Reflections on “The L Word” Finale

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.

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10 thoughts on “Reflections on “The L Word” Finale

  1. jane says:

    wow this was amazing, id like to think none of the girls in the group killed jenny but i do think jenny killed herself.. It’s also peculiar that towards the last part right before the show ends and they’re all walking towards the station all of them were laughing (totally creepy) and holding hands with jenny’s spirit- which leads me to believe that the group may have something to do with it but jenny killing herself fits better with the show… but also theres something about alica P on the show called “the farm” and it says that she’s in jail for killing jenny.. whats up what that!

  2. Zoey Paige says:

    I just watched the finale this morning. I found the whole thing to be really pointless. Nothing actually happened. It was a disjointed mess to be honest.

  3. Lizzie says:

    I just finished the finale and I was a little upset at first but I feel better after reading this. I initially was thinking Bette killed her because the last time we saw Jenny alive was when Bette was threatening her on the balcony. But after Niki popped out of the bushes it seemed really plausible as well. Though the more I looked around online I think it is safe to say she committed suicide. It’s hard to tell. I wish they would find a way to bring this show back. The characters definitely became a part of my life and the final episode was very bittersweet.

  4. Karen says:

    Thank you. I watched the final episode last night, and was left with an empty feeling, but your explanation makes sense to me, and explains so much. So thank you for putting it into words that I can read and digest.

  5. Cherstin says:

    I stopped watching sometime at the beginning of the final season – and this was a number of years ago. Even though I had the DVD’s, I never got around to finishing the series, but this afternoon I found myself wondering who killed Jenny Schecter after all. I did a Google search and was able to piece everything together through blogs and headings. I thought your post was great – one thing I’d like to bring up that I think is important is that however Jenny died (I like the fact that it’s mysterious and I don’t think it’s important to know how she died) is that we would never have met the other characters if it weren’t for Jenny: the show essentially started when she moved next door to Bette and Tina. Jenny’s death allowed the audience to befriend the characters on their own, without Jenny’s help, bias, or interference. It’s been a few years so I can’t remember Jenny being a “narrator,” per se, but it’s safe to assume that the story started off as her own – we met the characters as she did. Her death allowed us to finally sit in a room full of people that we’d known for years without her being there to intrude, kind of like befriending a friend of your friend. How she died wasn’t the point – the point was that she was finally gone and you were “alone” with these people you’d known for so long, and you could finally see them for who they were without Jenny’s unreliability coming into play. I see why they did what they did – I wish now I hadn’t sold the dvd set – maybe I’ll finally finish that last season another way. Thanks for the awesome commentary – just had to add my two cents. :)

  6. wwwen says:

    I don’t know why, but I immediately interpreted that Jenny killed herself. I do not have a second thought.The scene when everybody ran out of the house to discover Jenny’s body, with the screen showing Jenny with her confession. I thought that was the clearest thing this story is trying to tell. Jenny prepared everything, to end her life I mean. And with the video she edited wholeheartedly as the last words she wanted to tell.

    Jenny Schecter is really the beautiful talented girl, with a fucked up mind. Not in a negative way. The most successful couple in this drama is B and T. She looked up to them, but she was probably destroyed deep inside, because her beliefs was never being proved right, especially when she witnessed Bette cheating on Tina, which was actually not true.

    She had been hated by so many people in her social circle, which she was just merely trying to be helpful, from her perspective that is. She had started to blame herself for everything she does. She was in shattered pieces. Even her girlfriend Shane didn’t really love her. I mean, Jenny is such an emotional and empathetical writer. She probably knew Shane ‘loved’ her for the reason that she did not want to lose her as a friend. Friendship without love.

    Maybe she had been causing so much drama, but all I see is the hard way she had lived. I don’t know why this story is way so sad, but again, it is probably designed this way, to depict how difficult life is for the little girl Jenny Schecter. She basically has no one. No family, no friend, no love. And no one realize.

    • jaye says:

      Well let’s not make her a saint here. She hurt Tim, she toyed with Robin(and Moira/Max to a degree) and once season 4 hit she went ape-shit. She tried to ruin the life of the critic(and her GF by proxy) because she recieved a negative review, and the MOMENT she received a movie deal she proceed to treat everyone (sans Shane) like inferior pieces of dirt. She exposed all her friend’s secrets behind their back, profited from it, and then subsequently made Tina’s life a living hell at every turn. During season 4-5 she was disgustingly haughty and resentful to everyone on that set or in her general proximity. She was universally dismissive to everyone. The only thing that made it worse, was no one seemed to notice how terrible of a character she had become.

      She was a complete egomaniac and after all that leading into season 6 her friends STILL stuck by her. And she managed to get ever WORSE by stealing the negatives, not giving Shane the letter, constantly disrespecting Max, sabotaging Dylan/Helena, taking Bette’s future into her own hands, belittling and her over-possessiveness of Shane(Who actually was a saint for all she out up with from her), etc, etc. I don’t understand how ANYONE can feel so sorry for Jenny. Yes, she had a hard childhood, but so did Shane (and Tina as you find out from the stupid interrogation tapes) and it’s just not a viable excuse for how progressively worse she got. She was a terrible, pretentious, selfish character and I understand many people like that exist. But she was also talentless,, egocentric and manipulative and it worsened the more success she garnered. Her screenplays were either memories from the group or stolen ideas from Alice. She was a toxic character and I only wish she died 5 seasons earlier.

      As far as Jenny’s death? it’s obvious she killed herself. That’s why she organizes such an elaborate going away package. Does anyone really think she cared enough about Bette or Tina to construct a three hour video for them? She had nothing left. She could feel the grip of Shane loosening, she had to feel the resentment of stealing Alice’s idea, and what else would this suicide be if not the ultimate means of attention? It is not the ultimate redemption for her? IMO no one from the main group is “built” to kill Jenny. It’s just not in them, and if so…it would’ve happened long before now. i see the Nikki things as a red herring. Sure she’s young and kind of ditzy, but in no way do I believe she’s possible of murder.

  7. Steve says:

    Meh. I finally watched the final season and it seems that the simplest answer is probably the correct one. She tripped and fell from the second story accidentally. They stressed (1) the railing was not complete, (2) it was a windy night and (3) her damned Pomeranian was under foot and running all over the place.

  8. Darnell says:

    You are truly a writer! You explained that beautifully. I,too, watched 1-3 episodes a day, except I watched mine about midnight instead. Most of what you wrote is how I feel also. I did think Jenny killed herself, but you pointed out details that I missed. I will have to watch it again to see those details. I was so shocked n speechless that I couldn’t watch it again. I almost felt like I had to protest. I have never been so unhappy with a series finale until I read your view. I still miss seeing what happened the next day but I also just watching my favorite tv program n characters. I felt I became close to each one of them, maybe wishing they were my friends, or that I had such loyal n honest friends in my life. Or maybe it was because I watched the episodes so fast in one month. Either way, thanks for writing your view.

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