There was Jane (Katie Stevens), the newly promoted staff writer and protégée of famed Scarlet editor in chief Jacqueline Carlyle (Melora Hardin), inspired by the formidable former editor in chief of Cosmopolitan Joanna Coles. Editorial-assistant-turned-fashion-acolyte Sutton (Meghann Fahy) falls for—and eventually leaves—board member Richard (Sam Page). And, of course, social media maven Kat convinced Adena, a magnetic Muslim lesbian photographer, to appear in Scarlet’s pages—and later found herself falling for the artist. Adena and Kat’s courtship was a steady fixture of Season 1, but their plotline took the backseat to Jane and Sutton’s personal and professional woes until the surprise of Kat’s decision to follow Adena to South America in the season finale.
But Season 2 of the Freeform show has started off by rectifying the most glaring omission of its preceding installment: the incongruous characterization of Kat, the only lead of color. The premiere addresses her sexual insecurity with compassion and grace: Sutton, Jane, and even Adena all remind Kat that it’s okay for her, as someone who is new to dating women, to be nervous about performing an act she’s not familiar with. Their conversations are frank, honest, and refreshing—Adena reminds Kat that the two can move slowly, the resulting effect a quiet reminder that sexual exploration is only enhanced by respect and patience. The Bold Type makes the case for both enthusiastic consent and advocating for one’s sexual needs and shows they needn’t be at odds; it’s a simple but rare writing choice that sets Kat and Adena’s relationship up to mature throughout the season. Addressing conflict with empathy can be sexy, the show suggests, and resolution need not be reserved for heterosexual couplings.
In just one episode, Kat and Adena’s relationship has grown tremendously from the previous season, which undercut their union with its shaking writing of Kat’s character. In one particularly glaring Season 1 sequence, Kat consoles Adena, whose visa status is up in the air, after the two have a jarring interaction with police offers. But rather than name a shared fear, Kat acts as though Adena is the only one who would have reason to view law enforcement as a threat. The scene is surprising, a missed mark for a show that spent much of the first season tackling issues like immigration and rape culture. Kat is, after all, a black woman living in a country where black people are disproportionately likely to be targeted—and killed—by police. How could a hyperconnected social-media manager, who spends all her time consuming content from the same feeds that spread viral images of black death like wildfire, be so casual about a possibly fatal encounter?
Showrunner Amanda Lasher, who stepped in after Watson’s departure, told BuzzFeed she was sensitive to the missteps in the prior season. For Lasher, course-correcting meant explicitly addressing Kat’s race in Season 2.
“We know that we can’t speak to everybody’s experience, but we can speak to Kat’s experience. We tried to be as specific as possible to what Kat was going through, and where she came from, and what her parents were like, and how that shaped her, so that we could understand why she made some of the choices she made in Season 1.”
In the new season’s second episode, Kat’s parents—a wealthy black man and white woman—show up and shed new light on the character’s upbringing. It’s revealed that they raised her not to gravitate toward labels, to understand herself as a human before she understands herself as black or even biracial. Throughout the course of the episode, she struggles with how to identify—should she describe herself as Scarlet’s first black social-media director?—and eventually makes a decision that reflects where she sees herself now, not just how she has seen herself through the years.