In the Vida Season Two finale, Lyn stands on the steps of the suddenly thriving bar and attempts to reason with the Vigilantes protesting it. “What did we do wrong?” she asks, detailing how long the bar has been there, how her grandfather built that very building and how her family has had roots in the neighborhood for five decades. She adds that every single person hired at Vida is Latinx, as are all of the musical acts they book. “What more do you want?” she cries out before Yoli douses her in detergent that burns her eyes.
Creator Tanya Saracho has always grounded Vida’s story in one of identity, as sisters Emma and Lyn came to terms in the first season with their late mother’s queerness and what it meant for their own lives. Emma, who was punished for her interest in girls, cannot forgive her mother’s hypocrisy, and is also at constant odds with Vida’s wife Eddy. The legacy of the bar (now officially called Vida) has also been a bone of contention between Emma and Eddy, and the catalyst (in this new season) for Lyn to come into her own.
The protest scene was integral to series’ core themes in a number of ways: Lyn stood up and was accountable for Vida, Emma put family over personal grievances and attacked Yoli on Lyn’s behalf, and then there was Mari who stood there in the background caught between two worlds. The Hernandez sister have always (to Mari and her friends) represented a “whitina” version of Latinx culture, gentrifiers who have no interest in preserving their neighborhood. That both is and isn’t true; Emma and Lyn want to keep Vida open and operational because of its place in the community and as a safe haven for queer customers, but to do so they have to open it up beyond being a niche dive bar. Mari came to see this complicated truth in her time living with them, and it all plays into the overall theme of identity—what does it mean to be a “real” or “authentic” Latinx person, and who are those who deem themselves gatekeepers? There’s certainly a difference between the self-hate of a person like Nelson than how Emma and Lyn are trying to learn and lean into a culture they weren’t really raised to be a part of.
Those definitions also came into play earlier in the season when Emma met Cruz’s friends, who tried to immediately define her. Lesbian? Queer? Bisexual? Tourist? It was that scene which vitally brought Nico to Emma’s aid (the first of many time throughout the season), as she lambasted the group for gatekeeping and engaging in the same kind of definition-obsession that has made the queer community feel “other.” Essentially, how small does your group have to get before you’re satisfied that it’s only the “real” people left? What does that even mean? Do you yourself even qualify?
Even bigger than these overarching issues of Vida-versus-the-neighborhood or Latinx identity were the wars that Lyn and Emma had within themselves throughout the course of Season Two. Lyn’s journey was (like Lyn) far more open than Emma’s; she explored everything in a full-on, messy, unabashedly enthusiastic way. (Melissa Barrera makes Lyn easy to love and forgive, which also helps). The key moment of discovery didn’t come in her failures, though, or even outright triumphs. It was in her reunion with Johnny, which saw Lyn at her most selfish, again, but also owning the fact that what she and Johnny has is complicated and ultimately impossible. It belongs to another time. With the birth of his child, she’ll always be second in his life. The look between them when he drops her off and goes to pick up his ex that is so charged with longing, understanding and acceptance. It’s sad and beautiful, and the true turning point for Lyn in coming to terms with the “ugliness” inside of her and finding a way forward through it.
That same realization came for Emma in her interactions with Baco, as Mishel Prada has been especially good when she switches Emma emotionally on and off. She yells at Baco, uses him (in his words) as a human dildo, and then casually chats about whether or not she should buy a pressure washer. It’s cold to the point of psychopathic, which rattles Baco (rightfully), but we know that it’s Emma’s coping mechanism. In another example late in the season, her coziness with Nico was obliterated by the return of Nico’s ex. It put Emma back in Ice Queen mode, an exceptionally sad moment after it took an entire season for her to lower her walls around the almost supernaturally wonderful Nico. “I don’t come back from betrayal,” Emma told her just an episode or so beforehand.
Still, the season finale, “Episode 16,” felt rushed (after so much emotional buildup) in us seeing Emma collapse completely and having Lyn so swiftly take over. Vida has done small time jumps like this before, but it made both the Hernandez’s stories feel a little shortchanged. There were also a few plots that disappeared throughout the season, like the aftermath of Nelson’s embarrassment (did Emma ever know that was Lyn? Did Mari? Would that have made a difference?) as well as the sudden and complete disappearance of Cruz after one awkward night between her and Emma. But the finale itself also set up far more questions than it had time to address, clearly setting up a third season (which, thankfully, it’s getting).
While there is still plenty to explore in Emma’s relationships with both Nico (wow that scene was steamy) and the gentle Baco, as well as Lyn’s position at the bar and newfound acceptance by her sister, the biggest cliffhanger was Eddy’s discovery that Vida was still married when they got married. Vida’s husband and the father of Emma and Lyn seems to be a very-much-alive Pastor Victor Villanueva. Eddy sees him but we do not, and how that will affect both her deification of Vida and relationship with the girls is yet to be seen. Mari, too, was left between the Vigilantes and the Hernandez sisters in the end, with total uncertainty about where she stood, why or where she would be going next.
There are a few more quibbles about that final episode, including how Lyn’s triumph could seemingly only exist in the face of Emma’s total defeat. It also seemed like a potential missed opportunity to explore Emma’s depression (which went wholly dismissed by Lyn), and stigmas around it. Had this been the true end of Vida, it would have left so much on the table that it doesn’t feel like a finale at all; “Episode 16” is instead a semi-colon pause. Still, perhaps that’s the perfect way to conclude a season of Vida—with the acknowledgement that we’re all in an ongoing process of change.
Allison Keene is the TV Editor of Paste Magazine. For more television talk, pop culture chat, and general japery, you can follow her @keeneTV