Berena Post-Christmas Timeline
I know I’ve posted before about how impressed I am that the writers get at least one Berena scene or reference into every episode in spite of it being slightly on the back burner for now and the number of storylines they’re juggling, but we just did a rewatch of some of the post-Christmas stuff and it’s actually pretty striking how much story they’re telling with quite limited screen time.
So I started making a little timeline of what we know about how their relationship is progressing based on canon info. This is mostly a reference for me for potential later fic writing, but I thought some other folks might find it interesting too!
(This timeline assumes that in-show time is roughly parallel to real-world time, given that things like holidays and special occasions match up. Normal text is what we know for definite from canon info, italics are my commentary.)
Early January - Mid-January (I Do, I Do, I Do, Aces High, Stick or Twist)
During this period we know that neither Bernie nor Serena is at work, and that Bernie is spending most of her time taking care of Serena, and presumably Jason. At the end of this period Bernie supports Serena as she attempts unsuccessfully to return to work.
Given that they’ve technically only been a couple since late November, this is a pretty big demonstration of commitment from Bernie - their relationship is established enough that it’s appropriate for her to take around two weeks of compassionate leave to be Serena’s primary support. Possibly if Elinor hadn’t died they wouldn’t have been so thrown in at the deep end, but the foundation laid by their prior friendship and the trust between them means that it seems natural for Bernie to step up here.
Mid/Late-January - Mid-February (Stick or Twist, Daylight, Of Lions and Lambs, Losing Game, Four Letter Word)
Bernie is cranky and tired. She starts smoking again, blaming it on a “tough month”. Serena comes back to work at the very end of January. Bernie has arranged Serena’s schedule to ease her back in. They aren’t seeing each other much out of hours because Serena needs space, but on the ward they maintain their close rapport, but with an edge of tension. They are still close enough that it’s appropriate for Bernie to go through Serena’s bag to find her ringing phone. Bernie keeps an eye on Serena, talks frankly to her when she sees her struggling, calls her out for inappropriate behaviour on the ward, encourages her to attend counselling, and cites their romantic relationship as the reason she feels able to do those things. At the end of this period, Serena reaches out to Bernie again.
These episodes cover a period of Serena withdrawing from support, partly from other friends and colleagues (she ignores Ric’s call), but mainly from Bernie. This reminds me of the garden scene in Missing You Already - “Don’t be nice to me, you’ll make it worse.” Maintaining the appearance of coping has always been important to Serena, and since Bernie is the closest person to her right now and the person who has seen her at rock bottom in the immediate aftermath of Elinor’s death, she’s pushing her away to avoid Bernie’s love and sympathy. Also, as we learn a little later, Serena is struggling with not wanting to let go of her feelings of grief and pain. She knows that if she lets Bernie get close she will try to help her, and she isn’t ready to want that help yet. But their hug at the end of Four Letter Word, and Serena’s request for Bernie to come over later, is a turning point. Serena is missing Bernie too, and she can’t maintain the distance between them.
Late February - Mid-March (What We Pretend to Be, The Price We Pay, Other People’s Dreams, The Hangover, Growing Pains)
Serena is initially tense and abrasive on the ward, but she has at last started attending counselling, and towards the end of this period she seems to be coping somewhat better. We don’t see her and Bernie interact much, but when they do they seem more relaxed and comfortable with each other than previously, and they seem to be talking regularly at least at work. Bernie is protective of Serena on the ward and prioritises her emotional needs, sometimes to an inappropriate degree. Bernie is still not staying with Serena most nights (Serena’s up all night looking at mementos, the implication is she’s alone). Bernie is concerned that Serena is trying to turn Jasmine into a replacement for Elinor.
I think what we’re seeing here is Bernie and Serena finding their rhythm a bit again - Serena still needs space and they’re not staying over together much, but Bernie is very clearly looking out for Serena and they’re very much still on, which leaves the story in a good position for Bernie to support Serena through the angst we know is coming soon. (I would have liked to see a little bit more follow-up on the end of Four Letter Word, but I do think it’s safe to assume that they are gradually getting back to spending more leisure time together.)