their heads at night, something that can go a long way into trying to better themselves. Just as Fiona is trying to do, but with different results.

My biggest issue with this episode was Kev and V in almost it’s complete entirety. It feels like episode filler, especially what’s going between V and Svetlana. It serves absolutely no purpose at this point, or none that we can see yet. While the Kev segment is funny to watch, it’s pretty much null once he tells V it was just to make her jealous. I mean, during certain parts of the episode I sort of felt that he was serious in questioning his sexuality, but of course by the end we discover only that it was pretty much a sham.

Overall this episode wasn’t the worst of the season. The Debbie sidetrack was pretty funny, although a little offensive. Lip’s end of things has become dark as he tries to help Brad, especially after what Lip himself went through. Much as I hate to admit it, I think it’s getting dragged out too much, but that’s just me. It’s still enjoyable to watch especially with what will happen to Brad next and the preview of Youens getting drunk again in the next episode. The start of the season was very rocky and the show is still struggling to find its footing but the writer are making a very valiant attempt.

One thing I mentioned in several of my reviews of this season is the fact that the show seemed to ignore the fact that there was no real overall problem or issue that the family was facing together. Not that there isn’t any character development of course, cause there is a lot. It’s one of the only reasons I’m still watching. What this episode did to renew my hope is not so much focus on the Fiona and Ian drama and begin showing us that it was something that was going to appear for the whole season. Rather, this episode gives their tension a moment to breathe. It takes its time about portraying where it will go and who it will bring into it. I’m more than okay with them doing this because it shows the writers aren’t trying to give us something that ended as quickly as the meth plot at the start of the season.

That being said there are still certain subplots that I’m not into and are coming across as literally just filler and unimaginative. The question of whether the show has runs its course or should be renewed for another season comes up again as we approach the middle of the season. Though I’m sure there are many who don’t want to see it end, but the time may soon be upon us if they can’t have more than one episode in which the filler isn’t so painfully obvious. We’ll have to see what the latter half of this season brings us.


Images Courtesy of Showtime

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