So, I’ve just finished watching the entire 6 seasons of “The L Word”, faithfully, one episode a day. Except for today, when the last disc offered me the last episode right there and I couldn’t wait for tomorrow, so I watched two. And I have to say, it’s been a wonderful show, and I’m happy to have spent the time I’ve spent watching it, as it became my mourning routine, to watch one episode every day, over breakfast.
The finale (I wouldn’t call it an ending) was perplexing at first. I mean, who killed Jenny Schecter? After the end of the last episode, that didn’t make me cry as I was expecting it to (I cried for some seasons finale, especially the ending scene of Season 1, with Bette cheating on Tina with Candace and the beautiful “Roads” by Portishead playing in the background – that scene changed the way I listen to that song now) I spent a few minutes seeing what a google search would come up with regarding people’s thoughts and reactions to it, and I’ve seen that many try to forget an ending that doesn’t end anything, and instead focus on how “the other 69 episodes have been so great”.
“But years from now, will it even matter how the show went out in its final hour? It was really the other 69 episodes that made The L Word a TV milestone. As the retrospective that aired beforehand reminded us, its impact expands far beyond its barrier-busting stories: TV’s first deaf lesbian, its first regularly occurring transsexual character, bisexuals of both genders, drag kings, the US military’s don’t-ask-don’t-tell policy, biracial identity, gay parenting, sex/drug/alcohol/gambling addiction, sexual abuse, midlife sexual awakenings, breast cancer…this show took on a lot. Judging by the frequent erraticism of its storytelling, it probably took on too much. In the end, I say, thank goodness it had the guts to take them on at all.” (Source)
While I couldn’t agree more on the deep significance of the themes presented by the show, I’ve decided to offer a more positive viewpoint about the finale of the series.
I understand many people wanted some sort of satisfaction. An Aristotelian catharsis, maybe, or a happy ending, a final resolution (Aristotle remarks how we like it when stories have got a proper beginning-middle-end structure that we can recognize, so that we feel satisfied about the story ending). But to me, that wouldn’t have felt right. Do you want to know if Max is going to have the baby and keep it and be a good father, or give it for adoption? Do you want to know if Tina will ever misunderstand and think that Bette cheated on her again, with that obnoxious woman? Or if they will move to NYC and get married and live happily ever after? Do you want to know if Alice and Tasha are going to be ok? I could go on… Well, in a way, I’d want to know, too. And perhaps an answer to the latter was given already, in the last scenes. But it wouldn’t feel right.
The whole show has been about conflicts, and the constant evolution and changes in people’s lives and relationship, especially if people “really live” like you would expect the characters from a show to. There hasn’t been a stable couple or something that really lasted. Not even the simplest thing went right as it was supposed to. In a way, it reminds me of the constant change in Ovid’s Metamorphoses, applied to people’s lives. It wouldn’t feel right to have a definite ending, like “Bette and Tina have finally solved their problems, they married and they’re going to have a happy and boring relationship forever.” I hope they do, and I want to imagine they will, but it wouldn’t be right if the show told me, because that would contradict all the other 69 episodes that “were so great”. And about Max, I want to imagine that he will have doubts and second thoughts, and maybe arrange everything for adoption only to find out after giving birth that he doesn’t want to let his baby go. And Alice-Tasha-Jamie, I’d really love to see them try to work out a sort of three-way relationship. I mean, they all love one other, so why not give it a try? Although I imagine the show writers had something more simple in mind, like Tasha renouncing to Jamie and remaining close to Alice alone. And Helena, I want to see her face as scared as ever when she tries to trust Dylan. Again, I could go on. We even see the other, “excluded” characters of the show sketched as their lives went on, outside of the show: Tim, Marina, Carmen, and Ivan ready to get married and so on; but the point is, if this is supposed to be some kind of mirror of real life, giving those lives an end would have been just wrong, and against the show itself.
Now, about the death of Jennifer Schecter. I believe to have strong reasons to think it was suicide, or, at most, that it was Niki Stevens who killed her. Season 6 opened with her murder, and since then every episode gave someone a reason to kill Jenny: Alice for her stolen idea, Helena for Dylan, Tina for the Lez Girls negative, Bette to save her relationship, Kit to save Bette’s relationship, Shane for Molly’s letter (and for being the worst girlfriend ever); even Max had a (weak) reason to kill her for being so, so annoying. But I can’t believe any of them actually killed her. Jenny is even, somehow, re-accepted as part of the group in the closing scene, even if, as has been pointed out, they’re all by then out of character. (More on this later) Besides, has anyone noticed we don’t really know how she died? I understand her body was in the pool, but just falling in a pool from the first floor doesn’t quite kill you, even if the fact that the handrail wasn’t finished and therefore was dangerous is remarked numerous times, as if suggesting that that may have some part in it. But this isn’t really important: perhaps she fell/was pushed, hit the floor with the head and ended up floating in the pool. Or maybe she was drowned, or drowned herself. It doesn’t really matter in itself, and both she or anyone else could have done any of these things.
Niki, she’s the only one I could possibly think of blaming: she’s young, impulsive, and “loves” Shane but can’t be with her. Shane told her something like “if there wasn’t Jenny, things between us could have been different”, and I wouldn’t exclude she could take that as a “cue”. Besides, she’s the only one who asks for a lawyer at the police station, although she may be just scared. And, what the hell was she doing, at Bette and Tina’s party, hiding in the bushes? But either way, as much of an impulsive, spoiled brat as Niki may be, I still tend to believe that Jenny killed herself.
