UnREAL ends a messy season with a messy but mostly satisfying finale

Lifetime

Lifetime

I feel a bit like I’m not sure what to think.

A few days later and UnREAL is a disappointment because it didn’t live up to what I already know it can be.

The storylines were muddled and confused, with some still reasonably strong and others long forgotten. I was shaken by the way the childhood rape backstory was utilized which seemed awfully connected. Coleman’s affair with Yael was “explained” by his being shaken up by the story while “Jeremy” the physical abuser felt “real” shame when he heard it. Which seems to mean that the backstory that informed everything about Rachel’s mental condition, her mother issues, and her monster of a mother was just a point to villainize one man and redeem another.

Coleman was a real failure of a character this season, because the ambiguity worked against the show. He was seemingly on Rachel’s side for much of it, but he kept dipping into selfishness until he just went off the deep end and seemed to be sociopathic. That’s a character arc that doesn’t really make sense. At least Yael was damaged by the experience and at least she wasn’t a monster herself.

Chantal was a nothing character with one real moment — the ashes in Darius’ face. Her ending was another nothing moment. It’s hard to care like we did with Anna from the first season, who was personal, damaged, but empathetic and real. The character might as well be a real Bachelor girl, which are weightless motes in the ephemera of reality television. That is not a compliment, although I’ve seen a few exceptions.

Tiffany had a mild little arc, interfering with the Chet and Quinn interplay, but again, seemed to push the “jealous” or not angle which to me was kind of reductive. Quinn being jealous is not an interesting storyline to me, and Chet didn’t really redeem himself from the manchild sexism he started the season with, despite a few notes of decency here and there.

So we don’t care about Tiffany or Chantal, and only a little about Darius. The guy is underwritten in a way Adam from season one never was, becoming the “black suitor” plot point more than a real person. The potential was there and we had a few notes of his struggle and journey, but he was far too much of an enigma and didn’t interact enough with the real cast members to matter. Romeo showed up again like nothing had happened, although yes, they did throw things back in Rachel’s face.

Doesn’t make up for the mishandling of that shooting storyline though.

And dear Ruby returned to symbolize the “true love” that Quinn eschewed for sensationalism and pain. Ruby is also a nothing character, but slightly less so. She had a meaningful exit but the whole “love” revelation seemed awfully fast to me. Sure, such accelerated reveals happen on these dating shows, but Ruby had time in the real world to recover. At least she didn’t accept his proposal, that would’ve been too much.

Lifetime

Lifetime

But the key and most interesting piece was how it damaged or bolstered everyone else. Jay became a better person slightly, while Rachel had a slight thing to hold onto as her world otherwise fell apart (until the car “accident”). And Quinn’s face broke, in a brilliant acting moment, that showed her deep disdain of love was personal.

Overall I liked the back and forth between the various characters as they tried to work over each other with a surprise or a secret. That was fun and the sort of thing I like UnREAL for. I was happy to see Jay and Madison get still more snippets of character, to the point that they really do seem like interesting characters to me, with complexity and possibility. I want to see more from them.

Lifetime

Lifetime

The final shot mirrored the first season end, with Quinn and Rachel together. Now they are shown broken apart, with the idiot or abusive men that love them between them. It’s a symbol that’s obvious, but also I don’t know that I like it. There’s a piece of that is a cliffhanger of damage, that these two women are holding together because of the two men or pushed apart by them. Either way, it’s not what I wanted to see from these two. But it’s not an untenable place to end things. A lot of fascinating stuff can go from here.

Now, I want to say that a few things have been strong throughout. I like the way the show is shot, from the key verisimilitude of the “Everlasting” fake show to the vital reaction shots. Acting is great across the board, even for the pointless characters. And of course, Shiri Appleby and Constance Zimmer were amazing despite sometimes having weaker material. For the sake of those performances alone and the potential for more is enough for me to want another season.

I think another time around could be a growth or a fall back. I want that third season (which has been announced) to take all the great things and make them better and get rid of the stuff that doesn’t work. I know they have it in them.

What did you think of thseason finale and the season in general? Tell us in the comments section below!

 

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