“Bleep” is the best Queer As Folk episode so far. Period.
There’s the title, of course, which is in itself a perfect distillation of the care Queer As Folk takes in telling its characters’ stories. In this case, bleep becomes not a push for censorship or a way to police language; instead, it’s a way to honor Ruthie. In layman’s terms, those bleeps we hear all throughout the episode (including the pivotal one that doesn’t take place in a flashback) are moments when Ruthie would have been deadnamed. The decision to refuse even to give us Ruthie’s deadname is a powerful reminder that choices about what we show, what we label, and how we shoot certain story lines are just that: choices. They can be made, or they can be ignored. They can be upended, or they can be revamped. Here’s where having folks like executive producer Jaclyn Moore working behind the scenes feels particularly apt. Here is an example of how form and content can work together to tell stories with empathy and responsibility.
But let’s talk about the episode in general. For starters, just as we had in the pilot episode, I finally again feel as if we’re in New Orleans. Part of that is because it’s Mardi Gras, so we’re anchored in the city’s most famous happening. But it’s also that we’re spending a lot of time outdoors! I hadn’t noticed just how cloistered I’d felt, but for so much of the show, we’ve been in interiors, be it at Ghost Fag or at Ruthie and Shar’s.
So it’s nice to have a change of scenery, in both place and time: Not only do we find ourselves out in the streets, where Brodie has conjured up a float (in conjunction with — shudder — our favorite slay-tivist), but the episode flashes us back, with a washed-out, rather jaundiced look, to when Brodie and Ruthie (bleep) were classmates at an all-boys school. And yes, the hair/wigs on both Devin Way and Jesse James Keitel do need to be seen to be believed. The flashbacks play backdrop to the growing rift between the two longtime BFFs, what with Ruthie’s job being on the line after those images of her partying with her students (ah, yes, the new generation just can’t go anywhere without documenting their every move!).
Watching the bond that young Brodie and Bleep had at school illuminates so much of who they’ve become and maybe why they’re struggling to stitch their lives back together as adults. They were close. They loved each other (as only those who shout-sing Paramore in their rooms can) even as it was clear Bleep was grappling with things they couldn’t bring themselves to talk with Brodie about. It’s what eventually makes that deadnaming at Mardi Gras all the more unforgivable, if in keeping with the devil-may-care attitude Brodie has been sporting since he got back (the charm of his knowing smirk is starting to wear off).
Of course, that’s what finally pushes Ruthie over the edge. “The best version of me only exists when you’re not here” would be, in any other scenario, the line that stings the most as she utters it (and honestly, can we begin the Emmy FYC campaign for Keitel right here, right now?), but she follows it up with such a deliciously well-earned, self-deprecatory read turned shank that I remain in awe of the entire exchange: “Noah and Daddius were together, by the way.”
And that’s what really made me love this episode: Finally, the many strands that have been at bay come to a clash in a moment about what Brodie and Ruthie have meant to each other and what they could still mean if they can overcome this setback. The moment when Brodie finally confronts Noah and then actually has to say the words “I was talking about Daddius” is perfect. It felt like what we’d been waiting for: catharsis for Noah, who maybe needs to stop keeping things from Brodie, and a WTF moment for Brodie, who (maybe? finally?) can stop wallowing in his own selfish little world. As Ruthie tells him, “self-awareness about bad behavior doesn’t make it less bad behavior” — a lesson he has clearly been slow to learn.
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• If the direction of this episode floored you (as it should), then you need to go check out Ingrid Jungermann’s 2016 feature film, Women Who Kill, about a pair of lesbian true-crime podcasters whose personal life gets extra complicated when one starts dating a woman who may be an actual murderer.
• “You know how complicated it is to fall for a client?” Oh, Marvin (Eric Graise). I touched on his Pretty Woman–like story line a few episodes back, but that didn’t make his falling out with Ali (Sachin Bhatt) any less heartbreaking. He should know Ali always had his best interests at heart, but navigating a transactional turned romantic relationship is not easy. I’m rooting for them!
• When are we getting the QAF tee collection, because I need any and all the T-shirts the cast has been called on to wear this season. In this episode, I particularly enjoyed Ruthie’s “A girl without a dick is like an Angel without wings” tee and all the variations on the neon mesh shirts everyone wore on the Mardi Gras float. And it’d be in keeping with the show’s continued focus on fashion as self-expression — the small, quiet moment when Ruthie compliments Mingus feels so weighted with everything she wished she could have been able to do all those years ago in school that it broke me, Plus, hello, we got an entire scene about ties and masculinity! Something to ponder, Peacock!
• Okay, so we didn’t get to meet Mingus’s dad last time, but we met Noah’s this time around! He’s exactly as pompous and uncaring as you’d expect, but it was nice to see Noah and Julian’s relationship move forward (and nice to see Johnny Sibilly and Ryan O’Connell really vibe together).
• “The order of acceptable coffee milks is oat, almond, skim, 2 percent, whole, then soy.” (I may not agree with everything that boy says, but … this tracks?)