UnREAL gets muddled and manic but it’s impossible to look away

Lifetime

Lifetime

It’s always interesting to me when UnREAL plays with its own melodramatic plasticity. The severely traumatic nature of Rachel’s own reality plays out in a mixed way, especially considering the first season. A reminder of course, that season was highly charged and melodramatic in its own way. I don’t think the idea of the show being inconsistent with reality is a problem, only if it gets too ahead of itself.

Rachel’s storyline is troubling but not necessarily problematic. I’ve heard some complaints about this episode, considering that it seems almost like the show is painting Rachel’s mania as driven by her physical abuse. Really, I think it all drives from her already diagnosed bipolar disorder, which is exacerbated by the stress of cognitive dissonance. She wants to “not be a silent victim,” yet she’s beholden to holding the secret for fear of being implicated in a crime herself.

Nobody is without sin here, although it’s degrees. Clearly Jeremy as the abuser is the most at fault, despite his protestations about Rachel instigating things. Quinn cares about Rachel, but she can’t help but see her as broken and thus a lesser person. Chet is a mess of a human, considering that he already kidnapped a baby, and his judgment is clearly impaired. Newcomer John Booth seems to be all too willing to let Quinn fall for him, but it’s unclear how he really feels about it.

Lifetime

Lifetime

Coleman is the real wild card though, because the show is really making him extremely ambiguous. He’s clearly worried about Rachel, yet he’s willing to hook up with her when she’s in a manic spiral. He pushes back slightly on Beth Ann and her pregnancy reveal, yet is all too willing to direct the action when Beth Ann decides Rachel “knows what she’s doing.” He’s pushing Rachel to leave the toxic environment of “Everlasting” behind, but is he really the “Chet”? I don’t think so, but that’s because the ambiguity is working.

The entirety of the Beth Ann subplot kinds of ends with a bit of a snooze for her character, but it’s really to set up Darius and him losing patience with Rachel. It’s sort of a reversal of her freak out earlier, he’s madder than he needs to be. There were small hints of racial tensions in Dr. Wagerstein’s little truth telling segment, but it’s barely touched on. I’m not sure if it works better that way or not.

I liked the expansion of the psychologist’s role, especially as she was both corrupted and also supportive. It’s a good dichotomy, even if the remaining girls are boring, Yael excepted. But the dating show is never the key here, although last season had quite a few dynamic personalities. Instead here the focus remains on the management.

There’s a tease of a new antagonist pair with Jay and Madison, and I like the idea. Jay is one of those fascinating characters already, and he has a fun dynamic with Madison. Not sure where it could really go, but it was a fun little tease.

Lifetime

Lifetime

I find that the romantic nonsense with Chet and Quinn isn’t really working for me, but the plotting between them works a lot better. I had a feeling where Quinn’s mind was going, and sure enough, it was season one suitor Adam (Freddie Stroma) back again. Was Rachel really in “love” with him though? Debatable. I like the potential for drama.

What still elevates this show isn’t the silly melodrama – it’s the honesty and brutality of character and how that comes through in acting and consequence. This will be one of those episodes that I will have to think about after the next one to see how it really worked, but the show’s pulled itself out of worse holes before. I’m optimistic.

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

 

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