[Editor’s note: The following contains spoilers for Season 3 of The L Word: Generation Q.]
The L Word‘s Shane McCutcheon (Kate Moennig) has always been an authentic, honest character, but Season 3 of The L Word: Generation Q takes Shane to a new emotional level — and it is a change for the better. But before we dive into the newest season, let’s think back to Season 1 of The L Word (2004) and revisit Shane’s past.
Shane Has Always Been Emotionally Intuitive
In Season 1 of The L Word, core friendship group Shane McCutcheon, Alice Pieszecki (Leisha Hailey), and Dana Fairbanks (Erin Daniels) crash couple Bette Porter (Jennifer Beals) and Tina Kennard’s (Laurel Holloman) house to get gaydar advice and, upon entering their bedroom, realize Bette and Tina have just done Tina’s at-home insemination. Shane is the one who immediately asks if they should leave, her mental, emotional framework at work: she easily takes stock of emotional attunement in a situation — an innate skill of hers — reflects, and then responds from an authentic place centered on care about the circumstance and people involved with it.
Another Season 1 moment finds Shane giving money to her friend who is using drugs, hoping he can use the funds to find a safe place to stay for a few nights. The friend responds that if it weren’t for his connections, she wouldn’t have a growing client list for her stylist work. Shane takes a beat; she doesn’t appreciate his attempt to guilt-trip her, but thanks him for his help. She sees the situation from both of their perspectives, giving benefit of the doubt, also empathizing with addiction, and extends a communication that she recognizes is the right thing to do in that moment.
Shane Is Still Authentic in ‘The L Word: Generation Q’
Compare a freeze-frame of Shane from any episode, in any season, of the original series with a freeze-frame of Shane from any episode, in any of the first three seasons of The L Word: Generation Q. You will likely find Shane beside a woman, whether it be a sex-only relationship or one of her occasional, serious relationships; Shane interacting with her friends; or, Shane at work (which sometimes, uh, collides with the first situation). Shane has situated herself in the same physical and emotional posturing throughout twenty-some years, yet the nuance she develops into that posturing in The L Word: Generation Q exhibits her personal growth. Her core values stay the same: she leads with the heart, is deeply caring — possibly, an empath — and is authentic in her interactions.
Not to be confused with always-making-someone-feel-good, Shane’s authenticity over the years is, in short, found within her honesty. In the original’s early seasons, she openly tells the women she is sleeping with that she is not looking for a relationship. When she falls for someone, as in the case of her first fiance, Carmen de la Pica Morales (Sarah Shahi), she has trouble being outright with her feelings for Carmen. We see her suffer internally, so we know she is struggling with herself; after all, a big part of authenticity is the ability to be authentic, which comes from the journey of working to know yourself as well as you can. Being consistent in one’s output — not synonymous with exhibiting a lack of development — can demonstrate a lot about the range of someone’s maturity, and in that range, growth can occur.
Shane’s Season 3 Interactions in ‘The L Word: Generation Q’ Show Her Growth
Season 3 of The L Word: Generation Q gives us a chance to see Shane interact in her two quintessential motions towards women: one, through sex, with the introduction of a semi-work colleague, Ivy (Kehlani), and two, with a continual exploration of her serious relationship with Tess Van De Berg (Jamie Clayton). Both relationships reinforce her core ways of caring about another while, where Shane pivots from past behaviors, show her digestion of past experiences and where she wants to try something — or be someone — new in her life story.
A significant conversation happens between Shane and Tess after Tess sees Shane and Ivy in a break-up-esque moment. The conversation focuses around Tess’ anger and eventually, her hurt. We see Tess grapple with the idea that she does (or does not) know Shane and whether Shane can (or cannot) “change.” The implication is that Shane is a serial cheater, so can Shane develop her way out of this behavior? Shane’s tone comes through with stark clarity in many moments here, as in when she, with love and unequivocality, tells Tess she is glad Tess’ mother moved in with them and that they could help her. Shane is believable. We see someone with positive intentions can still get overwhelmed in a situation. Shane is not oriented towards resentment and is clear on what she gives, so she does not double back on her choices nor lose sight of the clarity she had when she made them.
When Shane says at a later point in the conversation that she is not happy, her breath loosens. Struggling with her sense of self-esteem, and not seeing for a long time that her cutting off an intimate possibility was because she felt she didn’t deserve that, Shane comes to a place where she recognizes the absence of her happiness, affirming she knows that she, and everyone, deserves to be happy. Shane has always known who she is, which set her character apart from the beginning of the original series, but she has not always been able to elucidate her experience. Now, in The L Word: Generation Q, she can and does.
Shane’s commitment to respecting and understanding people is communicated in her interactions with Ivy, for example, when Shane says she would like to see photos of her child, if Ivy wants to show them to her. The interaction with Ivy, at first flirty, becoming full-on sexual, is an interesting moment in Shane’s life, but also Ivy’s. A text Ivy sends to Shane after their first sex sesh, thanking her for their interaction and that she needed it, is a perspective much appreciated and one we haven’t seen before. This moment allows us to consider another angle to Shane’s sexual encounters: they may be fulfilling, fruitfully, for the other person in that encounter. After they sleep together twice, and are about to spend an evening together, Shane tells Ivy that she can’t leave with her, not anymore.
Where growth hits doesn’t always look obvious. Shane has lived through plenty, and when we see her still choosing to speak truth, be as generous as she can, and remember everyone deserves respect, it is a moment in The L Word: Generation Q narrative to reflect on. The core value of recognizing that everyone is having their own experience — and deserves to — comes through.
The L Word: Generation Q airs on Sunday nights on Showtime, and is available on-demand and streaming.