THE L WORD Season 4 picks up with the women wrestling with issues close to their hearts. As with previous seasons, old demons rear their ugly heads and a host of new characters are brought into their fold, offering them access to a broader community with diverse issues. THE L WORD® stars Jennifer Beals, Leisha Hailey, Laurel Holloman, Mia Kirshner, Katherine Moennig, Dallas Roberts, Daniela Sea, Rachel Shelley, and Pam Grier. Newest additions to the cast include Cybill Shepherd, Marlee Matlin, Janina Gavankar and Rose Rollins. Special guest stars are Rosanna Arquette, Eric Roberts, Bruce Davison, Kristanna Loken and Jane Lynch. This season, the war in Iraq becomes an integral part of Alice's (Hailey) life as she struggles to move on after the death of Dana; Helena (Shelley) tries to find financial independence and come to terms with leaving behind a world of privilege; Phyllis Kroll (Shepherd) -- who takes the courageous plunge late in life to come out of the closet -- risking everything that has defined her life up to now; and, Bette (Beals) has to deal with Jodi Lerner (Matlin), a woman who confronts her head-on about her Type-A personality.
If the third season was marked by transitions, The L Word's fourth concerns growing up--or trying to, at any rate. Shane (Katherine Moennig) becomes her brother Shay's guardian, Bette (Jennifer Beals) and Tina (Laurel Holloman) stop fighting over their daughter Angelica, and Bette's new boss, Phyllis (a very game Cybill Shepherd), decides it's time to embrace her true nature. So, after 25 years of marriage (Bruce Davison plays her husband), Chancellor Kroll comes out of the closet--and sets her sights on Alice (Leisha Hailey). For all the inclusiveness, Max (Daniela Sea), still remains on the margins. Dumped by Jenny (Mia Kirshner) the year before, Max continues to share her apartment while acclimating to life as a man.
For those who felt season three was too dark, four offers a welcome corrective. There's still plenty of angst--Jenny's memoir meets with a few negative notices (Heather Matarazzo's journalist pens the harshest critique) and Helena (Rachel Shelley) learns to live without Mommy's money--but there are plenty of moving moments to compensate (most revolving around Shane and Shay). New additions also arrive to shake things up, like Marlee Matlin as an artist who helps Bette to broaden her horizons, Kristanna Loken as a single mother with a yen for Shane, and Rose Rollins as an Iraq War veteran with whom Alice has a tryst (leading to a well intentioned, if heavy-handed message about how even liberals should support the troops). As in seasons past, the directorial line-up impresses as much as the acting talent, and includes Oscar winner Marleen Gorris (Antonia's Line) and playwright Moisés Kaufman (The Laramie Project). Since creator Ilene Chaiken makes most special features, like deleted scenes, available online, this set offers few extras, other than biographies, a photo gallery, and episodes of The Tudors and Californication. --Kathleen C. Fennessy