The best and worst of “The L Word”

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. It was the women kissing, it was the Betty theme song. It was the organic friendships, it was the disappearing characters. It was the first five seasons of The L Word, and this wouldn’t be a lesbian blog if we didn’t process it just one more time before the final season starts on Sunday night. Below, our bloggers weigh in on the best and worst of The L so far.

Ace

Best:

Bette and Tina’s sex scene: Not only was the scene hot — and it was definitely hot — but it established a lot about Bette and Tina. We watched them discover their passion for each other and recommit to each other. It was a great way to begin the series.

Singing “Closer to Fine” on the road trip to Palm Springs: Yes, it was a little cliché but it was a real, fun lesbian moment. Who among us — at least who among us of over 30 or so — has not sung “Closer to Fine” on a road trip? And sometimes it’s nice to identify with the characters on the only lesbian show on TV.

Bette, Alice and Shane stealing the sign for Jodi: Although a little slapstick for my taste, the scene was a glimpse of the old gang having fun doing something stupid and goofy. Bette, Alice and Shane were acting like buddies, and I had really missed that.

Dana’s post-mortem cameo: Dana was back, if only for a moment, and that was enough.

The final scene: Jenny shared a peaceful, human moment with Lisa and Gene; Bette and Tina’s convincingly real — albeit disturbingly violent — breakup sex; Alice made herself vulnerable on Dana’s doorstep. It was a montage that was honest and respectful of who all the characters were. And it was set beautifully to Joseph Arthur’s “In the Sun.”

Worst:

Dana’s death: The death scene, itself, was not bad. In fact, I thought the episode was as well done as an episode in which a show unnecessarily kills the most beloved character could be. Yes, I know breast cancer kills beloved people in real life, but there are other ways to make that point. And, frankly, if that’s really the point Ilene Chaiken was making, then some of Dana’s friends might have given some indication that they remembered her the following season

Jenny’s flashbacks: Given every insufferable, aggravating and occasionally horrifying (she adopted a dog just to euthanize it and manipulate a woman to get at her girlfriend!) thing Jenny did over the course of the show, her flashbacks shouldn’t even rate as an annoyance. But I found every second of the artsy, film-school nonsense excruciating.

Tina’s sex chat with “Daddyof2″: Not only was the chat gross and unrealistic — she and some random guy discuss how she wants him inside her? Really? — but it was representative of the bizarre character transformation Tina underwent in Season 3. It’s not just that she left Bette for a man. It’s also that she became power-mad, and controlling about money. None of it rang true.

Jodi’s art revenge: How many illogical details can we cram into one scene? Jodi would throw away a major art opportunity to transparently exact revenge on Bette? And if she would, where would she get all that footage? (Real people don’t have access to dailies, Ilene Chaiken!) And the piece would be dependent on tightly edited audio files that she never heard? Lazy, dumb-ass writing.

Shane and Niki: And speaking of lazy writing — the absolute rule of Shane is that she does not betray her friends. Period. She might break a few hearts and leave a fiancé at the altar, but Shane does not betray her friends.

jamie murnane

Best:

Dana tripping at the Tegan and Sara show, imagining one of them saying, “Do you know who’s a lesbian? Dana Fairbanks!” It was a great, non-boring way to include their performance.

Lara kissing Dana in the locker room after everyone was trying to figure out if Dana was gay or not. “In case you were still wondering.” Amazing.

Dana wearing the captain’s outfit to dinner on the cruise after she and Alice tried Love Boat role play.

Tammy Lynn Michaels as Shane’s scorned one-night stand, hanging posters and handing out fliers. It was as ridiculous (but funny) as Shane’s leather pants/vest Mick Jagger outfit.

Carmen and Shane in the DJ booth. You know, spinning hot jams. God, I miss Carmen.

Worst:

Dana dying. Duh. Biggest mistake ever.

Alice and Lara kissing after Dana died. It made no sense whatsoever.

Max and Billie’s hookup. Way too porn-y.

Carmen’s disappearance. It was so sudden and unfair. She was hardly ever discussed again the next season.

Jenny and Tim’s awkward, rough post-breakup sex. I didn’t think I could get any gayer, then I had to watch that.

Ivan’s freak-out after Kit saw what he’d been packin’. Like she didn’t know! Unnecessary.

TheLinster

Best:

Tina naked. Anytime. Tina and Bette sex. Every time.

Soup chef. Except for with Alice, which was kind of realistic but very sad.

Carmen in any state of undress. Except peeing on Jenny.

Campfire in Season 5. L Word at its best.

Jenny in Season 5. Go, Mia.

Shane instructs Molly: If you’re not breathing, you’re not doing it right.

Jane Lynch as Joyce.

Dana and Alice in Love Boat outfits.

Worst:

The whole Sounder storyline. Except for learning what a merkin is (and Jenny calling her vagina wig).

Tina and The Man. After Bette? After the best sex ever? Please.

Really, any time there was a straight man for more than one episode, it was pretty lame. Token man, anyone?

Carmen pees on Jenny. WTF?

Shane’s salon burns down and nothing much happens as a result.

Max. Another token, methinks.

