Dad (Jake Johnson as Doug) and Mom (Ophelia Lovibond as Joyce) are fighting again in Minx Season 2. (Photo: Starz)
Bottom Dollar is no more. The scrappy porn publisher at the center of Starz’s Minx has been replaced with a shiny new conglomerate — Papadopoulos-Renetti Global — that puts Doug Renetti (Jake Johnson) back on top, and at odds with his former co-workers. It’s a not-so-surprising turn of events, as their publisher and one-time savior Constance Papadopoulos (Elizabeth Perkins) spent much of Season 2 shaking up the company structure and, by extension, the group dynamic. The billionaire widow may have seemed impressed by Joyce (Ophelia Lovibond) and Doug’s efforts, even taking the time to bestow praise and promotions on art director Richie (Oscar Montoya) and managing editor Tina (Idara Victor), but she was covertly planning a seismic overhaul of Bottom Dollar Publications.
It might be savvy business — and a boon for Doug, who was sulking about being left behind — but the global expansion of what was once a charming local operation threatens to dismantle everything that Doug, Joyce, and the rest of the crew built. Despite gay men making up a significant part of the audience — and a gay man being responsible for the all-important “sexy, not sleazy” aesthetic — Constance refuses to acknowledge them in the actual content of the magazine, pressuring Joyce to shut down Richie’s bath house shoot and then his gutting photographic documentation of the raid on Emerald Springs. At the big party she’s hosting to tout the international moves, she coolly tells Joyce and Tina that those pictures and even Shelly’s (Lennon Parham) poignant pseudonymous essay about her coming-out are not “for women like us.” Queer people’s money, she implies, is acceptable; their stories, not so much.
Joyce struggled all season with Minx’s evolution and her own meteoric rise — although she undoubtedly loved all the attention and praise lavished on her in magazine profiles and at Vassar alumni events, you could also argue that she was burying her head in the sand rather than witness what was happening to her magazine. In “Woman of the Hour,” she’s presented with a blow-up of the magazine she put together as a teen that stands in stark contrast to the mock-ups of Minx’s international editions, most of which feature a male model with a hand around a female model’s throat, as if to stifle what words might come out of it. Seeing an artistic representation of her own inability to speak up, Joyce flees the party with Shelly and races to the printer to swap out the retrospective issue with Richie’s important photojournalism.
She’s not the only one who’s had enough. Even before Doug tells her he’s now her boss (again), Tina realizes that Constance doesn’t really believe in her talent. It’s bad enough that the imperious widow sends Tina on an errand on what should be one of the biggest nights of her life, and that she encourages her to stop by the kitchen for “snacks,” as if she’s an underpaid assistant and not the new head of international operations. The “women like us” comment is the penultimate straw for Tina — she doesn’t want to be lumped in with Constance’s homophobia. But, just as important, what would a wealthy white woman like Constance know about being a brilliant Black woman who’d toiled in obscurity at a predominantly white company, letting her boyfriend and the rest of her “work family” take most of the credit?
That description of the dynamic at Minx magazine may sound harsh; it certainly runs counter to the “work family” notion at the center of this workplace comedy. But series creator Ellen Rapoport and writers like Sarah LaBrie and Jessica Lamour stealthily explored the limits and even burdens of work families, especially when it comes to Black and Latinx employees, throughout the new season. Season 1 saw Joyce join the Bottom Dollar work family, and Season 2 followed them all as they navigated their newfound success, it was implied, together. Joyce and Doug once again wrestled for control — this time, with Constance as well as each other — but Tina, Richie, and even Bambi (Jessica Lowe) had to fight to be respected as professionals.
”This Is Our Zig,” the sixth episode of Season 2, puts these dynamics in sharp relief. Written by LaBrie, the episode jumps between three pairings — Joyce and Shelly at Vassar, Tina and Doug at her mother’s retirement party, and Bambi and Richie at the office — each of which tests the idea of a work family. For Shelly and Joyce, work family is literally family, even if Joyce hasn’t always seen her older sister as a true peer. Richie finds clarity in a Purple Nurple haze and tells Bambi that they’re “friends who work together,” not family; he doesn’t say this to hurt her, but to help her see that she has “more to give, too. You’re so good at loving and nurturing. You have a real gift, Bambi.” In “Woman of the Hour,” we see Bambi take these words to heart, and even realize that she had substituted a work family for the real thing. Richie also realizes how much his personal relationships with Doug and Joyce have worked in their favor more often than his; he’s prepared to leave Minx for General Mills, even if that particular kind of art direction is even less fulfilling than his work of late.
Tina and Doug’s relationship is even more fraught, because they fell in love while building Bottom Dollar together. The two are inextricably tied, yet Tina can’t bring herself to tell her family she’s dating her (now former) boss again, nor can she tell Doug that Constance gave her the promotion that Joyce promised him. But by the Season 2 finale, after holding her own with international candidates and agents, Tina is no longer afraid to hurt Doug’s feelings with the disparity of their situation. “It wasn’t really together, was it?” she says, as he tries to win her back by waxing nostalgic about the early days. “You didn’t promote me for over a decade while I helped build your company.”
And so, as “Woman of the Hour” enters its third act, the erstwhile Bottom Dollar crew couldn’t be more fractured; their personal relationships are all a shambles. What ultimately brings them back together isn’t the fondue-and-gossip nights or penis tennis matches or memories of the good old days; it’s their joint refusal to let Minx be diluted, even if it means getting fired en masse. Personal triumphs abound in the final episode: Joyce prepares to send copies of the Emerald Springs raid edition and her “scorching resignation letter” to press and work on her book, while Richie realizes there is a way to make his work fulfilling again. And Tina accepts that Minx, like Doug, is just a part of her journey, not the final destination.
Doug isn’t back in the fold yet, and may never be, now that he’s seen how big Minx can get — Mr. Renetti is a capitalist, after all, and he’s likely also hurt by Tina dumping him. As he tells Joyce, “Look, if you want purity, do this sh*t out of your house. But nobody gets this big without giving something up! No one!” So, if there is a Season 3, the crew will be even more spread out. But in breaking up its original, admittedly beloved, work family, Minx has uncovered an even stronger foundation for the eponymous magazine, and the show itself.
Minx Seasons 1 and 2 are available to stream on the Starz app. Join the discussion about the show in our forums.
Danette Chavez is the Editor-in-Chief of Primetimer and its biggest fan of puns.