Everybody is a jerk.
There are times where it feels like this is Love’s thesis statement, and it can be suffocating. As I wrote earlier, this is a show where every major character teeters on a knife’s edge between being sympathetic and vulnerable or an unbearable monster. The most prominent case of this is Mickey (the fantastic Gillian Jacobs), who was more on the sympathy side towards the beginning of the season, but at the end started lingering dangerously close to the monstrous one. Gus (Paul Rust) does plenty of his own teetering, but even though he’s certainly a jerk in his own right, by the end of the season he is so thoroughly outclassed in monstrousness by Mickey that it’s hard not to feel bad for him.
The situations these two end up in because of each other are frequently so uncomfortable that I will find myself unable to look at the show while I’m “watching”; I’ll still be listening, but the awkwardness becomes so palpable at times that it can be easier to look around the room or browse Facebook while it’s on. And on a certain level, it’s brilliant that the show is capable of capturing such raw embarrassment, even when the characters aren’t yet aware they should be embarrassed. But on another level, it can make for a punishing viewing experience, and even when the show is at its most addictive, there’s always a point during the season finale where I will thank God it’s finally over. In this way, my relationship with the show is a lot like the “love” between Mickey and Gus; I don’t know why I like it, and I can’t wait for it to be over, but then I put on the next episode.
To be fair, the reason for the attraction does become more apparent in the second season than it was in the first. In the first season, there was a constant question of why someone like Mickey would ever even give an awkward dork like Gus the time of day, or why a nice guy like Gus would want anything to do with someone as emotionally unstable or irresponsible as Mickey. In the second season, the chemistry between the two leads is brought to the forefront, and a greater number of episodes focus solely on what these two are like when they’re alone together. In these moments, they just seem like a fun couple providing each other with a sense of comfort and stability.
The problem is, Love, like life, is never that simple, and drama arises from conflict. So when the relationship is threatened by distance, and then Mickey starts cheating on Gus with Dustin (Rich Sommer, playing a similar jerk to the one he played on Mad Men), everything falls apart the way everyone knew it would. But the final scene of the season, with Mickey telling Gus she wants to get serious and distracting him while Dustin escapes her balcony, feels painfully anticlimactic.
To a certain extent, this is the purpose of the show, deconstructing rom-com tropes and many storytelling conventions in general to express something the writers’ likely believe is more realistic. On any other show, Gus would have found out Dustin was there, one way or another. But he doesn’t, and ending the season this way is like watching a pin pulled from a grenade that doesn’t explode; sure, it’s safer, and nobody got hurt, but it isn’t dramatically satisfying. Of course this grenade will explode at some point down the line, but the fact that it didn’t here just made the season feel oddly incomplete. It also means that any sense of security these two get from each other is fraught with Mickey’s secret unfaithfulness.
Other random thoughts:
- The conversation Gus has about Bruce Willis creates some weird continuity paradoxes within the Love universe; after all, how can Gus have a dream about Home Alone and then not recognize that Mickey’s dad is Daniel Stern?
- I’m a huge pop culture junkie, but every scene with Gus’s band is painful. Whether the songs they do are supposed to be funny or just a quirky fun thing Gus does, they do not work. These are the only moments the show makes me uncomfortable without intending to.
- Bertie (Claudia O’Doherty) is criminally underused, and when she is onscreen, she has to share much of her time this season with Randy. Randy is the worst, and even the weird frenetic energy of Bertie is not enough to dilute that.
- Do these people only work once a week, or is Love set on some kind of perpetual Saturday? They always seem to be able to stay in bed all day, or take a random trip to some other part of L.A. This bothered me throughout the entire season.
- Speaking of work, Bobby Lee, who plays Truman, Mickey’s coworker, is the subject of the most unfortunate interview I’ve ever seen.
What did everyone else think? Was the season as anticlimactic as I thought it was? Is Randy still the worst, or did you hate him less as the season went on?