We spoil who the “L” dies

Television has given us many great mysteries. Who shot J.R.? Who killed Laura Palmer? Who keeps supporting David Caruso’s acting career? But, come January, the only mystery every gay, bisexual and just bi-curious shoe-wearing gal will care about will be, “Who will Ilene Chaiken kill?” Well, if you can’t wait or you already know, we need to talk.

Let me say, in the clearest and most emphatic terms possible: This is a spoiler post about the sixth season of The L Word. Let me repeat, this is not a test. This is a huge, big, red, flashing SPOILER ALERT. If you do not want to know what happens in the new season, stop reading now. I mean it. This is your final warning. Spoilers lie ahead. I cannot and will not be held responsible for what happens to your childlike innocence if you click “continue reading.”

OK, so, now that we’ve weeded out the spoilerphobes, we still need to lay down some important ground rules. Since people are very sensitive about spoilers, please be extremely careful when commenting on this post.

1. DO NOT post spoilers in your comment subject line. (Comment subject lines appear on the front page and sidebar, which can inadvertently spoil passersby.)

2. DO NOT leave your comments subject line blank. (Subject lines will default to your first sentence, and therefore possibly include spoilers.)

3. DO NOT put any character names in your subject line. (Even if it’s not a spoiler, let’s be safe rather than sorry.)

4. DO NOT ignore No. 1, No. 2 or No. 3. (Seriously, I don’t want to have to clean the angry emails out of my inbox if you do. In fact, I plan to forward them all to you, instead. Yes, this is a threat. No, I am not kidding.)

Right, so now we all know the rules. And we’re all going to follow the rules. (Do not make Sarah and Trish come after your comment with a baseball bat.) So now let’s roll up our sleeves and enter the crazy that Ilene built. Last week, the fine folks at the Television Without Pity forum appear to have uncovered the secret to Season Six. So, who does Ilene Chaiken kill?

[Hat tip, SaabStory!]

Yep, it’s Jenny. Yep, she is found floating in the pool. Yep, we see her dead in the first two minutes of the season. Yep, the rest of the season is told in flashback. And, yep, you liked this story the first time you saw it when it was called Sunset Boulevard.

Now, I’m sure many of you are probably all, “Ding, dong, the Jenny Schechter is dead!” Granted, Jenny was undoubtedly the most controversial — not to mention crazy — of all the characters. You either love her or hate her, and emphatically so. She was egomaniacal, megalomaniacal, pathological and any other -cal you can think of.

Still, it’s hard to deny that TLW was, largely, Jenny’s journey. She was the outsider who moved to L.A. She was the happily hetero gal who found her latent lesbian. She was the artist in search of herself and a six-picture deal with Paramount.

So, then, what are we to make of Mama Chaiken’s decision to kill her lead character? What does her journey mean? What message are we supposed to learn from her death? Why am I ascribing grand artistic overtones to a show most of us ultimately watch, let’s face it, to see really hot ladies kissing?

Because this whole thing makes me mad. It’s not that I loved Jenny. Believe me, Jenny drove me nuts. It’s that this is how the seminal lesbian series on television will end. With a dead lesbian. Have we really made so little progress since The Children’s Hour? Are we really still mired in that old chestnut about the tortured lesbian who meets an unfortunate end? Why not just stick Jenny’s head in an oven, as long as we’re going for the easy analogy?

Through five seasons, Ilene has made it clear that she will do whatever she wants, fans be damned. (Oh, Dana, I think I miss you most of all.) It’s her show and she can make us cry if she wants to. But from a storytelling perspective, it’s just so terribly unsatisfying.

First, it has become a murder mystery. I don’t know about you, but I never thought the first and still only hour-long drama about lesbians would dissolve into an episode of CSI. I know it’s hard to think of new ideas after five season, but a genre change seems a tad extreme.

Second, it just seems mean to poor Mia Kirshner. She has valiantly handled all the crazy that Ilene & Co. threw her way. The only reason some people could stand Jenny at all is because of Mia’s acting. So now to reward her hard work all these years to make a willfully unsympathetic character sympathetic with a body bag seems unfair. Death is easy, redemption is hard.

Third, and most important, it is a little lazy. We all know Ilene’s penchant for borrowing from famous films (hence last season was All About Eve Adele). But to do it again the very next season? And, as long as we’re getting technical, our very own Scribegrrrl had the idea first. In her recap for the premiere episode of Season 5, Scribe called herself “the recapper version of Norma Desmond.” Who is ready for her close-up now, Ms. Chaiken?

With a month and a half until we see how the Death of Jenny fully plays out, we’re left with only time and our continued bemusement. How, if at all, is Ilene going to make this death train work? My only consolation these next few weeks is that when the fateful day does come, we’ll have Scribegrrrl back to lead us in snarky eulogy. That alone is reason enough to do a little jig to this funeral dirge.

So, let’s hear it. Whadayathink? And, remember, no spoilers in comment subject lines (and remember to fill them in, too, even if you just write, “Damn, Ms. Snarker, shut up about the SPOILER subject lines already!”).

Edited to add: don’t start forum threads with spoilers in the titles, either!