Every fan of The L Word: Generation Q will have finished tonight’s episode with some warmth in their heart, and maybe even shouted a “FINALLY” at the screen.
For tonight, if you have been following their torrid on-off-on-off relationship for nearly 20 years, you will have been ecstatic to see Bette Porter (Jennifer Beals) run through Los Angeles traffic—no easy feat—to profess her undying love for Tina Kennard (Laurel Holloman). It’s the moment every “Tibette” (their ship name, of course) fan has waited for: the beloved couple has finally reconciled.
It’s an event that should be memorialized and celebrated. Statues must be built in the middle of Los Angeles freeways in their honor. OK, that is a bit much, but seriously it’s a monumental moment for fans of The L Word (both of the original series and Generation Q).
By the way, if you thought that the running through traffic bit was a nod to the classic lesbian rom-com Imagine Me & You, you’d be correct. “Every generation needs a good lady running through traffic to another woman,” The L Word: Generation Q showrunner Marja-Lewis Ryan tells The Daily Beast over Zoom with a laugh.
The inspiration behind the climactic moment is just one of the many reasons it was a pretty perfect reconciliation. It had just the right amount of drama (anyone else worried that the car that hit Gigi was Bette or Tina’s?!), it had the perfect amount of sentimentality and tons of heart (Bette’s speeches are always tear-jerkers!).
It was a moment Ryan knew was always going to happen this season of Generation Q, but had to get perfectly right not only for the sake of the show, but the fans as well. “We knew that that’s where we were arcing their characters,” Ryan says. “[But] we were just trying to figure out how and what would really need to change in order for every fan [to be happy with it].”
As Ryan says, there are tons of Bette and Tina ride-or-die fans out there, but there are also many people within the fandom that have voiced how unhealthy the relationship has been at times. From several affairs to a kidnapping to the death of a good friend (ugh, Jenny), these women have really been through it all. Ryan wanted to honor both the diehard Tibette fans, while also recognizing that something within the relationship needed to change in order for them to come back together.
When Tina first arrived back into all our lives via Generation Q, she was engaged to another woman, Carrie (Rosie O’Donnell). However, through co-parenting and spending more and more time with Bette, her relationship with Carrie began to deteriorate—especially when Bette started dropping hints about her feelings for Tina.
At the end of season 2 (and beginning of season 3 of Generation Q), Tina confronts Bette and asks her straight out, “Are you in love with me?” Bette finally admits, “Yes.” Then, Tina tells her “That’s not how you love someone,” calls her out for sabotaging her relationship with Carrie, admits she loves Bette and walks out the door. After a one year time jump, a new and improved Bette emerges that gives some hope to both Tina and fans that maybe a reconciliation is in store.
“That running down the street is the beginning of ‘What are you willing to do to have the love that you have wanted for so long?’”
— Jennifer Beals
“I just wanted to honor both camps and to say that people can change and people can grow. And then, once they do, they can be right for one another. Both things can be true,” says Ryan.
This notion of having to work for a love like this was something Beals herself could really get behind. “That running down the street is the beginning of ‘What are you willing to do to have the love that you have wanted for so long?’” Beals tells The Daily Beast.
Since there was the one-year time jump, we didn’t get a very in-depth look at all the work that Bette did to make herself a more emotionally available and better partner to Tina. However, the change in Bette was quite obvious within a few minutes after the time jump when a college student accidentally hits Bette’s car.
Instead of chewing the kid’s head off—something Shane (Kate Moennig), Alice (Leisha Hailey) and Tina all expected—she gave her a hug and calmed her down. “You see everybody look over, because we’re waiting for [her] to explode and it doesn’t happen,” says Holloman. “It’s an energy that’s so attractive all a sudden to Tina.”
Beals knew her character had to change some in order to win back Tina, but she does think Bette’s sometimes intense energy can be useful. “In fairness to Bette, sometimes you need that energy to get shit done,” Beals says. “But, when they’re coming for you in Congress. When they’re willing to set shit on fire on your lawn. I think for that self mastery to happen, you have to figure out the balance [of energy].”
It’s been a long journey for these two lovebirds. They stole hearts with their romance and worried many with their on again/off again status, but in the end they have been and always will be an iconic relationship within the LGBTQ community. That was set in stone once Beals uttered the words “let’s make a baby” within the first few frames of 2004’s The L Word.
“They were introduced as this functional couple that lived in West Hollywood and were having a baby. It was so aspirational for us,” says Ryan. “Maybe that’s why we feel so invested in them, because it was the first time we were able to see a future for ourselves that made sense.”
“That night shooting was really an incredible celebration. It was my favorite night shoot, for sure.”
— Jennifer Beals
The Bette/Tina love story has always been a personal one for Ryan as she always finds herself rooting for the long term couple. “I’ve got to have my own 19 year love story. My wife and I met freshman year of college and we have not been together this whole time. Bette and Tina, they got nothing on us,” she says with a laugh. “It’s just as queer as being friends with your exes is getting back together with the first one.”
One thing is clear from talking with Ryan, Beals and Holloman: There is a lot of love for Bette and Tina. It’s that love and devotion to do right by the characters that made filming the scene such a bittersweet moment for all. “That night shooting was really an incredible celebration. It was my favorite night shoot, for sure. It’s hard to choose a favorite, but [it was] one of my favorite scenes of the season [to shoot]. It was so joyful,” says Beals.
In a completely fitting scenario for Bette and Tina, the scene came together totally by fate. “There had been COVID cases on the set. And so because of that, the schedule had changed and I kept saying, ‘there’s gotta be something we can shoot so we don’t go down [in the schedule].’ So, that was the scene that we shot,” Beals recalls. “It was kind of fate because we [Beals and Holloman] were around some of the other Covid cases, but neither one of us got it. We don’t know how, but we just got lucky.”
“Jennifer and I kept taking pictures of everything just to remember everything,” Holloman recalls fondly.
As emotional of a moment it was for Tina, it was also an emotional moment for Holloman. “When I read [the scene] on paper, I thought, ‘Oh, this is a classic rom-com.’ And it was fantastic because we are so tired of seeing them miscommunicate and miss and miss and this and that,” says Holloman. “It was so emotional to be on the other side of everything that she’s saying. And then there’s that moment where you want them to just grab each other and when I pull her into the car, it’s just like that. It’s a breathe out and an ‘Oh, finally’ [moment].”
Finally, indeed. After over a decade of living, laughing and loving (not including all the adjectives from the original theme song, but you get the point) with this couple, they are finally on the same page.
“There is a huge event coming for them. They are not gone, and their story continues this season”
— Marja-Lewis Ryan
We may not know what lies ahead for Bette and Tina, but both Beals and Holloman have a lot more they hope they can do with their characters. “I want to see them earn what they’re aspiring towards,” says Beals. “Obviously we head off to Toronto, but I want to see them earn it and I love watching them trying to figure out how to parent.”
Ryan stresses that this is not the last we will see of Bette and Tina. “There is a huge event coming for them. They are not gone, and their story continues this season.”
Well, if they are facing a big event, at least they are facing it together. Finally.