The Bisexual: Episode 1 Recap: An American Bisexual in London
Breaking taboos, confronting prejudices, and challenging misconceptions about bisexuality.
The first episode of this new British show starts with Leila (Desiree Akhavan) and Sadie (Maxine Peake) recapping their love story for a journalist, who is interviewing them about the business they’re launching. It’s sweet and touching, with the ladies teasing each other about the movie Trainspotting, which they saw on their first date, but when the journalist turns the subject to kids, the mood sours and the teasing turns to bickering.
The pair, having excused themselves to the bathroom, continue to talk about having children and it becomes clear that Sadie is way more invested in the idea than Leila, pointing out that they’ve spoken about starting a family before, to which Leila responds “Abstractly. We’ve also talked about euthanasia”. Damn, that has to hurt!
Sadie doesn’t take the hint though and proposes right there, next to the toilet. Unsurprisingly, it doesn’t go well and, to make things worse, the pair still have to get through the increasingly odd photo session for the magazine with a journalist who can’t read the room.
Cut to the next morning in their flat, where Sadie and Leila mourn their relationship by doing jumping jacks – apparently, they’re great when you’re feeling upset – before Sadie asks Leila to let her know if she sleeps with anyone else and Leila apologizes for “fucking everything up”.
Image: Channel 4
On a break, not broken up.
Leila, ever the optimist, tells her friend Deniz that she and Sadie will still be able to work together because you can still love and support each other while you’re on a break – something Denis doesn’t agree with - which seems to be foreshadowing major drama.
Their conversation moves quickly onto Leila’s new roommate, a “successful novelist” called Gabe, who is advertising his spare room on Gumtree. I’d like to make a joke about that, but as a writer myself, I don’t have the heart. However, we do find out that his book is called Testicular, which is a pretty ballsy title.
When Leila has moved into the flat, Gabe indicates that they should probably make a pact not to sleep together, as it would risk ruining their roommate arrangement. Leila cuts this conversation short by reminding him that she’s gay, which prompts him to ask if Deniz is her ”lover” in a way that suggests that he’s never met a lesbian before.
Sadly, when Leila gets into bed, it’s clear that she’s missing Sadie, even ringing her to tell her about the flat and asking her to call back. She then tries to masturbate to make herself feel better, but she’s interrupted by Gabe loudly having sex – with a girl who we later learn is his student – so she gives up, puts on a podcast, and covers her ears with her pillow.
The next morning, its back to work for Leila and Sadie, who try to convince their staff (and more importantly each other) that they can still work together despite the non-breakup, before a clearly upset Sadie shuts herself in her office.
When Leila gets home, after what seems like a hard day, she invites Gabe to a lesbian club with her friends, something that he eagerly accepts, and takes the chance to tell him about her failed masturbation session – something that I’ve never shared with a roommate – and call him out about sleeping with a student.
Let’s talk about bisexuality.
Now, if you’re concerned that a show called The Bisexual doesn’t appear to have a bi main character, don’t worry. When Leila arrives at the club, the male cloakroom attendant tells her that her hair looks hot, to which she replies, “no, you are”. When the man looks confused by this, she bolts away into the club, leaving Gabe standing there, handing over his cardigan.
Once in the club, Leila attempts to have a meaningful conversation about her non-breakup, even telling her friends that she wakes up in the middle of the night to find that she’s “completely alone in the world”, but she’s definitely fine. Her friends tell her that Sadie is not doing well and is spending the weekend with her “twat” of a mother.
However, because they’re in a club, they find it hard to hear each other and get interrupted by a “straight girl”, brought to the club by their friend Beth, who is beyond excited that a girl kissed her, so the conversation quickly moves away from Leila’s non-breakup. Gabe tries to impress the lesbians by asking them whether they think Blue is the Warmest Color is an accurate representation of queer women, which is met with silence for obvious reasons, but doesn’t know what The L Word is.
When Ester tells Beth to stop sleeping with “straight girls”, she tells them that her friend/date is bisexual; something met with derision by the rest of the ladies at the table. They ask if anyone knows an “actual bisexual” and when the camera pans to Leila, we realize that she’s never told her friends that she is bi, perhaps she hasn’t even admitted it to herself yet. Leila then comes out with the idea that bisexuality is a “myth created by ad execs to sell flavored vodka”. That’s denial with a shot of self-hatred, right there.
Afterwards, Leila leaves the club and hooks up with cloakroom guy, but it’s clear from the awkward AF hand job that she hasn’t had sex with a guy before, something confirmed a few minutes later when she mentions never having seen a condom IRL. Cloakroom guy can’t handle it because he’s not sure why a lesbian wants to have sex with him – he wonders if he looks like a woman - so he asks her to go.
IMAGE: Channel 4
After this failed one-night-stand, Leila tells Deniz - who’s in a shop with Gabe – that she’s going to propose to Sadie, right now. Deniz and Gabe rush to stop her because Sadie isn’t at her mum’s, she’s actually in bed with Hye Me, one of their staff members.
Afterwards, whilst walking with Gabe back to their flat, Leila is understandably crushed and Gabe tries his best to make her laugh, which works to some extent. But now, we’re left wondering if Leila and Sadie are actually going to break up and just how awkward the next day at work will be. Eek!
The Bisexual airs at 10 pm on Wednesdays on Channel 4 in the UK.
It is available for streaming in Australia on Stan.