The catalyzing event in Peacock’s new Queer as folk is a terrible act of violence. In the middle of the first episode, an unnamed gunman enters a New Orleans gay club called Babylon and opens fire on the partygoers. Most of our main characters are among them, and for the remainder of the eight-episode season, they’ll grapple with their lingering guilt and sadness, with the unthinkable ways their lives changed that night, with the holes it left in… left their church in the middle.
But despite the difficult premise, the series is surprisingly light-footed overall. Sure, here and there there are painful digs of trauma or equally tearful moments of defiant joy. But for the most part, the show allows its characters to be just as messy or silly or sexy or serious after filming as they were before. And its refusal to define their lives through tragedy feels like a gift, not just to the characters, but to an audience that’s heard far too much news like this, or perhaps even faced a similar horror themselves .
Queer as folk
The final result
Equal parts silly, sexy, serious and smart.
Stephen Dunns Queer as folk is touted as a “reimagining” of Russell T. Davies’ groundbreaking turn-of-the-century gay drama, and fans of the original will occasionally spot the Easter egg or pick up echoes of specific characters or plot points. However, no prior knowledge of the earlier series (or the American version which followed shortly after on Showtime) is required to follow this episode. The first episode wastes no time in outlining New Orleans’ vibrant queer nightlife, which centers on the charismatic but somewhat egocentric prodigal son, Brodie (Devin Way).
For about half an hour we follow Brodie as he zigzags around town to reconnect with his old friends and make new ones. About a dozen main characters are introduced during this time, each representing a different tricky thread in his tangle of interpersonal connections. This was before filming and also the birth of twins to Brodie’s best friend Ruthie (Jessie James Keitel) and her partner Shar (CG) on the same night. Between the sheer volume of information conveyed in that first episode and the stark tonal shifts necessitated by the plot, it can all feel unwieldy, even overwhelming.
Thankfully, the show settles into a more comfortable groove by the second or third episode once all the necessary groundwork has been laid. The vastness of Queer as folkThe cast of has some disadvantages. Some of the recurring characters, like straight-laced drag queen Bussey (Armand Fields), end up feeling like accessories in other people’s stories, and we can only hope they lead more stories of their own in future seasons. And even more prominent characters like Mingus (Fin Argus) at that Queer as folk‘s Resident Lovelorn Teen, are more developed in some areas than others. (The series assigns them two high school friends, without a single distinctive personality trait between them.) But their diversity allows the show to explore a wide range of storylines from a variety of perspectives.
Mind you, a sizable chunk of them involves the usual soapy drama about who’s dating, or lying about, or secretly in love (and a lot of that involves Brodie’s ex, Noah, played by Soulful Chop“Johnny Sibilly). This affection for messy personalities means we’re rarely more than half an episode away from a heated argument or an ill-advised kiss Queer as folk scratches the same predictable but satisfying itch as any primetime drama about attractive, charismatic people who spend too much time drinking together.
But there are also storylines about Ruthie, a trans woman struggling with a changing sex drive that is challenging her self-esteem. And how Mingus processed her conflicting feelings about returning to drag after her first gig was cut short by the shooting. And about the unique challenges faced by disabled men like Julian (a very sweet Ryan O’Connell, also a writer and co-executive producer) in the gay dating scene, who suffers from cerebral palsy, or Marvin (Eric Graise in a prickly, but touching performance), a bilateral amputee.
Both Queer as folk and its characters are downright allergic to anything that might be considered tragedy porn, inspirational porn, or a teachable moment. The gang rebuffs strangers who think they’re just “brave enough” to survive, dismisses their loved ones’ worried nudges toward therapy, and rolls their eyes at “Babylon, Babyl-Strong” events hosted by one annoying acquaintances between which they giggle they “Mayor Pete gives off fake gay vibes but eh, nasty.”
Instead, her idea of commemorating the dead is to throw wild parties that provide an opportunity, as Bussey puts it, “to remember our friends, not as symbols, but as the messy adults we knew and loved.” “. Queer as folks candid approach to sex scenes – this is a series that begins with two men enthusiastically fucking while hardbodies circle on a nearby TV, happily taking any opportunity for a sweet butt, perky chest or even the occasional cock to admire – feels like a reflection of the same uncompromising spirit.
But if cheerfulness or shyness isn’t really the show’s thing, sensitivity is. Unlike his overt depictions of lust or drugs, this Queer as folk makes a point of averting one’s eyes from traumatizing material. The gunfight in the first episode is less visible than we might think – we get alarmed facial expressions and cocking gun sound effects, but are largely spared lingering footage of gory action or mutilated bodies. In an episode that traces Ruthie and Brodie’s friendship back to their teenage years, any mention of Ruthie’s dead name is faded out. Such choices feel like a silent but firm declaration of the show’s values: pro-sex, pro-empathy, anti-violence, anti-transphobia.
The premiere episode ends with a fantasy. In a rosy-lit, confetti-strewn slow-motion montage, we weave through glimpses of that fateful first night as it should have gone: Mingus celebrates her first drag performance, Brodie and Marvin cheer from the crowd, Ruthie and Shar cuddle over their newborn, Noah snogging his date Daddius (Chris Renfro) along the wall. It is a sharp, poignant summary of what was stolen the night the shooter entered Babylon. The rest of Queer as folkin its loving embrace of these flawed, complicated, occasionally annoying, but ultimately lovable individuals, becomes a reminder of all that wasn’t.