Shane doing Niki. Would. Not. Happen.

Dorothy Snarker

Best:

They had me at “crispay.”

When the girls shared their coming-out stories during the Dinah Shore trip. It felt so real that, admit it, you sang along with them to “Closer to Fine.”

And on Feb. 20, 2005, the TV gods gave us Carmen de la Pica Morales. And it was good.

The epically hilarious Shane-Alice-Bette-Phyllis-Helena-Papi-Tasha-Jodi-Jenny-Kit-Vet-Stacey conference call. It reminded us why we loved this show in the first place.

When Bette and Tina finally kiss in Season 5. It felt so raw and deserved that you couldn’t help but root for them.

Worst:

Good god, the manatees. Why, seriously, why?

Mark and his terrible, horrible, no-good, very-bad cameras. Because that’s what this show about lesbians had always been missing — creepy guys.

The introduction of the Betty theme song.

Even all these years later, I still have to fight the urge to gouge out my own ears every time it comes on.

The death of Dana. RIP, my favorite show.

Max’s nonexistent storyline and nonsensical computer speak. “Stabilizer module for the neovectors communication satellite” — were the writers just playing Mad Libs?

StuntDouble

Best:

The first group scene at The Planet (Season 1). It’s total exposition (Alice is bisexual; Dana is sorta closeted; Shane is a womanizer; Bette and Tina are smug marrieds), but it never feels sterile. The camaraderie is fresh, and the dialogue is fun. A group of women talking about kissing other women, over coffee, like every other day of their lives.

Dana comes out to Mr. Piddles (Season 1). There’s the internal part of realizing you’re gay; then there’s the external part where you say it out loud to your mother, the chairwoman of the Orange County Republican Women’s Coalition. Somewhere in between is the safe ground where you confess to your cat: “Mr. Piddles, Lara was gay. And so am I. Do you still love me?” (Always, Dana Fairbanks. So long as men can breathe or eyes can see.)

Bette and Tina kiss at SheBar (Season 5). What I really mean by “kiss” is the thing that propels them toward the kiss. Like, there are the words you say, and then there’s the stuff underneath the words. Bette and Tina are about to start inventing ways to spend a whole season saying I love you, I love you, I love you, without ever saying it at all. And it starts like this: “I’m hiding.”

Jenny and Alice channel Monet (Season 4). Observe the three-fold greatness of this scene: One) Jenny fails, once again, to understand basic human stuff like how essays masquerading as fiction could infuriate the people you laid bare. Two) What Jenny lacks in sensibility, she makes up for in hubris. Three) Alice stops trying to reason and dials into Jenny’s crazy just long enough to hear Monet zing her.

Bette and Tina’s boringness intervention (Season 1). There’s something so organic about the way this unfolds. If you’re of the parental persuasion, you get it about toxoplasmosis and stuff. (“Slander against cats. Write that down.”) And if your cabinets will remain sippy cup-less into eternity, you get the part about pregnant couples folding into themselves until they disappear like some biological magic trick. (“Oh look, right here it says, ‘True or False. Right now, I am wearing fuzzy-wuzzy slippers.’”) Of course Shane made extra copies of the test, just in case they messed up.

Worst:

You know how some people spin a globe and wherever their finger lands when the globe stops whirling, that’s the place they go on vacation? If you took the whole plot of Season 3 and wrapped it around a sphere and spun it round and round, stopping five different times in five random places, that would be the worst part of The L Word. You could do it again and again until your fingers were bleeding, coming up with hundreds of sequences of worst. The whole season felt like the end of The Wizard of Oz. From, It’s magic that makes this thing run. To, Oh wait, it’s a twee Machiavellian button-pusher who just wants to watch the world burn.

Trish Bendix

Best:

Bette reading Lez Girls. There’s nothing I can appreciate more than Bette calling out someone on their BS. In this moment, I knew she was going to wreak some havoc on crazy face stealing their lives for her “artistic expression.”

Musical performances. I love the totally gayed-out events that the women attend, especially when it involves Sleater-Kinney, The Organ and Heart.

Bette and Tina’s sexual tension. In the elevator, in a heated argument, in a room alone at SheBar. Beals nails it always.

Shane and Carmen’s “Don’t Touch” game. And Shane didn’t want to make a home with this woman? Out of her damn mind.

Bette’s life falling apart. If you’re still able to look good after being left for a man, losing your job and stealing your child on a whim while being threatened by your baby mama, then you are my dream lover.

Worst:

Jenny’s use of Sounder to get back at Vagina Wig. A poor, defenseless dog deserved a better sendoff than to spend his dying days with Jenny Schecter.

People referring to Jenny’s work as similar to Mary Gaitskill’s. Whatever, I won’t believe it until I read it.

Lara leaving dying Dana for Paris. Is anyone really that bitchy/convenient?

Alice’s crazy spell after Dana dumps her. It’s almost as sudden and ridiculous as Helena deciding to be a nice and good person and Bette allowing her to hang out in their group of friends.

Shane’s brother. I just always thought he had an ulterior motive, like seeing lesbians naked.

What do you think are the best and worst moments of The L Word so far?

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