UnREAL introduces a new way to hurt the characters

Lifetime

Lifetime

UnREAL has really enjoyed playing with obvious and subtle parallels this season. The overall one of Rachel trying to take over Quinn’s old job is the most obvious one, but it’s hardly the only one. We’ve seen Madison mirrored as the next generation of Rachel/Quinn, and the explicit mirror of “Hot Rachel” Yael. But the episode “Infiltration” also intriguingly showed a line of toxic masculinity that Chet wasn’t willing to cross, yet is often intertwined.

Lifetime

Lifetime

Parallel to Chet is Jeremy, set sometimes as a mirror, other times as a contrast. First it seems like a marriage of similar people, with similar shots of the guys spying on the women with other men. I was thinking at first that Coleman’s demotion of Jeremy was petty peacocking, but then I realized it was in response to the Rachel dartboard. When Chet brings up “we could help each other,” that’s a more subtle parallel to how he’s screwed things up in past episodes when saying things like that. Foreshadowing without being obvious.

Because things were certainly going down a dark path. I didn’t know where UnREAL would take it, but it’s a shock to see Chet on the right side for once, telling Jeremy that “that’s not what a man does.” He’s right, but it’s almost incidental. I wonder about Chet’s arc this season, considering that Quinn called out the explicit parallel between him and Coleman.

The most damage done otherwise seemed to be once again between Quinn and Rachel, sniping personal attacks at each other. A wasted life versus a wasted future. So far Coleman has been a fairly enigmatic figure, but it’s hard to get a read on him. In a way, he seemed disappointed by how Rachel was willing to exploit the Ruby situation, but the true disappointment was “letting Quinn come between them.” So it’s a mystery.

Adding a more obvious villain, a physical abuser, complicates things. No one will paint that in shades of complexity, yet that means the complicated situations will seem less complicated in comparison.

Redemption plays an interesting role here as the show teases with setting up losing characters. Yael has been on an arc of overconfidence lately, culminating in her fall from grace. Darius plays up the forgiveness angle, which to me is fascinating because it’s connected to what he wants; he doesn’t want a real relationship, because that’s too dangerous. Dominique had no character before this episode, and here she just seems a puppet, brazen and without clear purpose. It’s no real loss that she’s leaving.

Lifetime

Lifetime

Darius forces the redemption on himself and Ruby with the noble sacrifice, but it’s muddled. It was heartbreaking to see Ruby’s father say he was ashamed of his daughter. What a terrible thing to say. We also heard him talk about how badly the “foundation” will be hurt by all this; so it’s a guy willing to do or say things that aren’t great for supposedly a greater cause.

This is one of those less obvious parallels, as this is exactly the sort of thing Rachel has been pushing all season, “making a difference.” But is she?

The introduction of new character John Booth (Ioan Gruffudd with his real accent thankfully) adds a few new twists. Although he talks a big game about impacts and changes, he’s a fanboy. Right now he seems just another way to have Quinn, Coleman, Rachel, and Chet be involved in network drama. All that is fine, but I just don’t want to see a lot of repeated storylines.

When Dr. Carter called the video footage pornography, I wondered again about that line. The “Everlasting” show makes manufactured drama by manipulating real emotions, and UnREAL isn’t afraid to do the same. But physical abuse is a tricky storyline to do without being melodramatic or offensive, so I’m hoping for the best.

The show has been pretty great this season, but this last episode was more of a few peaks instead of one strong story. Darius is a complex character, which certainly has made things interesting. But among the female contestants, who’s left? I mean, who’s left that’s interesting? I guess there’s always time to add more drama.

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

 

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