The Vida finale closes out the show’s first season masterfully, forcing the characters to grow and acknowledge their flaws in a poignant and hopeful conclusion.
This review contains spoilers for the Vida finale.
Throughout the first season of Starz’s Vida, Lyn and Emma, and all the inhabitants of their East Los Angeles neighbourhood, have grappled with the concept of home. Is home where you grew up? Where your family is? Where your friends are? Perhaps more importantly, is it possible to build a new one, or repair one that has broken down and decayed?
The Vida finale opens with Doña Lupe giving Lyn some kind of spiritual cleansing; home, then, might be where your culture and traditions reside. I know little about deep-rooted Mexican healing traditions, but the ethereal ceremony does a lot for Lyn. She finds her eyes suddenly open to the consequences of her actions. Karla has broken down. Johnny is losing business because of how he treated his fiancé. For him and Lyn to be together, they might need to move out of the neighbourhood.
But is it that easy, to pick up your home and plant it somewhere else?
Lyn doesn’t think so. Her gradual understanding of her choices and their consequences is mostly played for laughs, but it builds to heartbreak. She realises for perhaps the first time that her own satisfaction – I’m reluctant to say “happiness” – comes with a cost, and she isn’t willing to foot the bill.
Emma, meanwhile, is dealing with the fallout of bills not being paid, not just in the sense of whether she wants to fix up the bar and keep it or just sell it and break even, but in how she continues to be charged emotionally by the late Vida’s contradictions. She was sent away for being gay, but once she was gone, her mother married a woman and cultivated one of the only places in the neighbourhood where it’s safe for people like her to be themselves. Her lust for control in her adult life is a consequence of not having been granted that privilege as a young woman. She lashes out at those who try to push her in a particular direction because she finally has the power to chart her own course.
As usual, a lot of this anger is directed towards Eddy, whom she blames for the downturn of Vida’s bar. But when Eddy and her friends are forced to move on and unwind somewhere else, they’re hassled and insulted by bigots, and Eddy is beaten half to death in the bathroom. To gain access to her bedside, which is restricted to family members only, Lyn and Emma have to finally concede the truth about Eddy: “She’s our stepmother.”
It was an overdue acknowledgement, but it carried with it the necessity of Vida’s bar, and what she, whatever her faults, had managed to build. That’s why Eddy refused to sell. And that’s why Emma refuses to sell too. She might never understand her mother’s paradoxes, but she understands now what her and her bar meant to the people in the neighbourhood. She understands, finally, the concept of home – not just for her, but for as many people as can be crammed inside.
Episode 6 was the final episode of Vida’s first season. Check out our full series coverage.
Jonathon is the Co-Founder of Ready Steady Cut and has been Senior Editor and Chief Critic of the outlet since 2017.