Season 4

Season 4 saw reduced screen time for Laurel. She was almost completely absent in the first half of the season, much to the disappointment of her fans. However, in the second half of S4, when she finally got more material to work with, Laurel made the most of it.

The latter half of Season 4 marked the beginning of the noticeable changes that took place in how Tina was written. Not since the Pilot, and in some examples here and there over the years, had Tina been written with her own voice – one that was distinct from Bette and Bette’s storyline.

It was a great start. It was also a preview of what was to come in Season 5 for Tina, a character who emerged as one of the best written and most developed characters in the series. This change was welcomed with great delight by Laurel Holloman fans, many of whom had been advocates and enthusiasts for Tina since she was introduced at the beginning of the series.

The scenes we describe here as some of our favorite Tina scenes in Season 4 are prime examples of the steady rise of Tina as her own woman: straightforward, taking on both her personal and professional fears, and acknowledging and accepting her own responsibility for her part in the bloody breakup with Bette. Tina has always been a complex person, but Season 4 was the start of a more fully realized version of the character we have loved and appreciated from the beginning. Sweet.

It should be noted that there are scenes that we loved in earlier episodes of Season 4’s second half, but we selected scenes from the season finale because this episode provided examples of the best written scenes for Tina. They were highlights in her continued growth and evolution as a character.

Season 4, Episode 12

Tina and Bette are walking in the back lot of Tina’s studio. This is a revelation unto itself, because Bette has a history of not liking the movie business or what Tina does for a living. As they approach one of the craft tables, they are chatting about Bette not being at Jodi’s art opening because she had to attend to school business … even though the real reason was that Jodi never told Bette she was taking a commission that would find her moving back to New York.

Tina won’t let Bette off the hook, and says that she is being self-serving – to which Bette protests, but not very forcefully. Actually, both Bette and Tina are revelations here, because they are changing right before our eyes.

As they banter back and forth like an old married couple, Tina’s no nonsense persona begins to emerge. She’s not having any of Bette’s protest, however mild, and tells Bette to give her her BlackBerry. Bette doesn’t put up much resistance, and Tina won’t let her as she now demands Bette’s cell phone: “just give it to me.” We love forceful Tina.

Tina goes on to play Cyrano to Bette’s Christian. Or does she? Pretending to be Bette, she starts to type in a message to Jodi. “Dear Jodi, When I am scared, I micro manage. When I am uncertain, I overstate. When I am challenged, I belittle and lash out. And when I love someone, I try to put her in a box.” She asks Bette if she can send it, and a pouting Bette willingly gives in to Tina’s entreaty to send the text message to Jodi.

For various reasons, to us this was the best scene in Season 4. The crucial reason was the growth of these two characters. It is more apparent in Tina, but Bette is changing for the better too – even if she’s metaphorically being dragged a bit by Tina to get there. She’s getting there nonetheless, and not unwillingly either, which is a great thing.

The other reason is that thing Laurel and Jennifer do so well, which has captivated so many in the audience. They do this thing as screen partners, and it makes us believe they are real partners instead of merely celluloid ones. We love how well these actresses work with one another, and this scene is the result of just how well they do. There is an easy familiarity here between them. They fit together like… well, we could be here all day filling in that metaphor. Suffice it to say that what Laurel and Jennifer have done as Tina and Bette over the years will have a lasting effect on those of us who saw the magic they produced as they breathed life into these beloved (and sometimes not-so-beloved) characters.

This scene is the epitome of that magical thing they do on screen. It’s picture perfect in tone, body language, subtlety, and depth of performance… and they make it seem so easy, something all great actresses have a knack for doing. There is so much to absorb in this scene, not the least of which is just how much Tina had changed, and how much she is bringing Bette along with her.

We have read that it was Jodi who was challenging Bette, so that if she were to return to Tina she would be ready to be in a relationship with her. We humbly disagree. It was Tina substantially challenging Bette in S4, not Jodi – who did so only superficially. Those conversations on the porch, and the Cyrano part she played for Bette: she challenged Bette to face up to who she was in that message written for Jodi’s eyes. But that message wasn’t really meant for Jodi from Bette. Rather, it was a message from Tina to Bette, whether or not both consciously realized it at that moment – and we think it likely they both did. Jodi was thousands of miles away, literally and figuratively.

