But she forms an unexpected connection with Alex when she manages to find the perfect place for the couple to say their vows. After this, an attraction and relationship develops quickly between Alex and Jessica.
Initially viewing it as just another fun fling, Jessica is shocked by the depth of her feelings when she sees Alex coming down the stairs in her wedding dress at the ceremony. From then on, she has to consider whether she is prepared to carry on as the eternal mistress (but to a woman this time) or whether she is finally prepared to want something more.
Even if it were not for the plotline of Jessica questioning her sexuality, Mistresses would be of interest to lesbian viewers simply for matter-of-factly showing a lesbian couple preparing for their wedding in exactly the way a heterosexual couple would. For a prime-time show averaging 4.83 million viewers per episode (or about 20 percent of the U.K. viewing audience), this is no small thing.
The fact that the wedding between the two women is legal (the U.K. Civil Partnership Act went into effect in December 2005) makes it hugely moving to watch. This is one satisfaction that shows set in historical periods, such as Tipping the Velvet, can’t provide.
Of course, it was slightly frustrating that the wedding was shown in the context of one of the brides having cheated on her girlfriend just the night before. While Mistresses can’t be accused of treating its lesbian characters any differently than the straight ones — since all the story lines are focused on infidelity — it would be nice to have the chance to enjoy a happy, faithful civil partnership ceremony on TV before the gay characters start behaving as badly as everybody else for the sake of the drama.
As it was, however, Mistresses showed very little of the relationship between Alex and Lisa, and was mainly focussed on the growing relationship between Alex and Jessica.
In the first half of the series, this was undeniably fun to watch — partly because (on a shallow note) both actresses are utterly gorgeous, and partly because they had such great chemistry. While a pretty and previously heterosexual girl testing out bisexuality is hardly a new story for television, Jessica’s story line was lent unusual depth both by the fact that she had never fallen in love before, and by some thoughtful and non-stereotypical writing.
In the moments before she is about to have sex with Alex for the first time — in what will be her first lesbian experience — Jessica loses her poise, shuttling around her apartment and offering Alex every type of drink she has available. Surprised, Alex says, "I, uh … I didn’t think you did nervous."
Jessica comes to a halt and replies apologetically: "Well … I don’t. Usually. But then I wasn’t expecting to lose my virginity again."
A line like this, showing how seriously Jessica takes the experience, is worlds away from a show like The O.C., where Marissa (Mischa Barton) embarked on a lesbian affair with her own Alex (Olivia Wilde), only to apparently forget that she had ever existed once the character disappeared from the show.
Mistresses‘ lesbian story line explicitly counteracts the tendency of TV shows to treat sex between women as something less significant than heterosexual sex.
In another well-written, funny scene that emphasizes the significance of Jessica’s feelings for Alex, a clueless Jessica attempts to explain to her friend Katie the strange and overpowering new feelings she is experiencing after sleeping with Alex:
Jessica: She did something to me. Not just a physical thing, although I felt it in a physical way. …
Katie: So you really don’t know what that was.
Katie: Interesting. Tell me — what else was it like?
Jessica: Overwhelming. Entirely.
Katie: But not in a bad way.
Katie: Like your body and your emotions weren’t different things any more.
Katie: [hilariously flat] You’re in love.