After two seasons, Sabi (Bilal Baig) finally made it to Berlin. Sort of. The Season 2 finale of the CBC and HBO Max dramedy Sort Of left fans with a massive cliffhanger kiss between protagonist Sabi and their employer, friend, confidante, mentor, and crush Bessy (Grace Lynn Kung).
"When we were in the writers' room, we loved the idea that this thing that Sabi wants — this simple, pure, and uncomplicated kind of love, the learning they get by the end of the season — is that perhaps the deepest and truest forms of love are never simple or uncomplicated," Baig tells Metacritic. "I think to end on a messy note felt completely right in this season of love."
Messy is a word that is appropriate for describing the emotionally loaded kiss or, more specifically, the repercussions of that kiss between Sabi and Bessy. "It really sets us up for something pretty whirlwind-y [for] a third season," says Baig.
In addition to the kiss, the finale of Sort Of also included the emotional send-off of Sabi's father, Imran (Dhirendra), who died suddenly after returning from a months-long business trip in Dubai. Imran's reappearance in the Mehboob household had major implications for his wife Raffo (Ellora Patnaik) and their children, Sabi and Aqsa (Supinder Wraich), with his death adding another layer to longstanding unresolved familial issues.
Then there's Berlin, the inclusive, queer-friendly art and dance space that Sabi helped launch along with their best friend 7ven (Amanda Cordner) and Wolf (Raymond Cham Jr.), a new character this season who kept audiences guessing at a will-they, won't-they relationship with Sabi. The finale shut the door, at least for now, on a possible romance between Sabi and Wolf, but opened the door to a new, more grown-up phase for 7ven, who appears to have found their calling as a mentor in the art world.
Here, Bilal talks to Metacritic about all these moments and more from the Season 2 finale.
7ven had a lot of Oprah-esque "aha" moments this season and was able to figure out their relationship with their mom. They also found a focus and a purpose with Berlin and mentoring young art students, which I think Violet helped her identify as a strength. What do you think was the biggest change in 7ven this season?
I think you nailed it. We were so excited by 7ven really feeling connected to a purpose. Within the gallery, it's so specific what she's doing, especially if you look at the artists that 7ven is pulling in. We worked with local Canadian artists who are people of color, Indigenous, queer, trans, and I think there's something that really excites her about curating spaces with that specificity.
I think trying to work out their dynamic with Violet, as well as their mom, I think brings them to this more whole place. They're able to get over the complicated dynamic they have with their mother to be able to do this work and to apologize to Violet in the way that 7ven does. It's not a full apology, but I think that was a big moment for 7ven. It's really about growing up this season for her.
Looking back at the season, there were clues about Imran's health issues, like his missed flights. It made me wonder if the real reason he was coming home wasn't because of Sabi, but because he wanted to make amends with his family before his passing. What was his intention was in coming home?
I love that you're picking up on that because that was something that we talked about a lot in the room and how to sprinkle it in. I think there's something about South Asian men of a certain age who don't want to admit that something is wrong, particularly about themselves, so I think Imran did ignore some of the messaging he was receiving from doctors about his health, and I think was craving his family and maybe had an underpinning of fear about how severe his health situation was.
I think the return is so much about, "Can I feel this connection with my family again before potentially things get worse for me?" That was totally a subtextual thing that we were conscious about when writing.
What was the discussion around how far his character should go to show his love and how much Sabi would reveal about their feelings towards Imran?
It was a really delicate thing. We're not big fans of over-sentimentality on our show, and there was this thing we talked about a lot, again with South Asian families, that so much is unsaid, or things are implied. I was so happy with where we got to with the conversation in the car. It's a hard thing. I grew up with parents who didn't always or at all say, "I love you" and therefore, I didn't say it back. It's something that a lot of my brown friends and I talk about it. We did want to point to the potential of this relationship, that for all people, there is space to grow and learn and transform.
I think what's also so heartbreaking about that moment in the car is that if there was more time between the two of them, I think there would have been a real possibility that over time and both of them slowly letting each other in, there was the potential of them functioning really well as father and child.
The funeral scene is so powerful, especially when Raffo and Aqsa support Sabi during the Janazah. Do you think that was Aqsa making amends with Sabi, or was it another instance of her taking on the caregiver role?
I think it's a little bit of both. What I love about Aqsa is that she completely represents this early 30s South Asian Muslim woman who, like so many of the people I know, lives this life and are constantly juggling family responsibilities as well. I think sometimes that's in conflict with their own desires and how they want to live and be in this world. I think in that moment, Aqsa completely understands what Sabi contends with on a daily basis being a trans, non-binary, brown person and that it is difficult and different from what her situation is.
At the same time, I think that Supinder is so phenomenal when she's approaching Sabi and joining Raffo and Sabi that you can almost still feel that this isn't exactly the thing she wants to be doing because it is sacrificial in some way. I think of Aqsa riding that line. It's not just entirely full of love.
Sabi had many people show up for them at the funeral, but Bessy wasn't there. Her absence felt even more evident with the sea of umbrellas. Why wasn't she there, because she was able to make it to Berlin?
In our minds, it was Sabi completely icing Bessy out as they process what just went down with them within that almost kiss. So, I think if it were up to Bessy, she would have loved to be there, but I think it was a boundary that Sabi was drawing. You know how we are; we change our minds. So, after they lived through that day, I think it's also important to recognize that they're the one who reached out to Bessy to say, "Can you come to Berlin?" I think Bessy would have shown up to the funeral too, but I think Sabi needs a lot of time to process and they were more comfortable to see her at this queer party space than at the depths of their sorrow at a funeral.
The last two minutes of the season were a culmination of a slow burn throughout both seasons, but it still felt shocking, especially since Bessy and Paul appeared to be in a better place. Was there concern in the writers' room about whether the kiss would even happen?
We talked about it for ages and ages and different writers had different opinions. For a little while, Fab [Filippo, co-creator] and I didn't even know that would necessarily be the last moment of the entire season. It's such a loaded moment and complicated and messy. Bessy has so much going on in her life, and so does Sabi. Neither of them is in the healthiest place in their life, given what they're both contending with.
At the same time, there was something that just felt completely honest about starting the season with these two reconnecting or just being a fly on the wall of the conversation they're having in Bessy's recovery room. I was so drawn to Sabi's imperfections and faults this season and I think we're allowed to make mistakes or make choices that aren't completely considerate of every single person that we love. The kids are present, of course, when you think of the two of them kissing and their relationship to the kids and Paul.