This was the beginning of the end of Jodi and Bette. From all that we could rationally see, it also foreshadowed the rebirth of a better, more resilient, wiser, and sexier couple known as Tina and Bette.

Season 4, Episode 12

Tina is showing Kate Arden, the director of Lez Girls who is attracted to her, her studio office. They start out discussing business, and then Kate looks out of the window and asks her, “So, is it Bette?”

Tina answers straightforwardly, uncertain where the conversation is going. “Is what Bette?” As Kate turns and walks towards Tina, she says, “The person you still have feelings for. The reason you couldn’t come home with me the other night.” Tina looks at Kate and whispers, “We’re working together.” Kate gives her a look with a crooked smile, as if to say: come on, I know that’s not the reason. Kate won’t let Tina off the hook, even though she doesn’t say another word. Tina exhales through her nose, laughing that non-laugh we all do when someone is onto us. Tina stands still for a moment, puts her head down, bites her lip and resignedly says, “It was Bette.” She then turns around to face Kate – and herself – with the truth. To reinforce her confession, she repeats: “It was.”

Kate wants to know why Tina is helping Bette get back with Jodi if she still has feelings for Bette. Tina responds that maybe it’s because she feels guilty for wanting her back less than a year after breaking up. She confesses to Kate that she screwed up, that the breakup was bloody and bad. Kate takes it in stride, and reminds her that breakups are bloody. Tina says she has no right to complicate Bette’s life because Bette has met someone else. Kate asks her what she will do if they don’t work out, and Tina answers, “I guess I’m waiting to see about that too.”

This is the Tina that has been emerging since the season began. She has really started to take stock of herself, and is figuring out who she is and what she wants. She doesn’t have all the answers yet, but she doesn’t need to figure it all out in one big swoop. Nobody ever does. Tina can take her time, and she should. She doesn’t get involved with Kate because she really wants to spend time alone with herself, sorting herself out. She wants to do the right thing by letting Bette go to find a chance at happiness. If things don’t work out with Jodi, she will act on her feelings and take another chance with Bette.

Laurel and Annabella Sciorra play well off each other. Laurel is so good in this scene, because her performance is understated but forceful. As in the prior scene with Jennifer’s Bette, Laurel lets us literally see the transformation and growth in Tina here, as she takes responsibility for her behavior and her part in the breakup, and how much she hurt Bette.

It was a moment in this series that left us both pleasantly surprised and very satisfied, precisely because it’s not common that we see marked growth in a character on this show. That the character development occurred and was written for our favorite, Tina, was doubly satisfying. Laurel’s performance added to that satisfaction.

Season 4, Episode 12

Tina and Kate are walking on the beach during Tasha’s party. Tina’s cell phone rings, and she answers because it’s Bette.

Bette is calling Tina to ask for her advice on what to say to Jodi when they meet. Tina hesitates, as if gathering her own courage, and then says, “I never should have let you go. I would do anything for another chance. I’m not afraid to make a fool out of myself.” Once again, it is a message from Tina to Bette.

Tina was trying to make it appear as though she was being the cool and collected confidante to the woman she can’t help but love. Yet at the same time, she is also confessing her innermost feelings to Bette. She is laying open her heart, and giving words to her deepest regret. She says goodbye to a teary-eyed Bette with a sweet and tender “sleep well, and closes her phone with kind of finality, as if making peace with both her confession and the reality that Bette is seeking to win back someone else. Our final image of Tina in S4 is of her turning back to Kate, and facing a possible future without Bette in it as her lover or partner.

Laurel’s delivery in this scene was perfect in its simplicity and precision, conveying the emotions that were flying all over the place, but doing so in a controlled and multi-layered way. Laurel flawlessly conveyed Tina’s walking-on-egg-shells demeanor.

This scene was the last Tina scene of Season 4. When taken with what happened in the final episodes of S4, we saw it as the next step towards the continued progression and evolution of the character, which came to fruition in Season 5 to the delight of Tina/Laurel fans everywhere.

Next: Tina blossoms in Season 5.


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