UnREAL has an episode that manipulates like nothing else on TV

Lifetime

Lifetime

When you look at the scenes in this latest episode of UnREAL, you can see a lot of the themes of manipulation throughout, some better than others, some more subtle than others, but with immediate or slow burning consequences.

See the notes about Darius who’s protecting his body as a commodity carefully, yet seems to significantly hurt after Brandi’s sudden explosion of violence. He seems very injured or hurt as the episode closes, but he’s only telling Rachel. That’s a level of manipulation that’s minor relatively speaking, but he’s hiding something.

The two have developed an interesting rapport, as he turns to her repeatedly as the voice of how to rehabilitate his image. Several times he glances or smiles at the camera meaningfully, something that will never be included in the final cut of the “Everlasting” episode. He’s doing his own manipulation here, but he’s a pawn. The final confrontation is horrific but amazing to watch, as Quinn and Rachel destroy Brandi for the sake of a “sizzle reel.”

Lifetime

Lifetime

Dr. Wagerstein may not be the worst in terms of specific actions, but her betrayal looms large because she’s meant to be a trusted therapist. She puts up a token resistance, perhaps for the sake of her conscience, but she wants airtime like anyone else. Contrast that to Jay, who didn’t have as big of a presence this episode, trying to help Ruby go far in the show. He didn’t push Ruby to fight with Beth Ann, that arose naturally, along with the help of Madison, who is embracing her manipulative “Rachel” side.

That was a great scene to watch as well, as Madison brings up Twitter followers to keep Beth Ann in the game — is she lying or using the truth to manipulate? Who knows? After all, we see Quinn use the truth about her abusive past with Brandi but also lie to Darius’ face about Brandi’s “real” mother. The push and pull of morality is always interesting, because it all boils up.

Lifetime

Lifetime

Quinn seems to care little for that, but Rachel is conflicted as always. When she defends being on the show as being something important, part of a potential cultural shift because of a black suitor, is it just to make Coleman like her more or because she really is conflicted? Perhaps it’s a bit of both. She seems to be attracted to him, but with Rachel it’s always hard to say. She manipulates him easily, but tells him so to his face — is it any wonder he’s impressed?

The guy is an interesting character already, because he seems pragmatic but competent enough. It’ll be interesting to see how things go, especially after network head Gary threw Rachel under the bus to Quinn. In fairness, Rachel did go behind Quinn’s back, so was Gary wrong to bring it up? Sure he was a dick to give his car to Coleman after getting Quinn’s email — clearly a response to that — but it’s a manipulation too. On us.

Lifetime

Lifetime

Sometimes the show is obvious, like having Madison connect Beth Ann to Trump to have her literally use Trump’s slogan, but other times it’s about making us empathize with people who do terrible things. But then it’s contrasts later, like having Yael overtly flirting with Jeremy (sigh) yet be very kind to Ruby seemingly for no negative reason.

Except it gives her a chance to “compliment her out” — her comments to Ruby about being too smart for the show, perhaps that led into her annoyance with Beth Ann enough to respond more vehemently. The show sets it up to make it confusing.

The true horror was what was done to Brandi and Chantal, both hurt and manipulated, but one far worse. Brandi’s abusive childhood was revealed to everyone and her damage was pushed until she lashed out. Sure, she attacked Darius after being accused of lying — but she had also been locked in a room for hours.

It’s not an excuse, yet we’ve forgiven an awful lot from our protagonists, haven’t we?

Lifetime

Lifetime

Just another reason why this show is so great, and keeps on impressing. A very strong episode, with a lot of interesting things to think about. And I haven’t even mentioning how Chet kidnaps his infant son. Toxic masculinity leading to literal kidnapping, that’s a new one. Can’t wait to see how that goes next time!

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

 

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