A little bit on the character of Jenny Schecter: since the beginning of the series, Jenny has always been an outsider, to quote the title of Colin Wilson’s book on a similar theme. She’s an outsider in LA, where she comes to join her boyfriend Tim. She’s an outsider to the lesbian lifestyle, which she meets and wants to be part of. Then, she’s an outsider to the heterosexual lifestyle, and Tim calls her a freak more than we hear Max being called a freak. She’s an outsider in her hometown, as she associates with other outsiders, namely Max/Moira. She’s an outsider to other people as she retreats alone to write, in a world detached from everyone else and that only few manage to be part of: Marina, that “intimate friend” in Season 1 whom she has a “passionate intellectual relationship with”. Since then, she rarely finds someone to have another intellectual relationship with, and most people are just subordinates for her, or distant. Not that there couldn’t be someone like that, and surely Bette and Tina, but also Alice, would have been able to be on her par, and even over her, but except for her writing teacher, she doesn’t ever see anyone as her equal, let alone as her superior. In fact, I’d almost say that that world even dies away for lack of someone to visit it with her, as she begins to write “Some of Her Parts” (Max admits to never reading her stuff, when they were together and Jenny introduced him to the rest of the group) and then “Lez Girls”, and finally Alice’s story. She has lost her creative side and all that world that no one bothered visiting anymore, simply becoming a writer without an idea, who knows the craft but not the artistic side of it, and simply tells her real life (or someone else’s life), in some way or another.
Being so distant from everyone else, she starts being inappropriate and she starts mistreating others, or treating other people as inferiors or slaves (Tina during the movie, Niki during their affair, and her two assistants, although she gets it back with interests from her second one – also remember how she treats Alice with an air of superiority when she humbly comes to get some suggestions about her script). The only person who she ever considers on her level is Shane, and not for an intellectual relationship with her, but rather for the deep affection she has for her, probably deepened by the fact that it was Shane who “saved” Jenny when she started cutting herself and going down that self-destructive spiral.
But still, she was and remains an outsider. Even in the group, she’s never quite accepted as part of it the way even newcomers like Max, Helena or even Tasha are. There’s a deep ambivalence in her role, as she is somehow “the outsider of that group”, and therefore belonging to the group by not quite belonging to it. And here is my main reason to believe no one (expect maybe for Niki) could possibly kill Jenny: she is, in her own way, part of the group, and as annoying and destructive as she is, people try to deal with her. If the group is as close and tightly-knit as it is, and there’s no reason to believe it isn’t, no one could possibly do something like killing her, not even a passionate, scared and angry Bette. At the same time, her death is “the right thing” for the group: she’s that member-not quite-member that has been the main source of problems for the last 2 or 3 seasons. Which doesn’t mean nobody should cry over her, and I’m sure they will, but she had undoubtedly become all that was wrong within the group. I like to think that she realized it herself: in her “madness”, she was finally becoming slightly more self-aware, thanks to Shane, of the monster she had become. The circumstances of Shane not being there in that very moment, Helena and Dylan breaking up because of her (the first time since forever that she admits to be guilty of something – something is definitely going on in her conscience), and finally Kit and especially Bette talking to her in a very explicit manner; who knows, maybe even some repressed guilt for stealing Alice’s idea. All this perhaps made her realize something. Who she had become, or what she was missing in her life (the passion and determination of Bette, or something to lose like Bette and Tina’s relationship, something Jenny could never quite get with anyone), perhaps the realization of how many things she had ruined and was going to ruin. Possibly, if Shane was there things would have been different for her, but I’d like to believe Jenny didn’t want to bring more destruction into her friends’ lives.
More circumstances add to this interpretation: she realizes that she’s falling out with her friends that no one wants her around anymore, although it isn’t quite true, because that very afternoon everyone decided to try and forgive her and give her another chance, starting from Alice herself. Her goodbye video could be not just a “Goodbye Bette and Tina” video, but for her it could have been a “Goodbye everyone” video, her last gift to everyone, in remembrance of everything that they had gone through, all together. She herself, in the then-empty room, as people have found out her body, says goodbye, a goodbye that isn’t quite addressed at anyone in particular, and could be for Bette and Tina or for everyone else. Maybe she didn’t plan it, but she did think about it beforehand. And that empty room, with no one listening to her goodbye as it plays on screen, is a quite suggestive image in itself; on one hand it suggests how everyone was out to try and help her even if she screwed up with them, the same way she, in a way, screwed up by killing herself when people were ready to forgive her. And, in another, simpler way, the empty room is what she made for herself, with no one even listening to her goodbye the way she wanted them to. Things didn’t go the way she wanted them to, they never did. (Which is quite a redeeming perspective for a character that has been as annoying as she has been for the last 3 seasons.) Therefore her suicide becomes an apology as well. It redeems her, and it makes her become, finally, or maybe like she’s always been, a full part of the group, as when she joins the other girls in the final images.
Jenny Schecter had problems, and in spite of herself and her efforts, she pushed everyone away. Perhaps the reasons why everyone found, in Season 6, a reason to kill Jenny were, after all, reasons for her to kill herself. When she realized what she had been doing, in fear that she may have continued to do it, again, in spite of any effort to become better, she decided to kill herself. Jenny Schecter was and remains the outsider here too: in the non-conclusive ending that only tells us that life goes on, that anything can happen and the only sure thing is these people’s deep friendship, she’s the one who will not go on anymore. She’s the contradiction, once again.
That’s how I want to imagine it.