UnREAL may not have the capability to handle the direction it’s going

Lifetime

Lifetime

Some may say UnREAL is attempting prescience or is actually prescient, but despite arguments to the contrary, this was an attempt to be about “something.” The meta-narrative parallels to Rachel’s own insistence of the importance of her facile and meaningless work on the show-within-a-show “Everlasting.” I don’t think it’s fair to say that UnREAL is meaningless, but it has stumbled a few times when attempting more complex issues.

In the first season, there was a touch on sexuality, closeted religious lesbians, racial imagery on television, abuse, and mental disorders. Some of those were handled better than others. Considering that this entire season is predicated on the conceit of a “black suitor” to be a conversation piece about the way race is seen in society and on television, I think it’s fair to investigate how well the show pulls that off.

The storylines outside this issue are also a bit mixed. I find the continuation of Coleman versus Quinn to be interesting, considering that he’s not stupid enough not to realize Quinn’s obvious ploys, but I also like that Quinn responds like “oh, of course I did it, it’s for your own good.” Perhaps she really thinks that.

Considering her horror at seeing Rachel with her mother at the end of the episode, perhaps that’s true. Her machinations with John Booth are less interesting, because that relationship is not as interesting. I think Coleman’s character has been an interesting addition to the dynamic with Rachel and Quinn, being a far more positive presence but willing to allow much of Rachel’s problematic behavior.

Lifetime

Lifetime

John Booth in contrast is more generic, and although the acting is fine, I don’t really see the point of his character yet. As a pawn, he’s interesting, but as a player, he’s not really anything.

The point of the entire altercation with the cops seemed to me to push things in a few directions. For one, it forced Jay to be harsh enough to Rachel that she heard exactly what she fears, that everybody would be better off without her and that she was responsible for Romeo getting shot. It’s also a way to paint the reality show apparatus as an empty shell of gloss, pretending to be “about” something important but really only about taking advantage of societal problems and racial conflicts.

Lifetime

Lifetime

When Rachel called the cops to report the show car stolen, I had a visceral reaction that mirrored Jay’s, but in the context of the show, it’s logical progression. The aftermath is troubling, because it seemed like just another step on the ‘Quinn versus Coleman for the soul of Rachel’ staircase of doom. This is one of those “I guess we’ll have to wait and see” things, but it’s easy for the show to screw it up.

Mary’s suicide in the first season wasn’t handled particularly well, but they did address a few things in the follow up that created interesting dramatic situations. What still works is the chemistry of “wrongness” between Rachel and Adam, which is the paradox of something that pulls at you while seeming clearly negative. I’m not sure if Adam’s return is entirely successful, but I guess we’ll see. If this was it from him, I’m not sure it was entirely useful.

I wasn’t particularly happy to see Jeremy again, although Yael’s sneaky recording of their conversation lends something potentially horrifying, so that could be fun. She’s the only interesting contestant left on the show, as “I’m a cop” girl is not interesting, even in the aftermath of this episode’s shooting. Chantal is a punchline, and Tiffany is an enigma with the carapace of a beauty queen.

There were so many more interesting contestants last season, which is a disappointment, and to be honest, the withdrawn aspect of Darius also makes his character less interesting. There’s still potential there, but I do think the real crux of the show is the producers, not the contestants. Adam in the first season was a plot point, so it’s fine that Darius is one also.

Lifetime

Lifetime

The villains are everywhere in this episode, but who is the worst? Some might say it’s Rachel or Quinn or society. Others might point to Rachel’s mother or Adam, people with very different perspectives on what’s best for Rachel despite what Rachel herself wants or thinks. I still think the show works for the most part, but dredging up a police shooting storyline is risky business.

Nothing failed with the aftermath yet, but it’s thin ice below.

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

 

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