UnREAL hits hard with a strong group of new and returning characters

Lifetime

Lifetime

UnREAL had a bunch of characters in the first season that didn’t get as much screen time, in favor of focusing on Rachel and Quinn and their specific interactions with others. That’s fine, but it’s nice to see this season expanding the team a bit more. This latest episode showed the aftermath from young Madison, who explicitly called out the Rachel/Quinn dynamic in a way that almost made you think Rachel was happy to see someone emulating her.

But considering how toxic Quinn was to her throughout the episode, perhaps it’s no surprise that Rachel still has disdain for Madison, throwing “Hot Rachel” Yael at Madison the “genius.” What was interesting there was setting up a new conflict, with Yael the schemer and Madison along with her despite not being involved with the whole “falling into the pool” scheme. Everything about the “Hot Rachel” nickname is insulting, as Rachel pointed out to Yael; people aren’t saying they look alike, they’re insulting Rachel (courtesy of ex Jeremy last time).

It says something about the messed up nature of the show that everyone’s on board with the moniker, even Quinn, who says it in such a blasé way, you might think that she wasn’t really using it to hurt Rachel, even in a small way. That power dynamic drives much of the rest of the conflict, with Quinn ordering Rachel around like nothing’s changed, despite Quinn’s infantile arguments with man-baby Chet which are messing with the show. Although the idea of competing cuts sounds like it could be interesting, they’re using different resources and crew — sounds like a real problem for the budget.

Lifetime

Lifetime

No wonder network guy Gary agreed that it had to change, if not in the way Rachel wanted. The new guy, Coleman Wasserman, is interesting especially in that he doesn’t seem monstrous. Of course we don’t know what he’s capable of yet, other than spreading just a bit of acrimony laced with condescension. Clearly there’s a lot of potential for conflict down the road as Chet and Quinn will definitely clash again and hurt others in the process.

Lifetime

Lifetime

There were a few continuing little things from last time, like Chantal’s tragic history or London not playing into the terrorist stereotype, but the big pieces were everything with Ruby and Beth Ann. Beth Ann was first expertly manipulated by Rachel into wearing her Confederate flag bikini and then being pushed to stay on the show after all. It’s such an interesting look into racism, as Rachel even points out — it’s confusing. Beth Ann comes from a prejudiced place, yet culturally she sees football players as people to be “worshipped.”

It’s a confusing situation, that weird cognitive dissonance when she’s confronted by a realization that people she might like are hurt by the negative imagery of the “Southern Cross” flag and its modern connotations of connections to segregation and racism. Living in a bubble, it’s easy to ignore that other people are different and don’t feel things like you do.

But the show isn’t all clean and pure either; despite Rachel pushing that this is a show that now “means something” or is “subversive” or revolutionary, you then have Quinn saying that four black guys is too many. This leads to how producer Jay is being given more to do this season, pushing his own agenda with activist Ruby, who despite herself, seems to be getting charmed by suitor Darius when he picks her.

He’s a smooth one, more so than last season’s Adam, which is the sort of thing that could lead to problems down the line when people really start competing.

Lifetime

Lifetime

The other piece there is the nature of his profile being repaired; Chet was overwhelmingly scummy, trying to sabotage Quinn’s “wifey” plans for Tiffany (which are themselves regressive but in a different way). His angle to get Tiffany to hook up with Romeo, Darius’ friend, is absurd but sociopathically brilliant. I would imagine that his dangerous philosophical outlook is still going to affect things in the future; he used the word “harpy” this week, which I mentioned last week as something a part of that world view to paint women negatively that you disagree with.

The “Everblasting” name itself is evocative of that stupid philosophy, but does Coleman really see the value there or is he playing a different game? Too early to say.

This is a show that continues to be strong, and really keep us wondering about the characters. Rachel isn’t purely good or evil, but her struggles seem real. That last shot of her staring into space was yet another “silent acting” moment from this show, which does it so well. The melodrama is high yet would be farcical on a lesser show. UnREAL is still killing it.

What did you think of this week’s episode? Tell us in the comments section below!

 

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